What Are the Causes of a Short Attention Span and How Can I Improve It?

The human brain is always in motion, handling various thoughts, while the duration we can concentrate on one thing before losing focus or requiring a pause is influenced by our attention span. However, life is bustling with numerous components, and it’s entirely typical to occasionally become sidetracked due to its complexity. In reality, research from 2010 revealed that, on average, 47% of our waking moments are spent thinking about matters unrelated to our current activity. Nevertheless, a limited capacity for sustained attention can have unfavorable effects on both your personal and work-related spheres.

We’ve compiled this comprehensive guide to help you understand what causes a short attention span and what you can do to improve your attention span.

Signs of a short attention span

When you are easily distracted it may appear you are uninterested in the task at hand, defiant or unwilling to complete the task, or are simply incapable of completing the task. However, the root cause is actually a short attention span.

Signs of a short attention span include:

  • Difficulty focusing on tasks
  • Making mistakes
  • Difficult reading long content or texts
  • Appearance of not listening
  • Partially completing tasks
  • Difficulty managing time
  • Challenges organizing materials
  • Being late or forgetting appointments

Challenges of a short attention span

Individuals with a short attention span may have difficulty focusing on tasks for longer periods of time without being easily distracted.

A short attention span can result in many challenges, including:

  • When you have a short attention span it can impact your ability to perform well in school or at work.
  • The inability to complete tasks once you’ve started them can make you seem incapable or lazy.
  • When you are easily distracted you may miss key information or important details pertaining to the task at hand.
  • Missing details or making mistakes can make you appear careless.
  • When you can’t organize your time or materials, you may not finish your projects on time.
  • It may feel impossible to finish complex tasks or projects.

 Causes of a Short Attention Span

Causes of a short attention span

A short attention span can be caused by a wide range of numerous physical and psychological conditions.


Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be related to a short attention span. In particular, if you find yourself feeling restless, agitated, or fidgety when you try to to focus on a task, it may be related to ADHD. Some people diagnosed with ADHD may experience hyperactivity (the need for constant movement). Individuals with ADHD have difficulty focusing when they are distracted by their need to move. 


Depression is a mood disorder that can severely impact your life. While depression can present itself in different ways, it’s commonly associated with persistent feelings of sadness and loss, and difficulty concentrating.

Signs and symptoms of depression may include

  • Changes in sleep patterns, including fatigue, difficulty falling or remaining asleep
  • Changes in weight or appetite 
  • Lack of interest in activities that once brought happiness
  • Lack of energy
  • Overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, or hopelessness 
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Withdrawing from family and friends

Learning Disorders

A short attention span may be a sign of a learning disorder, such as dyslexia. Learning disorders can make it difficult to concentrate on the tasks of reading, writing, or speaking.

Sensory Processing Disorder

When a short attention span is connected to distracting sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste, you may have a sensory processing disorder. Sensory processing disorders cause an individual to be extra sensitive to otherwise ordinary simulation, which can make it difficult to focus in an uncontrolled environment.


​​Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can also cause a short attention span. PTSD activates your body’s survival, or “fight or flight” mode, which makes it difficult for your brain to focus on specific tasks for long periods of time.

Short Attention Span

Tips to boost your attention span

If you are impacted by a short attention span, there are things you can do to improve your ability to focus. 

  • Get rid of distractions: create a distraction free environment by turning off devices or relocating to a quiet area.
  • Drink water: dehydration can negatively impact your ability to think and concentrate.
  • Exercise: studies have shown that as little as 30 min of exercise a day can improve your attention span.
  • Meditate: meditation allows your brain to focus and redirect your thoughts. Evidence shows that frequent meditation leads to improvements in sustained attention.
  • Brain Training: based on neuro-scientific research, your attention span is a cognitive skill set that can be improved and developed. Brain training targets and stimulates the underactive region of the brain responsible for the characteristics of inattention (the prefrontal cortex). 

The Brain Workshop

At the Brain Workshop, our brain training program is designed to strengthen the cognitive skills that translate into real life improvements in attention, memory, clarity, logic, and processing speed. Not only can brain training help children and teens, but it also provides the perfect platform for adults to enhance their professional paths to success.

Contact a member of our team to learn more.

The Brain Workshop

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