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8 Useful Books About Focusing to Improve Your Attention Span

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Alice Nuttall

Senior Contributor

Alice Nuttall (she/her) is a writer, pet-wrangler and D&D nerd. Her reading has got so out of control that she had to take a job at her local library to avoid bankrupting herself on books - unfortunately, this has just resulted in her TBR pile growing until it resembles Everest. Alice's webcomic, writing and everything else can be found at https://linktr.ee/alicenuttallbooks

Books about focusing are something that we all need more of — at least, it often feels that way. In our current world of instant information and short-form entertainment, there is frequent commentary on how we’re all losing our attention spans and that our brains can’t deal with the information overload we experience every day. This is partly true — our current world gives us access to more information than we’ve ever had before, with much greater ease than previous generations, and it can often feel that our focus is suffering as a result, especially for those of us whose brains work a little differently.

I’m a recently diagnosed ADHDer, and in the process of realising just how much my neurodivergence has impacted my focus. Sometimes, I need a certain level of background noise to get a complex task done (recently, I wrote a chapter of a story I’d been putting off for ages, but I was only able to do so because I’d put on a TV show about planes — I’m not even interested in planes). Other times, I can’t even complete a basic task that I’ve done a million times before because someone is talking, and their voice is needling its way into the centre of my brain. But focus is a skill, not an innate trait, and it’s something we can all learn. There are strategies that can help ADHDers (and non-ADHDers who still want a bit of help with their focus) that I’m learning from people who’ve been thinking about this for much longer than I have. These books about focusing are some of the many great sources out there for anyone who’s trying to find a way to focus more easily and get things done — many through the lens of working with ADHD, but all have tips that can help everyone.

Distracted cover

Distracted: Reclaiming Our Focus in a World of Lost Attention by Maggie Jackson

Originally written ten years ago, Maggie Jackson’s book on focus has been updated and republished to fit in with our modern world of seconds-long videos and constant news updates. Distracted looks at the many different demands on our attention, particularly through the lens of technology, and offers some strategies on how we can avoid our attention spans fragmenting while still using tech to its full potential.

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Self-care for People with ADHD: 100+ Ways to Recharge, De-Stress, and Prioritize You! by Sasha Hamdani, MD

One of the major stressors of living with ADHD is trying to stay focused on work or other tasks — particularly the boring but unfortunately necessary chores that make up everyday life. Self-Care for People With ADHD is written by a clinician and is full of advice on how to stay focused and mitigate the problems that many people with ADHD face, without masking or otherwise hiding their neurodivergence.

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Scatter Brain by Shaparak Khorsandi

Comedian Shaparak Khorsandi’s book about living with ADHD is a fantastic read for many reasons, but if you’re finding focus difficult, reading her stories of wandering attention and hyperfocus will make you feel less alone. Undiagnosed until adulthood, Khorsandi’s experiences with negotiating a chaotic world and finding her focus are a heartening read.

Extra Focus cover

Extra Focus: The Quick Start Guide to Adult ADHD by Jesse J. Anderson

Whether you have ADHD or just general difficulties focusing, the tips and techniques in Extra Focus will be helpful. Anderson’s book has multiple strategies for ways to cope with distraction and focus on the things you want to, whatever the challenges impacting your attention might be.

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How to Focus by Thich Nhat Hanh

There are many effective ways to hone your focusing skills and develop your attention, but many people find mindfulness and meditation helpful. In this short book (helpful in itself for anyone struggling with focus!), you’ll learn ways to build mindfulness into your day and give yourself time to think.

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Unmasked by Ellie Middleton

Ellie Middleton’s book on ADHD and autism is partly a memoir and partly a self-help guide. If you’re negotiating life with ADHD and the challenges with focusing that come with it, Unmasked provides essential context and background for your feelings, and also goes through useful coping techniques. One of the best things about Unmasked is how concise the sections are — no offputting giant walls of text to wade through, just small, easy-to-focus sections.

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Feel-Good Productivity by Ali Abdaal

One of the major hurdles that makes focusing on tasks difficult is the lack of reward — if a task is boring, it’s hard to get started and keep it going. Abdaal’s book is full of ideas on ways to make tasks enjoyable, keeping momentum and helping you sustain your focus, as well as tips on how to get over the blocks that threaten to distract you.

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No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters by Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin is best known for her Earthsea books and many other stalwart additions to sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction genres. However, Le Guin was also a prolific essayist and non-fiction writer, and in No Time to Spare, she gathers several short pieces of writing on multiple topics, including literature and politics. If you’re looking for short pieces that are easy to focus on, while also reminding you why it’s important to stop and focus on a variety of different topics, No Time to Spare is an excellent read.

If you find apps helpful for building your daily routine, here are some of our recommendations for The Best Apps to Use for Focus. Finding reading difficult? Try our Tips to Stay Focused While Reading.