Last Updated on June 16, 2021

How to Focus on Goals and Get Rid of Distractions

How to Focus on Goals and Get Rid of Distractions

Have you ever had one of those days where you’re sitting at a screen trying to just tick something off your to do list and finding yourself completely unable to just focus on the task at hand? Maybe you’re on Facebook or falling down the rabbit hole of news, social media, and the countless other distractions the Internet presents instead of trying to focus on goals for the day.

You’re not alone. More than 84% of us are plagued by procrastination at least sometimes[1]. For me, procrastination is the leading reason I used to so frequently get to the end of the week without having achieved what I wanted to. That ultimately meant putting in more hours on the weekends and evenings when I’d rather be spending time with my family or working out and investing in my physical and mental health.

That was the core motivator for me investing two years in experimenting with different tools and tactics to improve my focus (check out our guide here on how to achive my goal).

Today, I have three young sons, and I don’t miss a bedtime or a weekend day trip. I’m working fewer hours and getting more done, and here are some of the techniques I’ve applied to achieve it.

1. Use the Pomodoro Technique on More Laborious Tasks

The Pomodoro Technique is a method for improving productivity. It was devised by Francesco Cirillo and is named after the Pomodoro shaped timer that he used.

It’s a simple premise. You switch off all distractions and work non-stop with complete focus for 25 minutes. Then, you take a 5 minute break. You repeat this process for 115 minutes, after which which you will have worked for 100 minutes and had 15 minutes of breaks.

You can adjust the timings or the number of repetitions you do as you become more familiar with how you work best.


There are some important things to bear in mind if you try this to focus on goals:

  1. During the 25 minutes, you need to be free of all distractions. Shut your social media down, hide your phone in a drawer, and make sure nobody hassles you. Focus is key.
  2. It doesn’t work for every task. This is not a technique for collaborative tasks. I tend to use it most effectively for report writing, copywriting, and desk research led tasks.
  3. Don’t expect to see results immediately. I found it took me a few days before I noticed any significant changes to my speed of work, but within 2 weeks I was completing reports in around half the time I would normally expect it to take.

2. Write Your Goals Down

Writing things down is something of a superpower we all have. It comes down to psychology. In his book, Influence, Robert Cialdini notes the findings of a study that found a medical center was able to reduce missed appointments by 18% simply by getting patients to write their own appointment time down.

Writing things down appears to make us, as humans, more committed to them.

I start every day now by writing down a list of things I need to complete that day. It’s a small change, takes no more than a minute, and really helps to keep me focused.

There are few things as satisfying as marking something off with a huge tick! Clicking a button doesn’t have the same effect.

It’s an easy tip to try and takes very little time out of your day, so one well worth trying for yourself.

3. Work During Your Most Productive Hours

The two tactics above are things you could try out today and work out quickly if they help you focus on goals. What I’m about to suggest is a luxury I know a lot of people do not have.


However, if you’re one of the lucky ones who can, then try to build your day around your most productive hours.

A human being is thought to be productive for less than 3 hours each day[2]. Yet, we traditionally build our working day to last from 9 to 5 with little time away from our screens.

Therefore, it stands to reason that if you work those hours, you’ll find yourself feeling like at least half your day is wasted.

I spent a month or so measuring how productive I was at different times of the day. Over that month, on some days I worked mornings, some days afternoons, and some days evenings. On other days, I worked the whole day, though (freelance life!). I measured my output and noted how I was feeling. This is what I found.

When I was writing copy (where I’d already carried out the research), my most productive hours in terms of word count were these:

Words of copy produced

    I assessed the same thing with report writing:


    Reports completed

      What became clear to me is that I work very well early in the morning and reasonably well in the evening. And I am, frankly, pretty useless in the middle of the afternoon.

      So why was I trying to make myself do these tasks that need focus at a time when I’m clearly not naturally very focused?

      This was something of a revelation to me regarding how to focus on goals. I began adapting my working day wherever possible. I started working earlier in the morning and again in the evening if need be. I structure my day so that, if possible, I can get out for a walk or do something active in the afternoon. And if that isn’t possible, I take calls and have meetings.

      Wherever possible, I don’t produce documentation in the afternoon.

      This made significant improvements to my productivity and enabled me to consistently have completed my to-do list for the week by the weekend, making it possible for me to spend more time with my family.

      Two things enabled me to do this:


      1. I am self-employed and can work flexible hours
      2. My husband also works in the business, so we can divide the childcare in such a way that enables me to build my working day like this

      If you’re employed, rather than self-employed, it might be worth a conversation with your management. Putting a business case forward about how they can get the best out of your paid time could be sufficient to encourage them to give you flexibility in how you build your day.

