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Last Updated on August 27, 2021

How to Stay Focused on Your Goals in a Distracting World

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How to Stay Focused on Your Goals in a Distracting World

In this digital era, distractions can seem impossible to avoid. Just figuring out how to stay focused on your goals and ambitions can feel as difficult as actually achieving them.

These days, constant distractions can lead to a massive loss in productivity.

Statistics show that employees, on average, waste 28% of their time dealing with and trying to recover from unnecessary interruptions.[1]

And that’s at work, where you’re paid to be productive, and where some of us are monitored too much or too closely for comfort.

So, one can only imagine how much time is lost or wasted when we are left to our own devices.

Speaking of devices, how many times have you grabbed your cell phone at the very moment you hear a notification, wasting precious time scrolling through social media when you should be using that time working on your goals?

I can bet a lot.

But we’ve all been there.

Sometimes, even with the best of intentions and efforts to stay on task, we still find ourselves being chronically distracted.

Chances are you’ll be interrupted before you can even finish reading this article.

The reality is as undeniable as it is unavoidable: we live in a world full of distractions!

But how can you take back control of your time and attention to avoid these distractions and learn how to stay focused on your goals?

What Holds You Back from Staying Focused on Your Goal?

1. Your Environment Is a Major Factor

Whether we want to admit it or not, all of us are mostly a product of our environment. Our environment impacts us far more than we realize.

It’s made of a multitude of things, from the space we live and work in, to the people we spend the most time with, to the things we read, listen to, and watch, to even our profiles on social media, and more.

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All of these elements of our surroundings influence our focus, thoughts, mindset, belief systems, and the goals and standards we set for ourselves. They all serve as triggers for certain behaviors, tendencies, and moods. That’s how many of our habits are formed.

We’ll always take on aspects of the environments we continually place ourselves in.

2. Willpower and Motivation Is a Broken Approach

What a lot of people have gotten wrong about trying to achieve their goals is that they often focus only on what needs to be done and how to get it done – outcomes and willpower.

Many think that willpower and motivation in their own right determine success.

While both are great and necessary virtues to have to navigate this increasingly difficult world, willpower is largely a short-term solution, while motivation is great to get you started but is also fleeting.

This is one of the main reasons why so many people’s New Year’s resolutions go belly-up by the end of January.

Your willpower is like a muscle, which means it’s finite and will deplete with use. [2]

Using the willpower approach to stay focused on goals centers on increasing personal efforts to overcome the environment, not on modifying or changing the environment.

The harsh reality is that your environment is more powerful than your internal resolve. No matter how much discipline you have, eventually, you’ll succumb to your environment despite your greatest efforts.

In an environment that’s incompatible with your goals, its negative influence will sabotage your success.

On the other hand, a compatible environment is one of the most important strategies you can utilize to stay focused on achieving your goals.

Creating an environment that is conducive to success will trigger your desired behaviors and, most importantly, will decrease distractions.

3. Inevitability Thinking

In fact, productivity expert Eben Pagan believes that designing the right environment will create conditions that make it impossible for you not to achieve your goals.

The multi-millionaire, entrepreneur, and investor regards this as the next evolution of goal-setting that will move us away from focusing on willpower and outcomes.

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He calls this concept “Inevitability Thinking,” which is thinking and acting as if what you are doing is a foregone conclusion because you set up the conditions for it to happen.

What he means by “setting up the conditions for success” is designing an environment that’s conducive to you achieving your goals.

World-renowned leadership coach and author Dr. Marshall Goldsmith believes if a person doesn’t create and control their environment, then it will create and control them.

He suggests having a vision of achieving the goals you want to accomplish. Then, think about designing the structure of your environment, your situation, or your organization in a way that would organically bring that vision to life.

“If [you] can design your life [and] behaviors well, [you] don’t need to rely on willpower.” – BJ Fogg, Social Science Research Associate, Stanford [3]

“But I’m not a designer,” you might be thinking.

Don’t get intimidated, it can be done – by you or anyone! Designing or modifying your environment so you can better stay focused on your goals is not like designing spaceships – it’s not rocket science.

Here is how to make it happen.

How to Stay Focused on Your Goals: Designing Your Environment

1. Find the Environment That Supports Achieving Your Goals

Real progress occurs when we fully understand and align with what, whom, and where best support our goals.

