Attention Spans & Breaks

Attention Spans

The amount of time an individual is alert is called an attention span. It is a time of mental action, and if used well, can result in more information being understood and stored in long-term memory.

The length of our attention span can vary throughout the day and be dependent upon the task. Our attention span gets shorter when we are tired, bored, confused, or frustrated with a task. An attention span is much longer for the tasks that we enjoy. As you learn to manage your academic time, remember to plan smaller study units (10-30 minutes) for difficult or boring assignments, and longer study units (30-50 minutes) for assignments you enjoy or that actively engage you in the learning process. Often, you need a break to rejuvenate your senses and attention span.


Although many students consider breaks from studying as an opportunity to visit a friend, watch TV, play a video game, eat food or take a nap, these are not productive breaks.

Productive reading breaks incattention spanslude:


This type of break should only last 2-3 minutes and is used when you have been reading. The best activity is to stop reading and to turn back to the first questions you wrote in your notes. Then take 2-3 minutes to quiz yourself with those questions.

Full Break

This type of break should last about 15 minutes. Now you need to engage in an activity that will SHOCK as many of your senses as possible. For instance, if you are studying in a warm place, expose yourself to a cold temperature.