5 Ways People With Short Attention Span Can Read Better.

While reading do you happen to check the number of pages in the book, move from checking the meaning of a word then find yourself on Instagram, stand up to straighten your clothes on the hanger because you suddenly realise it is not okay, check the biography of the author for a minute.

Well, the list can continue but I think you know where I am heading and if not, this post is for people with short attention span while reading and how they can improve it.

If you don’t have a medical issue attached to it and it’s just a bad habit, then I have compiled actionable steps that can help you.

It’s a natural thing as a human to get distracted in fact, a study in 2010 declared that 47 per cent of our working time is spent thinking about stuff that is not related to the current activity.


How A Guy Could Look More Attractive To A Lady in 2024

What Young Adults Should Know Before Learning an Online Skill.

My Academic Growth Journey and What I Stumbled On.

Coupled with this, we also tend to do stuff that prevents us from entering the “flow state” ( that mental state you enter when you are so focused on the task at hand and the rest of the world slowly fades away).

Well, there is no need to worry anymore because I have actionable steps that can make you study better if you are a short attention span reader ( that is, you get distracted easily while reading and end up doing stuff or get lost in your thoughts)

Have you come across the Tao Te Ching quote by Lao Tzu;

“Men are born soft and supple; Dead, they are stiff and hard….

whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life,

the hard and stiff will be broken,

the soft and supple will prevail”.

This quote clearly explains the advantage of being ready to yield or change the habit that does not align with your goal of becoming the best version of yourself.

how to deal with short attention span

So if you have taken your time to read this blog post up to this length, this means you really want to change and you will surely “prevail”.

1. Stay active: If you want to increase your attention span, you need to stay active while reading or studying. Studying or reading relies so much on the mental and it embody lot of thoughts that are not concerned about passing that exam or test, finishing that self help book, completing that novel etc which might distract you.

You can easily get distracted when you rely entirely on your mental state, so you have to find ways to stay active.

When I stay active, I mean write out facts you find in a book or jotter, say some sentences out loud , draw images that describe what you just read, stroll around with the book while reading for a few minutes, circling points in the book etc.

how to deal with short attention span

These little exercises help you to stay focused 🧘.

2. Apply the Goldilocks rule: Without boring you with much psychology terminology, the Goldilocks rule states humans experience peak motivation when a task is not too hard or not too easy.

For instance, if you are an amateur chess player and you are up against your kid bro who is just seeing the chess board for the first time.

What will happen when you win him countless times? You get bored, right? This is because there is no fun in winning countless times so easily.

Well let’s flip the coin, let’s say you are up against Ding Liren ( the current world chess champion) and the scores happen to end 7-1. ( I don’t think you will assume the score 7 is for you right? Smiles

The result will remain the same, you will get bored because there is no fun in losing countless time. Sometimes we get distracted easily because what we are studying is too easy (we think we still have the time in the world to get it done) or too difficult (we therefore need a break from the difficult task).

how to deal with short attention span

To enter the “flow state” while you are reading you have to find a balance in order not to get bored and end up distracted. If the course is too easy, dig into more research to know another part that it is connected to and you will be surprised that you will find something that will interest you and make you glued to it.

If the course is too difficult, start from the simplest one then move up to the medium level before you get to the difficult part.

The small “winnings” from the easy-medium level will help you build the needed momentum for the difficult one and keep you focused.

In my first year in the university, I borrowed a math course and the algebraic part of the course was proving too difficult. Do you know what I did? Well, I started from my secondary school or high school algebraic expressions before moving up to the level I am at now. I was able to solve for more hours than when I went straight for the difficult one.

3. Chew gum and stay hydrated: Drinking water while reading has several benefits. Staying hydrated enhances cognitive function and it can help you maintain focus. While I am not a big fan of chewing gum ( because of my not-too-strong teeth), it has been proven that it keeps you focused.