So, the next time you’re in your environment, whether at or outside of work, try to pay attention to how you feel while you’re there. Note if that feeling changes when you leave that environment.

Examine your surroundings. Look at all the infrastructure and ask yourself these simple questions:

  • Am I in an environment that’s conducive to me achieving my goals?
  • Is it detrimental to me maintaining my focus on my goals?
  • Is it on par with people who have already achieved what I want to achieve?

Also, examine your lifestyle and habits. Are you placing yourself in environments and situations that spark personal growth?

If the answers to these questions are anything but a definite and resounding yes, then you should seriously consider modifying or completely changing your surroundings.

The more you understand yourself, the more aware you’ll be of the environment that’s most likely to help you stay focused on your goals.

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2. Let Your Goals, Not Distractions, Distract You

If you constantly lose focus on your goals, you pretty much render them useless. Distractions and interruptions are the biggest culprits of losing your focus.

One of the most practical ways to maintain focus is to allow your goals to constantly distract you.

You’ll inevitably lose focus from time to time. But you can limit the number of times it happens and the duration by facilitating your goals to distract you back to your focus.

Now, how do you do that?

It’s simple: make visual cues.

There’s a saying that if you don’t see it, you’ll probably forget it. Science agrees; the eyes hold the majority of sensory receptors in the human body. Therefore, the eye is a major component of focus.

The following cues are simply things that will trigger you to focus or refocus your attention back onto your goals.

What type to use will largely depend on what works for you, but below are a few common ones:

  • Tape your task list or habit tracker to your desk or onto your refrigerator at home.
  • Hang motivational posters at frequently visited sections of your house or workspace.
  • Post-Its – write your goals in a one or two-word phrase on them and stick where you’re sure to see them.
  • Set cues to constantly remind you to stick with your productive habits.
  • Digital devices – alter the screensavers of your computer, smartphones, tablets, or any other digital device you use regularly to display something about your goal.

Read more about how to stay focused on your goals: How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

3. Modify Your Inner Circle

Multiple studies have proven that our mindset, behaviors, and motivations are largely influenced by our peer group. Therefore, the people in our lives have an enormous impact on our ability to reach our goals.

“You are the average of the five people you associate with most…” – Tim Ferriss [4]

Since people have such a significant influence on the direction of your entire life, if you’re really serious about achieving your goals, you may have to adjust your inner circle. This is where designing or modifying your environment for success becomes tricky.

Unlike upgrading your iPhone, changing the makeup of your inner circle can be a lot more complex.

One of the most difficult things to do in life is to sever ties with friends, especially against their will, even if it’s for the betterment of the self.

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It will likely foster resentment because it will require you to betray the very virtue that served as the keystone of the friendship in the first place: loyalty.

But we must remember that above all else, when we set important personal goals, we must be loyal to ourselves if we are to achieve them. Loyalty to friends, family, or even to your spouse that is detrimental to your success in life will only slow your growth.

By consciously deciding whom you want in your inner circle, you are taking control of the ultimate direction of your life.

4. Change Your Environment Completely

This method is the most extreme, but it can also be the most effective.

While modifying your environment for it to become less distracting is ideal, sometimes it’s just not enough. Certain elements in your environment, such as your social circle, are harder than others to modify. In fact, some elements that are nearly impossible to adjust.

There are times when these elements are so out of your control that the only thing you can do to stay focused on your goals is to make more radical and thorough changes. This can mean changing your environment completely.

Here are some examples of changes you could try to make (only if necessary):

  1. Change your physical possessions (ex.: get rid of your TV)
  2. Create a new virtual set-up (online)
  3. Change your physical workspace (work, home, co-working, cafes, etc.)
  4. Join a new social group
  5. Change locations (home, co-working space, café, etc.)
  6. Change jobs or switch branches
  7. Drop distracting friends or family from your inner circle.
  8. Change your spouse
  9. Move to a different country

Of course, these are some extreme steps to take. So, only resort to these if you have tried everything else to stay focused on your goals but are still unsuccessful.

Conclusion

If you’re struggling to figure out how to stay focused on your goals, it’s a lot harder to make a significant, lasting change without altering some elements of your environment.

By taking control of the set-up of your environment, you can influence your levels of motivation, enthusiasm, drive, and desire towards the goals you have set.

Optimizing your environment creates powerful conscious and subconscious motivators that make staying focused on your goals easier. And for many of us, easier is always better.

