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 September 27, 2021

      8 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important to a Fulfilling Life

      8 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important to a Fulfilling Life

      The importance of effective goal setting cannot be overstated on our personal journeys towards success. This is why there are countless articles out there on how to set your own SMART goals and even why it’s a skill commonly taught to a small degree in classrooms.

      Learning the importance of goal setting and the benefits of sticking to those goals can be the defining factor determining whether we truly embrace the importance of goal setting. The more willing we are to embrace this method, the more likely we become to reach our personal definitions of personal and professional success.

      Thus, this article is going to walk you through some of the benefits you’ll see from learning to set goals for yourself and answer the question — why is goal setting important?

      1. Goals Guide and Align Our Focus

      It’s hard to get to where you want to be in life if you don’t know what you’re aiming for. Some people believe avoiding goals means living a more care-free life. How many times have you heard the phrase “If I have no expectations, then I can’t be disappointed”?

      But is that really what our lives have come to? Living just to avoid disappointment? It doesn’t seem like an overly optimistic view in my opinion. And since you’re reading this article, I’m willing to bet that you agree with me.

      Without goals, we lack a degree of direction and focus. Sure you may be able to avoid disappointment, but just avoiding disappointment doesn’t mean you are necessarily happy.

      Without goals, we will pointlessly waste our time, energy, and efforts. Listen to anybody who is the top of their field and they’ll tell you something like this,

      “Yes talent is important, but often your success depends much more on what you decide to do with that talent.”

      And what you will do with your talent largely depends on your focus.

      Your goals give you direction. Your goals give you something to shoot for. This direction and target you create in your mind will help you to progress towards your main life goals rather than simply wander around aimlessly. These goals will help you align your actions and behaviors as you continue moving forward.


      So, why is goal setting important? Because it gives you direction, alignment, and purpose!

      2. Goals Help You Avoid ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’

      Basically, shiny object syndrome is always being in pursuit of the next big thing, constantly switching your goals based on what you feel is most fun and interesting at the given moment, but never actually giving yourself time to accomplish any of those goals.

      You don’t get anywhere because you continually change the direction you are heading in. This is one of the consequences that may result if you decide to live a life without goals.

      Your goals can sometimes help you to create mental barriers, or blinders, that help you to remain focused on what you think is important and avoid the things that are second priority. When you outline goals for yourself, you are better able to avoid things that distract you from achieving and accomplishing those goals.

      Setting goals helps you to step around the other shiny objects because you’ve taken the time to make some mental notes that remind you what it is that you want from your life. Your goals act as subconscious deterrents to anything less than your main priorities. This is what helps you to reach your personal definition of success.

      So, why is goal setting important? Because not only do goals tell you what you want from life, but they also help you realize what you need to give up and avoid to achieve that.

      3. Goals Turn Our Largest Goals into Manageable Steps

      A lot of us have big hopes and dreams. It’s one of the things that make our lives exciting!

      But a lot of us never take the time to figure out how we can effectively get from point A to point B. So, sadly, we never fully achieve those goals. We look at our dreams and convince ourselves that only a select few people ever achieve them, so we write ourselves off as people not meant to reach that level of success. Looking at the end product of a goal can be intimidating, daunting, and discourage us from even pursuing them.

      Thankfully, goal setting helps us break large intimidating goals into smaller ones. These small steps and more achievable goals will help us to build momentum and will encourage us to keep working towards the next phase of our goal. The form the foundation from which we can begin building the life that we truly hope to have for ourselves, our families, and may even for our communities depending on how big your goals are!

      Whenever I get talking about this aspect of goal setting, I can’t help but think about the mountain climbing analogy, and that the easiest way to climb a mountain is simply step by step.


      So, why is goal setting important? Goal setting gives you a list of manageable steps that you can take in order to take your life from where it is now to where you want it to go both effectively and efficiently.

      4. Goals Encourage You to Take Action

      This builds on the last benefit of goal setting. Not only does effective goal setting help you break down your larger goals into smaller, more manageable ones, but it also encourages you to actually begin taking action on those goals. After all, a plan is completely worthless if you aren’t willing to invest the effort required to execute it.

      Setting your goals and putting your plan in place motivates you to begin taking action towards achieving them. These goals give you something to plan and work towards. Essentially, they help propel you forward.

      What I like to do is write out and place my goals somewhere that I’ll regularly see them. This constantly serves as a reminder of my top priorities. It allows me to focus on taking small progressive actions towards achieving these goals daily.

      This ensures that I don’t fall into the trap of setting a goal, beginning to work towards it for a while, but then having my motivation fade resulting in me falling off track. This is exactly what many people see happen when it comes to their “New Year’s Resolutions.”