      If you’re not able to build your day like that, then even changing which activities and tasks you carry out at certain times (documentation at your most productive hours, conversations at your least) could help to keep you focused.

      4. Use Browser Extensions to Keep you Focused

      If you’re one of those people who finds themselves distracted by social media or the news, then there are tools to help you.

      • Stayfocusd: A Chrome extension that lets you block certain websites altogether
      • Deprocrastination: A Chrome extension that enables you to track when you’re most productive, track what websites steal your time, and block accordingly.

      If you’re looking for more tools to help you stay productive, here’re some nice options: 15 Productivity Chrome Extensions To Boost Productivity in 2020

      Work Smarter

      Investing in experimenting with techniques to make me more productive is enabling me to spend more time doing the things I love without compromising my work or ability to improve income.

      Small changes made the biggest difference for me, and I hope they’ll make a big difference for you as you focus on goals and get things done.

      More on How to Focus and Achieve Your Goals

      Featured photo credit: Tamarcus Brown via



      More by this author

      Stacey MacNaught

      Small business owner, public speaker and marketing expert obsessed with working smarter.

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      Last Updated on July 29, 2021

      A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

      A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

      If there was a rule book of life, there would be one particular page that was highlighted, underlined, and titled as most important. It would be the one which told you that you need to master effective goal setting and have an aim in mind before you get on with the process. While there may not be an actual rule book of life, we do have this helpful goal setting guide to offer.

      Yes, goal setting is important. In fact, it’s more important than achieving the goal itself. This is because it is the sense of direction that is needed for you to fulfill any task in life.

      You don’t have to feel overwhelmed if this sounds new to you, as all the following information has you covered.

      Today, you’ll find out all about the importance of goal setting, types of goals, and tips to define realistic goals for yourself!

      What Are Goals?

      To kick off our goal setting tips guide, you need to first recognize what goals are and how they are different from objectives, dreams, and expectations.

      A goal is essentially your aim for the long-term future. It is the bigger umbrella, the main focus.

      Objectives, on the other hand, fall under the umbrella of goals. They are the stepping stones that help you achieve your goals[1].

      Objects vs goals for goal setting tips

        For example, you may decide you want to learn a new language. Your goal is to be fluent in the new language. Everything you do to achieve this goal, such as the daily tasks and monthly learning aims, are the objectives.

        Similarly, your expectations, visions, and dreams are not your goals. If you wish to learn a new language someday, that is your dream. If you see yourself fluently speaking multiple foreign languages, that is your vision. If you think you’re capable of learning a new language, that is your expectation.

        However, if you aim to fulfill these visions, dreams, and expectations practically, that is your goal.

        Why Is Goal Setting Important?

        Why should you bother with goal setting at all? Wouldn’t it be more convenient to just get on with your daily objectives, follow a dream or vision, and let life take you wherever?


        While that road can feel exciting and spontaneous, if you actually want to tick off things from your list of goals to achieve, learning how to set goals is necessary.

        Being committed to a goal puts your brain to work in one specific direction. Believe it or not, by having a defined goal, your brain does its magic unconsciously, 24/7, with full efficiency, to achieve the desired results[2].

        Goal setting is important to shift your focus, boost your motivation, and give you a sense of direction. Without formally defining a particular aim that you want to reach, you won’t be able to keep your objectives in line.

        Hence, this one tiny step can end up saving you a lot of hassle and time while also encouraging your productivity.

        Types of Goals

        Before we move onto the technique of setting effective goals, we need to first take a look at all types of goals in this goal setting tips guide.

        These categories will not just help you brainstorm new one for yourself, but it will also guide you to list them down in the right way.


        One of the two broad categories of goals is based on time. These goals define how far in the future you want to achieve them.


        There are certain smaller goals that you can easily achieve in a day or two. In fact, some of these daily goals can be recurring, too. For example, you may want to run for an hour every morning.

        Now, these daily goals can also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. You may be running every day because, in the long-term, you want to increase your stamina.

        Daily goals are highly effective for people who want to improve their mental wellbeing, time management skills, and stress management.


        Next in line are short-term goals. As you would have already guessed, goal setting in this area is aimed at the near future.

        The great thing about these is that they are generally easier to achieve. This is because short-term goals are set for the foreseeable future. You are aware of the circumstances and have a general idea of how much the situation can change.


        Just like daily goals, short-term goals may also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. Your short-term goal may be to lose 5 pounds in one month. That could be a goal in itself, or maybe it is just one objective to fulfill your goal to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the next two years.

        Another example of a short-term goal is to fulfill the checklist for promotion within the next 6 months. Or, you may want to reduce your screen time within the coming week.


        Lastly, we have long-term goals that are meant to be completed over a stretched period.