More Tips on Achieving Goals

Featured photo credit: Razvan Chisu via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Information Overload Research Group: The Cost of Not Paying Attention – How Interruptions Impact Knowledge Worker Productivity
[2] American Psychological Association Study: Willpower, choice, and self-control
[3] BJ Fogg on Twitter: @bjfogg
[4] GoodReads: Timothy Ferriss: Quotable Quotes

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on January 14, 2022

7 Best Goal Planners To Get in 2022

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7 Best Goal Planners To Get in 2022

A few of the many obstacles to setting goals is that you either forget your goals entirely or you put them off for so long. One of the most effective tools in handling this problem is through having goal planners.

Goal planners are a way to put your goals to paper and allow you to focus on that goal. These are great tools to be implementing new habits and boosting your overall productivity.

With so many of these goal planners available, our editors picked out a small sample of some of the best goal planners that you can get to achieve what you want in 2022!

Best Goal Planners Criteria

Through our research, all the best goal planners that we picked out meet the following criteria:

  • Undated – A big issue with some planners is that they have days and years written in them. This is problematic especially when starting out goal setting. Undated versions allow you to start, stop, and take breaks without feeling like you’re wasting paper.
  • Science based – Either in their methods or in the activities these planners get you to do, these goal planners are smartly structured to help you get the most out of your day.
  • Simple, clean and organized – All of these planners are clean and organized to the point that these planners can serve as an extension of your brain. They’re able to easily organize jumbled thoughts and help you plot out your goals.

1. Full Life Planner

full-life-planner

    Lifehack’s Full Life Planner is a planner system built around the Full Life Framework. It’s a planner that helps you to organize every aspect of your life. The Framework has been going strong for 15 years and provides some of Lifehack’s best practices and proven success formulas.

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    Get your Full Life Planner here, or try the digital version here.

    2. Panda Planner

      The Panda Planner has been highly reviewed as another one of the best goal planners to get. On top of it providing sections for monthly, weekly, and daily planning, it offers free videos as well as e-books to show you all kinds of strategies to help in all kinds of aspects of your life.

      You can get the Panda Planner here.

      3. Law of Attraction Planner

        This is the planner for people that want to manifest something new or exciting in their lives. It helps you to set goals through prompts, to-do lists, and goal-setting tools to establish habits. On the manifestation front, it provides sections for you to show gratitude, allowing you to be thankful for what you do have and are working towards. The planner also comes with a video to help establish a 10-minute morning routine and various stickers to make your planner more unique.

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        Purchase the Law of Attraction Planner here.

        4. Little More Daily Organizer

          While it only has 328 undated pages, it offers a great focus on monthly and daily goal setting. It’s ideal if your goals and habits that you’re invested in and really want them to be sticking. How it’s able to do that is through its flexible design and also providing space for you to outline actions steps, reflect on processes, and prioritize multiple goals.

          Grab your Little More Daily Organizer here.

          5. Erin Condren Petite Planner

            Only 80 pages long, it’s efficient with its space as its packed with all kinds of features for setting goals and stick to your plans. You’re able to describe your goal, outline a “why”, and put together an action plan. The other page is a way for you to chunk large goals and put them into more manageable tasks. All around it’s a fantastic planner.

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            Try the Erin Condren Petite Planner here.

            6. The 100-Day Goal Journal

              If setting goals for a year seems daunting, another one of the best goal planners that’s short is the 100-day goal journal. It has monthly spreads, daily reflection pages where you’re able to practice gratitude and check overarching goals. It even has space for you to reflect on current challenges and offer solutions to your problems.

              Take a look at the 100-Day Goal Journal here.

              7. SELF Journal

              best-self

                The final of the best goal planners we have to offer is SELF journal. It offers daily gratitude acknowledgement, sections to track goals on a weekly basis and also has inspirational quotes to provide that extra push of motivation. It’s only got enough pages for 13 weeks, but it’s ideal if you set a lot of shorter-term goals and want those small habits to stick.

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                Check out the SELF Journal here.

                Final Thoughts

                All of our goals are achievable with the proper mindset and a system to support it. Planners have been able to precisely assist those who struggle with getting started and need help in organizing their thoughts and putting it to paper.

                For those who want to stick to habits, try out one of these planners to help you with that process.

                Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

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