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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

How to Stay Focused on Your Goals in a Distracting World

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

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on February 23, 2021

What Are Vision Boards And Why They Work

What Are Vision Boards And Why They Work

We hear people saying that vision boards are a fad, that they are not worth doing, and that they should be forgotten. However, this is simply not true. Vision boards can be very useful, and they are definitely worth taking the time to create. That is why so many celebrities and notable figures in the world are choosing to create and use them.

Beyonce has been known to use vision boards to help her with her future goals, as has Oprah Winfrey and if they work for these two incredibly powerful and talented women, then it makes sense that anyone can benefit from them.

But what are they? Rather than simply being a collection of images, vision boards are so much more than that.

To help you to learn more, I have put together our guide to what they are, how they can be made in four steps, and why you should make an effort to make a vision board for yourself.

What Is a Vision Board?

We all have visions and goals that we want to achieve. They may be in our personal lives, or they may be in our careers and businesses. While we may know what it is that we want to achieve, this doesn’t mean that it is always easy to focus on our goals.

The idea of a vision board is that it is a visual representation of what we want to achieve. We can use it to show our end goal and where we see ourselves being in the future. Not only this, but a vision board will also help you show the process of how you envisage getting to these end goals.

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A vision board can be made from a variety of images. What you choose will really depend on you. However, you need to make sure that it reminds you of what your goal is and what it means to you. They should be something that you want to display and that is as eye-catching as possible.

Colour and texture are key parts of any vision board. However, how you use them is entirely down to you and you alone.

How To Create a Vision Board?

Making a vision board may sound straightforward, however, it can be more complicated than you realize. There are plenty of things that you need to think about along the way.

While the way that you make your vision board will really depend on you, there are 4 steps that you should follow to make sure that it is clear and useful for you in the long run.

Step 1: Define Your Goals

The first thing that you need to do is make sure that you define your goals. To do this, you need to list the areas of your life that you consider to be most important to you. We can’t tell you what these are since they are a personal choice. However, some of the most common examples of these areas include your family, relationship, hobbies, friends, fitness, well-being, and finances.

When you have identified what areas of your life are most important to you right now, then you can start to drill down even further into them and identify what goals you have within them.

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If you focus on sports and fitness, then maybe you want to teach yoga or train in a sport. If travel is important to you, then maybe plan a trip around the world. If you want to expand your mind, you could identify an instrument or language that you want to learn and if you are thinking about your career (and maybe your finances, too), then starting a business could be a key goal for you.

You shouldn’t spend too much time on this, else there is a chance that you may overthink things rather than letting them come to you. Only spend around 10 minutes on this step. Make sure that you write down anything that comes to mind as you can use these things later on.

Step 2: Gather Your Inspiration

Once you know what your goals are, then you need to start thinking about how you can create a visual representation of these goals. Think about words and images that match in with what you want to achieve.

Of course, the most obvious place to look for these images is in magazines, but you shouldn’t limit yourself to only magazines. Other great places that you can use for inspiration for your vision board include:

  • Postcards
  • Stickers
  • Wrapper paper
  • Materials
  • Things from nature
  • Online searches

When you see something that works for you, then cut it out or even rip it out and place it on one side. You may be surprised by just where you can find your inspiration, and you shouldn’t discount something just because it doesn’t fit in with what you think should inspire you.

This step will take a little longer than the last. So, you might want to make sure that you have a nice cup of your favorite hot drink—ready to browse through and find your inspiration.

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Step 3: Map Out How You Want Your Board to Look

Now, we have got to the point where you can start thinking about what your vision board is going to look like. You will need to grab some things for this step. You will need some cardboard (the bigger the better), scissors, glue sticks, markers, fabric, decorate tape, stickers, gems, or sequins.

To start, you just want to lay your images out on your board. You don’t want to glue anything until you know how you want them to be arranged. The last thing that you want is to stick things down, commit to that setup, and then find out that you want to change them.

Once you are happy with how things look, then you can stick it all down. You may want to use some of the added decorative things that you have put together, such as decorative tape, sequins, stickers or simply use different pens or paints to add color.

The main thing to remember is that your vision board is all about you, so what you create should be appealing to you. You can look online for help on how to put things together and make up your board but, ultimately, you need to focus on it being a representation of you.

Step 4: Make It Happen

The last thing on the list is to make sure that you bring your vision board to life. First, you need to make sure that you display it in a place where you will be able to see it. After all, that is the main reason for taking the time to make your vision board in the first place.

Display it in a place that you go to every single day. This could be a home office, your bedroom, or perhaps in a hallway before you leave the house every day. Having it there will remind you that you need to follow those dreams and achieve those goals and will also show you how you can do it.

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Then, it is down to you. Do whatever you need to do to make it happen. Push yourself and focus on what you want to achieve. You may make excuses and you may sometimes think that you just can’t do it, but I promise you that you can—that you will one day get there. Of course, your vision board is just a part of the process, and really, it is down to you to make it happen. So, do it!

Why Do They Work?

We know that vision boards sound like they are a lot of work, but the truth is, they are as hard as you make them. Not only this, but they are well worth putting all that effort into to create them.

With a vision board, you will able to see what it is that you want in the future and identify how you can get there. When you can see it, there, in front of you, then you are going to want to get there, and you are going to feel much more motivated to work towards these goals. Not only this, but the process of making a vision board is more fun than you may realize. This means that you can look forward to doing it rather than ignoring those goals and stopping yourself from achieving what you want in the future.

More Tips on Creating Vision Boards

Featured photo credit: Andy Art via unsplash.com

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