What Factors Affect Concentration Span?

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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2019
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"Concentration span" is a term used to describe the amount of time one can spend focusing on one particular subject or task. Many different personal and environmental factors affect a person's concentration span. Personal factors include enthusiasm for a given task or subject, skill and knowledge, and overall emotional and mental state. Environmental factors include the presence of adequate resources, potential distractions, and comfort. Optimizing both of these sets of factors can substantially improve one's concentration span, thereby leading to better, more focused work and attention over time.

Many personal factors can strongly influence the length of one's concentration span. Consciously committing to finish a given task can actually improve one's ability to work on that task over time. Having enthusiasm for a task or other activity naturally improves one's ability to concentrate as well. Conversely, having personal issues such as relationship problems can have a deleterious effect on an individual's ability to work on a task over time. Lack of sleep, illness, and other physical concerns can also have a negative impact.

Environmental factors can have a significant effect on concentration span as well. Working in a comfortable environment with adequate space and few distractions may help one to stay focused on a project. An environment without good places to work and with many distractions, on the other hand, can severely damage one's ability to concentrate, as concentrating at all demands much more focused attention.


Concentration span is also an important concern in more passive activities such as listening to a lecture, studying, or sitting through a work meeting. Many of the same factors that apply to task-oriented concentration also apply to these more passive activities, though personal factors tend to be more important. Getting sufficient sleep is absolutely essential for most people, as it is easy to fall asleep during long lectures or meetings if one is not well-rested.

Necessity can also strongly impact an individual's concentration span. It is much easier to get distracted from a task when one is not facing a deadline of some form. Needing to finish something by a certain time often causes one to stay focused on a given task in spite of overwhelming personal and environmental factors discouraging concentration. This demonstrates an important point: in many cases, willpower is the most important factor in one's ability to concentrate. Other concerns are important, but having the will to stay focused on a task or activity over time is often sufficient.


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Post 3

I seem to have better concentration when I have deadlines. It gives me encouragement and focus and I work much better. Some people call this procrastination, but it works for me.

It also helps to keep notes. I make sure to take paper and pen with me to all meetings and events.

Post 2

@fify-- It's said to be about twenty minutes for an adult. But I think everyone is different and we can't make a generalization about this. My concentration span is about ten minutes. If I'm very interested in something, it can go up to thirty minutes.

I also think that our concentration spans are going down in general because we have so many distractions. Fifty minutes is a long time but most teachers will take a break in the middle. It's not that hard to concentrate on a lecture for twenty to twenty-five minutes at a time.

The issue is that we have other things distracting us like facebook and emails. Some of my professors don't allow laptop use for this reason and the ones that do, look at our screens sometimes to make sure we're not doing other things.

Post 1

What is a person's average concentration span? Is it true that it's about twenty minutes?

If it's so short, why are lectures fifty minutes minimum?

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