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15 External Distractions Keeping You Unfocused on the Present

High-Performance Mindset Coach for Professional Athletes
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External distractions can make staying focused on the present moment difficult. This lack of focus causes you to scratch your head, wondering, “How do I fit in all the things I want to do today?”

Let’s focus on how we can reduce external distractions while improving focus and concentration.

External distractions are things outside you that get your attention, while internal distractions, such as thoughts and emotions, are inside you. Understanding these distractions is important because your time and energy are limited resources.

Wake up every day imagining you have five gallons of gas you can use in any way you wish.

This invites you to imagine where you will expend your resources before you start your day. When you gain control of your focus, energy, and attention, you gain control of your life.

15 Examples of External Distractions to Avoid

These are the most common external distractions examples you’ll be faced with daily. Remember they have a compounding effect on each other, as constant external distractions cause you to develop the habit of being reactive.[1]

Regain control of one, and you’ll also like to regain control of the others.

  • Phone calls
  • Text messages
  • Social media
  • Family
  • Conversations
  • Noise
  • Movement
  • Music
  • Internet access
  • Emails
  • Coworkers
  • Pets
  • Traffic
  • Eating
  • Drinking

Are you aware of the price you’re paying for allowing these distractions to exist? Let’s cover that cost and then move into ways you can reduce it.


The Six Costs of External Distractions

There are consequences when you allow external distractions and it is critical to understand this to avoid wasting your energy. Once you understand the cost, you’ll quickly appreciate the value of regaining your focus in the present moment.

1. Wasting Time

On average, after being distracted, it takes about 20-25 minutes to regain your focus. It will take 2-3X as long to achieve the desired outcome when external distractions are present.[2]

Decreased productivity means you get less done and have less free time for what matters most.

2. Start Things You Don’t Finish

Starting a project for many of us is tough enough. The one-two punch happens when you struggle to start and finish a project. Feeling overwhelmed is the emotional price you’ll pay for not finishing what you started.

This can become a habit and you’ll be accustomed to doing things but never finishing them. It could be anything from hobbies or much more important commitments.

3. Decreased Flow and Creativity

You must be relaxed and focused on entering a peak performance flow state. We tend to do our best and are most creative in this peak state. Your thoughts and ideas will be contracted and restricted with a governor placed on your creative mind.

Imagine reading or writing a book and you have a blaring noise from your speakers. It could be harder to understand what you’re reading or become more creative in your writing.

4. Disconnection in Personal Relationships

Have you ever been out to dinner with someone, feeling like they are somewhere else? As if your mind is wandering to a faraway land?

If you allow external distractions to grab your focus, you’ll quickly find your relationships suffering. Weakening relationships come at a very high price, especially when a spouse is on the receiving end.


5. Lack of Inner Peace

Stress and anxiety run rampant in modern days society. With so much going on, so much information coming from different sources, and lives being involved with your own, it’s inevitable that our society has become more intertwined.

It’s challenging to manage internal emotional states when external factors can trigger undesirable reactions. A prerequisite for happiness is peace. Without inner peace, happiness will be hard to find.

6. Poor Work Performance

Focusing on the task at hand is key to delivering value in the workplace. An open workspace can make staying on task feel like an insurmountable obstacle. Poor performance at work rarely goes unnoticed and can come at the price of losing your job.

Aside from that, your reputation is also at stake. It becomes harder to find employers or clients if you’re branded as a weak performer.

Benefits of Finding Your Focus

Once you master the techniques shared in this article, you’ll begin to experience the following benefits.

  • Less stress and anxiety secondary to poor time management
  • Accomplish goals faster and more efficiently
  • Reduced feelings of guilt for taking a break or day off
  • More likely to enter a flow state of creativity
  • Feel more connected with the important people in your life

How we feel is critical to how we view the quality of our life. Many of us define ourselves and our lives based on the emotions that dominate our lives. Higher vibe feelings attract more of the same and positively impact your daily decisions.

Are you seeing the value of finding your focus by reducing distractions?

