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Last Updated on June 1, 2021

How to Not Get Distracted: 10 Practical Tips to Sharpen Your Focus

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How to Not Get Distracted: 10 Practical Tips to Sharpen Your Focus

Learning how to not get distracted is a tough goal to have. Most days, you sit at your desk, ready to finally get some work done. “Okay, lets do this,” you think to yourself. You scroll over to Word or Google Drive and open up a fresh document. You have some idea of what needs to be done, but what happens next?

You write a few words down but just can’t stay focused. Then you say, “Maybe I should wake myself up with something fun.” You go to Facebook, 20 minutes gone. Then comes an hour of mindlessly watching a handful of YouTube videos. Before you know it, lunchtime has come, and half the day is gone.

If this sounds familiar, know that it doesn’t have to be this way. All you need to do is focus on finishing this article to find out how to not get distracted.

But before we move on to the tips, it’s important to note that avoiding distraction is tough. It’s not easy staying on task when you need to work for hours at a time, but some people are able to do it. The question is: why them and not you?

Furthermore, you were probably never taught how to focus. In school, the teacher likely got upset when your mind wandered and you found yourself staring out the window, but this wasn’t remedied by teaching you how to focus; they simply expected it to come naturally. Unfortunately, that’s just not realistic, especially in today’s distracting world.

In the end, since everyone is left to their own devices, it’s up to you to find ways to master your focus. That’s what these tips are for, so you can finally stay focused and on track with what you want to accomplish.

1. Keep Your Vision and Goals in Mind

It’s important to start with a good base for your focus as you learn how to avoid distraction. This means figuring out exactly why you need to focus in the first place. Do you have a big presentation at work next week that you need to prepare for? Do you have a dream of learning to play the guitar and need to focus for an hour each day while you practice?

Deciding what your ultimate goal is will help you dedicate yourself to learning how to focus. Knowing why we need to stay focused can help us push through the tough and tedious parts of accomplishing our goals. That’s when our ability to focus is really tested and when it’s most needed.

2. Reduce the Chaos of Your Day

If you have 20 tasks you need done every day, how effective do you think your focus ability will be?

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You can’t expect to do those things with sophistication if you’re too scatterbrained to focus. You need to break it down to the essentials if you want to learn how to not get distracted.

Focus on only doing 2-3 important tasks a day, but no more than that. It’s all you need to take steps towards accomplishing your goals. Slower is much better than giving up early because you took on too much, too soon. Ultimately, this is better for your mental health as you’ll continuously see yourself moving forward without getting easily distracted.

3. Do Those Tasks as Soon as Possible

In order to make sure you get those 2 to 3 tasks done, you need to do them early in order to stay focused on the task without feeling overwhelmed. This means that as soon as you wake up, you’re already plotting how to do them.

It’s tough, but waiting to do them later only invites distraction to take over. Those distractions will inevitably come in the form of unexpected emails, social media, a child that needs your attention, or coworkers who need a helping hand on their projects. All of this can drain your willpower and make focusing on the task at hand much more difficult.

4. Focus on the Smallest Part of Your Work at a Time

An easy way to kill your focus is to see a goal for the big, giant accomplishment that it is. Most goals will at least take a few weeks to months to accomplish, and knowing that can make it feel like it’ll take too long to do.

This will cause you to do one of two things:

  • You become discouraged because the goal is too big.
  • You fantasize about what it’ll feel like to achieve the goal.

Either is terrible for your focus and always a potential problem when focusing on the big picture or using visualization.

Instead, focus on doing a very small, minimum amount of work.

For example, if you need to write an article, you know you’ll need about 1000 words. If that seems like a lot, plan to write 200 words each day for the next five days (or adjust this according to the given deadline). Breaking it down like this will help the task feel more manageable, helping you learn how to not get distracted along the way.

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5. Visualize Yourself Working

I briefly mentioned in tip 4 that visualization techniques can hurt you more than help you sometimes. However, there is a proper way of using visualization, and it’s by visualizing yourself actually working.

Champion runners use this technique to great effect, usually by working backwards. They imagine themselves winning at first, and then they act out the whole process in reverse, feeling and visualizing each step all the way to the beginning.[1]

A quicker and more relevant way to apply this would be to imagine yourself doing a small part of the task at hand.

For instance, if you need to practice the guitar, but it’s all the way across the room (let’s assume maximum laziness for the sake of this example), what should you do?

First, imagine standing up (really, think of the sensation of getting up, and then do it). If you really imagined it, visualized and felt the act of standing up, then acting on that feeling will be easy.

Then, repeat the visualization process with each step till you have that guitar in hand and you’re playing it. The process of focusing so intently on each step distracts you from how much you don’t want to do something, and the visualizations ready your body for each step you need done.

All you need to do is apply this process to whatever it is you need to focus on.

6. Control Your Internal Distractions

Internal distractions are one of those problems you can’t really run away from. You need to find ways to prepare your mind for work, and find simple ways to keep it from straying to non-essential thoughts in order to learn how to not get distracted.

A good way to prime your mind for work is to have a dedicated work station. If you always work in a specific area, then your mind will associate that area with work-related thoughts.