        Whatever you want to achieve in a later stage of life is a long-term goal. An insurance plan, for example, is a long-term goal.

        Some long-term goals don’t have any time frame at all. They are goals that you want to accomplish at some point in your life. So, something like traveling the whole world is a lifelong goal with no specific time constraint at all.

        There’s one thing about long-term goals that isn’t great.

        They are the hardest to keep up with since you’re not seeing any huge achievements regularly. This may take a toll on your motivation. To tackle this problem, it is best to divide a long-term goal into various, short-term and daily objectives so that you’re always tracking the progress you’re making.


        Moving forward, you can also start goal setting based on the results you want to achieve instead of the time period.


        Like most people, you will likely want to succeed and excel in your career. Anything that has to do with this intention, regardless of the time frame, is a career goal. These are usually measurable goals, such as receiving a promotion within two years, finding a job at a certain company within the next six months, etc.

        You can learn more about how to set successful career goals here.


        The past few years have all been about emphasizing your personal health. So, when it comes to goals, how can we forget the ones that have to do with our personal gains?

        From health to finances to relationships, everything that brings you happiness and composure as a person is a personal goal. It’s important that these are realistic and attainable goals for your life.


        Whether you want to get rid of your debt, quit smoking, start a side hustle, have children, or travel the world, all of these goals are personal and very important to have on your list.

        How to Set Goals

        The best way to guarantee the fulfillment of goals is to set them the right way.

        1. Use SMART Goals

        Every goal you define has to be SMART[3].

        SMART stands for:

        • Specific
        • Measurable
        • Attainable
        • Relevant
        • Time-Bound

        In summary, your specific goals should be very well defined. They shouldn’t be generic or broad, and every detail should be clarified as you’re goal setting. 

        If you want to start running, how often do you want to do it? How long will each session be? For how long will you continue this habit?

        There has to be a connection between your goals and beliefs or you’ll never be able to achieve the results you want. Most importantly, do not be unrealistic. You cannot learn to fly, and forcing yourself to try is only going to demotivate and stress you out.

        2. Prioritize Your Goals

        As you’re looking into how to write goals for the next month or year, it’s likely you’ll come up with more than one. In this case, it’s important to prioritize which are the most important or the ones that have the tightest deadline. This is going to be subjective, as only you know which goals will have the most impact on your life.

        3. Think of Those Around You

        As you’re working on goal setting, keep your loved ones in mind. You may have a partner, children, or employees that depend on you, and you should take them into consideration with your goals. For example, if you set a goal to travel to 10 different countries in the next two years, how will this affect your children?

        If you want to lose 30 pounds this year, is there something your partner can do to support you? S/he will need to be made aware of this before you set off on your weight loss journey.

        4. Take Action

        Setting goals is the first step, but in order to be successful, you have to follow this with action. If you set goals but never act on them, they become dreams. Create an action plan laying out the steps you need to take each day or week in order to achieve your big and small goals.

        You can also check out Lifehack’s free guide: The Dreamers’ Guide for Taking Action and Making Goals Happen. This helpful guide will push you to take action on your goals, so check it out today!


        5. Don’t Forget the Bigger Picture

        Most people refer to the big picture as their vision. Whether it is the long-term result or the connection of the goal with your desire, keep it in mind to keep yourself from getting distracted.

        You can learn more about creating a vision for your life here.

        I also recommend you to watch this video to learn 7 strategies to set goals effectively:

        How to Reach Your Goals

        You can ensure your progress by following some foolproof tactics. The use of relevant helpful tools can also keep you on the right track.


        One rookie mistake that most people make is that they work on too many goals simultaneously. Create an action plan and focus on one thing at a time.

        Divide your goal into smaller, easily achievable tasks. Taking it one step at a time makes it much easier. However, do not break them down too much. For example, for long-term goals, you should go for weekly checkpoints instead of daily ones.

        Also, keep track of your progress. This will keep you motivated to work harder.


        With so many categories of goals and so many aims, it is almost impossible to remember, let alone work, on all of them.

        Luckily, numerous goal tracker apps will help you keep track of your goals, as well as your plan to achieve every single one. Have at least one installed in your smartphone so that your plan is always within reach.

        The Bottom Line

        In conclusion, using a goal setting tips guide is not rocket science. All that it takes is strong will power along with all the knowledge that you’ve learned so far.

        Try out the tactics and goals setting tips mentioned above to be able to set successful goals so that you can achieve the life that you want!

        More Tips on Achieving Success

        Featured photo credit: Danielle MacInnes via



        [1] Smart Insights: The difference between marketing objectives and marketing goals?
        [2] Confluence: Goal Setting Theory
        [3] University of California: SMART Goals: A How-To Guide

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