How to Better Manage External Distractions?

Many of us struggle with feelings of guilt for not living up to our perceived professional and familial responsibilities. Gaining more quality time for work, health, or relationships replaces feelings of guilt with feelings of pride and accomplishment.

If you know what are external distractions, you’ll easily find ways to avoid them. Here are the most effective, practical, and results-oriented ways to easy to increase your focus into the present moment.

1. Respond Instead of Reacting

Many of us make the mistake of reacting to distractions like Pavlov’s dog did to the sound of a bell. We relinquish control to an automated reaction. Regain control of your focus by responding instead of reacting.[3]

Create a space of about 3-5 seconds where you ask yourself one simple question.

“How can I best respond to this distraction?”

This quick pause filled with curiosity puts you into the driver’s seat of managing your life. Change your environment or disengage in conversation or technology, and you’re moving in the right direction.


2. Flex Your Focus Muscle

Work out your focus muscle by taking actions that make focus feel more comfortable for you. Meditation is a powerful tool at your disposal, yet let’s discuss some less intimidating ways to get your reps in.

Try going outdoors, lying on a reclining chair, and paying attention to clouds passing by. You’re free of thought as well as free of labeling or judgment of the clouds. Refrain from commenting on their beauty. Simply observe how they move and flow through the sky.

Will this article inspire you to take action or just pass the time?

Another great way to flex your focus is to light a candle and watch the flame as it flickers and pops. This exercise is very easy to do and can be done anywhere.

Start by getting comfortable and lighting your favorite candle. Free of thought or judgment, just observe the flame. Watch how it moves and give all your attention to it.

3. Remove External Distractions

This is the most obvious, yet this doesn’t mean the thought has been put into action. Look around your home and work environment and write down a list of potential distractions.

At home, many of us complain of poor sleep, yet we have a television in our bedrooms. Maybe it’s time to move that TV elsewhere?


Another simple way to remove distractions also exists within the bedroom. Remove your phone and charger from the bedroom and place them in adjacent rooms. Think you could do it?

You’ll experience a night of much more restful sleep, and you’ll feel more recharged in the morning.

This also improves intimacy with your partner. In the past, you could be in bed next to each other in your separate worlds. When your worlds collide, your intimacy explodes, and your relationship could improve overnight.

At work, challenge yourself to place your cell phone in a desk drawer out of sight. Many of us check our emails too often, and any new email notification robs us of our focus.

Remove desktop email notifications and instead check your emails every hour on the hour. Don’t forget to unsubscribe to any promotional emails that haven’t offered you value in the last few months.

Final Thoughts

We do things to either avoid pain or seek pleasure. What drives us is often a feeling we want to experience or avoid. External distraction fuels stress and anxiety, which are feelings none of us want to experience.

Be more intentional with allowing external distractions to exist in your life. Gain control of your emotional state by removing focus-robbing distractions, and you’ll quickly feel an energy shift.


Emotions are energy in motion, and any shift that elicits desirable emotions will have a powerful impact on how you live your life. Challenge yourself to gain control of as many of the 15 external distractions above. Once you remove these external distractions, you’ll feel inner peace flow.


Don't have time for the full article? Read this.

15 External Distractions Keeping You Unfocused on the Present

Examples of External Distractions to Avoid: phone calls, texts, social media, music, emails, people, pets, traffic, and food are common distractions you want to avoid.

Costs of External Distractions: wasted time, unfinished tasks, decreased creativity, and disconnection, which results in poor performance.

Benefits of Finding Your Focus: being present allows more creativity and more time spent with those who matter. Finding focus lets you achieve the things you want in life and also gives you more time to do other things you like.

How to Manage External Distractions: Take a simple pause and assess the situation and find the best way to respond rather than reacting quickly. Then, practice your focus by doing meditation, going outdoors, or simply watching the sky.

Remove Distractions From the Bedroom: If you’re being distracted by gadgets or your mobile phone, keep them away when you’re doing something important.

Featured photo credit: Rachel Martin via unsplash.com


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