When you chew gum, your mouth makes saliva and saliva is 99 percent water and this keeps you hydrated. Therefore chewing gum performs the same function of keeping you focused. It stimulate brain activity and increase alertness which you need to prevent you from getting distracted easily.

how to deal with short attention span

4. Box your thoughts : Before you dive into reading or studying, you can do a little ritual of “boxing your thought” to increase focus.

This literally means treating thoughts that you have on your mind that you can’t seem to wrap your head around at that moment.

how to deal with short attention span

If you have something that is bothering you, or you feel anxious, or excited, your thoughts will surely drift there while reading which might distract you. So the best thing is to “box it“.

For instance, if you are supposed to start reading by 9:00, give yourself 20 minutes to introspect on those things that are currently bothering you, or that part that is getting you excited or anxious, then box it.

Let me give you a vivid picture of what I mean by “box it”.

Me: I am anxious about the date I am going tomorrow

Box thought: Well, I have chosen the venue, my clothes are well ironed, so there is nothing to worry about.

Me: My first test was very bad, how will I do well in the next one?

Box thought: Well, I will have to attend tutorials and get the recommended books.

In some cases in fact, most cases you might not be able to find a suitable solution at that time. Then you can try this approach:

Me: I am anxious about the date I am going tomorrow

Box thought: This is because I haven’t chosen the venue. Okay, by 3pm I will settle that. ( here you are using a time to box it so that it won’t distract you any more.)

Me: My first test was very bad, how will I do well in the next one?

Box thought: Okay no problem, I will discuss with Mike tomorrow about how he did well .

Take note, we are shifting these distracting thoughts to a later time because we know “they” are residing in the same space that is needed for the activity we are planning to engage in .

Well, the brain tends to play trick on us by replaying this thoughts but you can also return the favour by putting it in the box you have already prepared for it ( Box thought: ok no problem, I will discuss with Mike tomorrow on how he did well).

The reason why our brain continues replaying thoughts in our brain is because it needs answers and if you cant give it something to hold on to it will continue bothering you with it. It’s just like a kid you promised a bicycle for instance and keeps bothering you about it.

The moment you give him or her favourite candy( though it doesn’t not equate to the real request) , the pestering will reduce because you have given him or her something to hold on to for the main time.

The brain works like that.

5. Reduce distraction: Have you come across the James Clear two side of a coin hack of changing habits? Well let me lend you one of the coin he gave me too. “Make it obvious and don’t make it obvious.”

While we are staying hydrated, chewing gum, writing stuff down, walking slowly with our books for some few minute, all we are doing is “making it obvious to the brain we are reading”.

While we are doing that, we must also try to remove all form of distraction out of our way , starting from our phones, favourite books on the shelf etc (we must make distraction less obvious to the brain).

In the 21st century, the mobile phone seems to be one of our biggest distraction, in fact a study conducted state that two-third of US students get distracted by using digital devices while studying.

how to deal with short attention span

While our mobile phone can aid our learning process, since we can easily get access to some information, or get meanings to word without having to find the big Oxford Dictionary on the shelf, it has its own downside if we don’t use it correctly.

Well let me share with you what I do with my mobile phone when I have some important reading to do.

a. I charge my phone up to 50 per cent and not more than that. This makes me prioritise my task on my phone because I know if I hop on Instagram ( that’s if it is still there) I won’t have battery left to do the needful.

b. I delete all my social media apps. The funny thing is that this does not exonerate the distraction entirely because I still find myself on YouTube, so it’s more of reducing the distraction. I hope you get the idea.

c. So, if you can’t delete all social media apps like me, uninstall some apps you frequently use.

d. Reduce the data subscription so that it can only accommodate your research (for a student this time around) and not the usual long term subscription.

e. Keep your phone far away

If you can implement these steps one by one, you will definitely see that you will gradually move from short attention span to a better one which will in turn increase your productivity.

Do well to share this blog post to help someone who needs it like you.

Leave a comment