It’s not unusual to find your mind wandering when you should be focused on something. According to a 2010 study, we spend nearly 47 percent of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we are doing.

It’s not always cause for concern, but a short attention span may sometimes be a sign of an underlying condition, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Read on to learn more about what could be causing your short attention span and what you can do about it.

People with a short attention span may have trouble focusing on tasks for any length of time without being easily distracted.

A short attention span can have several negative effects, including:

  • poor performance at work or school
  • inability to complete daily tasks
  • missing important details or information
  • communication difficulties in relationships
  • poor health related to neglect and inability to practice healthy habits

A short attention span can be caused by numerous psychological and physical conditions. The following are possible causes of a short attention span and other symptoms to be aware of.

ADHD

ADHD is a common disorder usually diagnosed in childhood that often lasts into adulthood. People with ADHD often have trouble paying attention and controlling their impulses.

Being overly active is a symptom of ADHD, but not everyone with the disorder has the hyperactivity component.

Children with ADHD may have poor grades. In some cases, they may spend too much time daydreaming. Adults with ADHD may often change employers and have repeated relationship problems.

Other signs and symptoms of ADHD include:

  • periods of hyperfocus
  • time management problems
  • restlessness and anxiety
  • disorganization
  • forgetfulness

Depression

Difficulty concentrating is a common symptom of depression. Depression is a mood disorder that can severely affect your life. It causes persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest in things you once enjoyed.

Signs and symptoms of depression may include:

Head injury

Attention problems are among the most commonly reported issues after sustaining a brain injury. A head injury is any type of injury to your head, scalp, skull, or brain.

It can be an open or closed injury and range from a mild bruise or bump to a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Concussions and skull fractures are common head injuries.

Symptoms of a head injury may include:

Learning disabilities

Learning disabilities are neurodevelopmental disorders that interfere with basic learning skills, such as reading and calculating. There are many different types of learning disabilities. The most common ones are:

The most common signs and symptoms of a learning disability include:

  • difficulty following directions
  • poor memory
  • poor reading and writing skills
  • eye-hand coordination difficulties
  • being easily distracted

Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of neurodevelopmental disorders that cause social, behavioral, and communication challenges.

ASD is usually diagnosed in childhood, when signs and symptoms appear. Receiving a diagnosis in adulthood is rare.

A diagnosis of ASD includes several conditions that were once diagnosed separately, including:

People with ASD often have problems with emotional, social, and communication skills. Some signs of ASD include:

  • trouble relating to others
  • restricted or repetitive behaviors
  • aversion to being touched
  • difficulty expressing needs or feelings

Treatment for a short attention span depends on the underlying cause. For instance, ADHD treatment may include a combination of medication and behavioral therapy.

The following are some things you can do to help improve your focus.

Chew gum

Various have found that chewing gum improves attention and performance at work. Chewing gum also appears to increase alertness and lower stress.

While chewing gum may not have a long-lasting effect on your ability to concentrate, it’s an easy way to improve your attention span in a pinch.

Drink water

Staying hydrated is important for your body and mind. Dehydration can worsen your ability to think.

This even includes mild dehydration you may not even notice. Being dehydrated for just two hours can impair your focus.

Exercise

The benefits of exercise are endless and include improving your ability to focus. Numerous have shown that exercise improves attention and focus in people with ADHD.

To help improve your attention span, consider taking a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day four or five times a week.

Meditation

Meditation involves training your mind to focus and redirecting your thoughts. This habitual practice is used to help develop several beneficial habits, such as a positive outlook and self-discipline.

There’s evidence that meditation can improve focus, and that continued meditation leads to improvements in sustained attention.

Keep yourself engaged

If you struggle to pay attention during meetings or lectures, try asking questions or taking notes. Evidence shows that taking notes by hand is more effective in improving attention and listening than using a laptop or other device, which can be distracting.

Behavioral therapy

Behavior therapy refers to several types of therapy that treat mental health conditions. It helps identify and change unhealthy or self-destructive behaviors.

There’s growing that cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective way to treat inattention in people with ADHD.

See a healthcare provider if you frequently have trouble focusing or your short attention span is interfering with your ability to perform daily tasks.

Everyone’s mind wanders from time to time, and some situations can make it harder to remain interested and focused. There are things you can do to help improve a short attention span. If your inability to focus concerns you, talk to a healthcare provider.