      If you want to learn about how to take action towards achieving your goal, here’s how: How To Take Action Towards Your Goals Right Now

      So, why is goal setting important? Because goal setting actually motivates you to stop thinking about your goals and actually get out there and achieve them!

      5. Goal Setting Helps You Continually Improve

      This is something that a lot of personal development and self-improvement writers talk about, continual improvement. For those of you who are not aware of the term, continual improvement is exactly what it sounds like — taking small steps towards improvement as frequently as you can to develop into the person you want to become.

      What’s the point in improving a little bit each day if you’re not improving in the areas that you want to improve in after all?

      The goals that you define for yourself will inevitably shape you into the person who you want to become. They’ll shape your character. Your goals can help you measure your progress as you strive for this type of development.


      Essentially, having goals helps you determine where you started, where you are now, and how much further you need to go. In this manner, your goal setting can serve as milestones and benchmarks that help you determine how well you’re progressing towards your most important goals!

      So, why is goal setting important? Goal setting helps you make improvements each day that will slowly transition you into the person you want to become.

      6. Goal Setting Keeps You Accountable

      Not only does setting goals help you measure your progress, but it also is a means through which you can keep yourself accountable. Too many goals fail because they lack this crucial aspect of outlining accountability.

      For example, if I have the goal to do 50 push-ups, that’s great. Most people would support that goal. However, this goal lacks accountability. When do I want to accomplish this goal by and what steps do I take to get there? These are important questions that the original goal leaves unanswered.

      A much more descriptive and specific goal could be to do 50 push-ups within the next 3 months by starting at 5 push-ups, and then adding 5 each week. This goal outlines the deadline as well as the steps I’m going to take to achieve it. This plan will keep me accountable because if I fail to retain my progression schedule, I will know that I’m not going to achieve the goal on time.

      Additionally, it can serve as a marker helping to signify when something is impeding my progress that I may not have initially accounted for. This tells me that I need to re-evaluate what I’m doing and figure out what adjustments I can make to facilitate my success.

      So, why is goal setting important? Setting goals is key to keeping ourselves accountable and on-track towards accomplishing our goals according to the schedules and deadlines we set for ourselves.

      7. Goals Make You Feel Good

      Trust me, the progress you feel as you set and achieve goals can become super motivating and super addicting (in a good way)! The dopamine release you get from achieving your goals is like a little reward for our brains that continually motivates us to try and hit that next goal!

      Having some clearly defined goals will help you to feel better about yourself and your life in general, especially when you stick to those goals, actively work towards achieving them, and end up accomplishing and surpassing your initial expectations. I’m not the oldest book on the shelf myself, but I can attest that there are not many feelings quite like the one you experience when you truly get on a roll!

      Additionally, our goals give us an endpoint to shoot for. Rather than progress for progress’s sake, you can actually see where you’re heading! That’s so much more rewarding. Think about a long car trip as a kid. You ask “if you’re there yet?” ever 20 minutes. It seems like the drive drags on forever.


      If you don’t know where you’re going, you risk the journey becoming tedious. It doesn’t tend to be much fun wandering around aimlessly. Goals make us feel good about where we’re directing ourselves.

      So, why is goal setting important? Because setting goals and accomplishing them plain and simply make us feel better about ourselves and our lives!

      8. Goals Help You Live Your Best Life

      I’ve talked a lot in this article about how goal setting helps us progress towards our top priorities and live the way we truly want to live. So I think it’s fit to end the article with this goal because, in the end, I feel it’s the most important one.

      Setting your goals and clearly defining what they mean to you will help you live a life that is tailored to your beliefs and values. Your life will become directed towards the things that you most want to achieve.

      Life is a tricky game and only in very rare circumstances are things handed to us on a silver platter. Often it takes a great degree of work, planning, and effortful execution of both.

      There is no point clinging on to things in your life if they don’t bring you happiness or help you accomplish something that, in some way, aligns with your goals.

      Simply put, setting goals helps us live a life that allows us to pursue the challenges and rewards that we truly want to achieve.

      So, why is goal setting important? Because our time is always limited, and setting clearly defined goals can help ensure that you make the most of your life and live to the fullest! Find out more here: How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life

      Final Thoughts

      These are just a few of the benefits of goal setting that outline why it truly is so important. If you take a moment or two, I bet that you can even think of a few more benefits yourself that you could add to this list.

      If I could leave you with something, it would be this:


      Goal setting has the potential to take us to some amazing places in life because we all have talent and ambitions. To achieve your biggest dreams, you need to be willing to sit down and create a life design uniquely tailored to you that will help you achieve them!

      More Tips About Goals Setting

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via

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