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When you take breaks, make sure to leave your work station. That way you’ll know when you’re “allowed” to let your thoughts roam free, as well.

Deadlines are also useful here. This method helps keep your mind from wandering since you’ve got that looming deadline coming along.

If you can build your focus muscle, you will be able to take control of your internal distractions all the time. You learn more about building that muscle in Lifehack’s Fast-Track Class: Focus Like a Top Achiever.

Ultimately though, silencing those unwanted thoughts is all about getting some traction going. Instead of focusing on what’s happening internally, focus getting something done. Once you do that, you’ll see that all your thoughts go toward finishing your task.

7. Remove External Distractions

This tip is a bit more straightforward as it requires you to simply distance yourself physically from things that are causing distractions.

If the television is disrupting, turn it off or work in another room. If your kids are playing and yelling, try getting up to work before they wake up. If you keep checking your phone, put your phone on silent while you’re working.

It’s usually obvious what you should do, but you still shouldn’t overlook this piece of advice.

8. Skip What You Don’t Know

This is a tip I don’t see often enough. If you hit a snag in your work, then come back to it later as you learn how to not get distracted. Focus your attention on what you can do to keep working “mindlessly” at all costs. All this means is that you should focus on the easy parts first.

Eventually, you can come back to the more difficult parts, and hopefully by then it’ll have come to you or you’ll have built up enough momentum that it won’t break your focus if you work on it.

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9. Improve Your Discipline With Focus Practice

There are a few focus exercises you can do to improve your overall discipline.

The first one is meditation, which is basically the definition of focus in practice. It’s a great method for building focus ability, de-stressing, and giving you greater control over your emotions.

The second exercise is the Pomodoro method, which asks you to set a timer to track the time you spend on a task. These are basically “focus sprints,” and each one is followed by a solid break. Like real sprints, you’ll get better and better at doing them over time. Each interval improves your ability to stay focused when it matters, helping you learn how to not get distracted in the long term.

10. Manage Your Momentum

Momentum is like a discipline lubricant‒it helps ease the process of sticking with goals. That’s why I think it’s important that we never take true breaks from our goals; we end up losing momentum and relying on discipline to get back on track (not an easy thing to do).

This means each and every day, we need to do something significant to further our goals (yes, even weekends and holidays). And when I say “significant,” I don’t necessarily mean a big task, but rather, any task that brings us closer to our goals.

For instance, if your goal is to be a freelance writer, then write one single pitch on a weekend. If your goal is to get healthy, then go for a short, 5-minute walk, even on Christmas day.

The Bottom Line

Learning how to not get distracted is certainly easier said than done. Distractions exist in every corner of our lives these days, even if it’s in the form of a short beep generated from a notification. These kinds of distractions can seem minimal, but anything that pulls you away from your focus can get in the way of your productivity.

Don’t get distracted. Instead, use some of the tips above to win back your focus and overcome distractions. Your productivity will thank you.

More Tips on Staying Focused

Featured photo credit: Chase Clark via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] The New York Times: Olympians Use Imagery as Mental Training

More by this author

Ericson Ay Mires

Ericson Ay Mires specializes in writing copy for self-improvement niches. He helps businesses sell their products with content and copywriting, so they can reach more people and improve their business.

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Last Updated on January 5, 2022

The 5 Fundamental Rules Of Working From Home

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The 5 Fundamental Rules Of Working From Home

Suppose you finally took the plunge: resigned your corporate job, decided to follow the passion of your life and (by lack of a new office space, of course), you started to work from home. Welcome to the club! Been there for a few years now and, guess what, it turned out that working from home is not as simple as I thought it would be.

It certainly has a tons of advantages, but those advantages won’t come in a sugary, care free, or all pinky and happy-go-lucky package. On the contrary. When you work from home, maintaining a constant productivity flow may be a real challenge. And there are many reasons for that.

For instance, you may still unconsciously assimilate your home with your relaxation space, hence a little nap on the couch, in the middle of the day, with still a ton of unfinished tasks, may seem like a viable option. Well, not! Or, because you’re working from home now, you think you can endlessly postpone some of your projects for ever, since nobody is on your back anymore. You’re your own boss and decided to be a gentle one. Fatal mistake. Or…

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OK, let’s stop with the reasons right here and move on to the practical part. So, what can you do to squeeze each and every inch of usefulness and productivity from your new working space and schedule (namely, your home)? What follows is a short list of what I found to be fundamentally necessary when you walk on this path.

1. Set Up A Specific Workplace

And stay there. That specific workspace may be a specific room (your home office), or a part of a room. Whatever it is, it must be clearly designed as a work area, with as little interference from your home space as possible. The coexistence of your home and work space is just a happy accident. But just because of that, those two spaces don’t necessarily have to blend together.

If you move your work space constantly around various parts of your house, instead of a single “anchor space”, something awkward will happen. Your home won’t feel like home anymore. That’s one of the most popular reasons for quitting working form home: “My home didn’t feel like home anymore”. Of course it didn’t if you mixed all its parts with your work space.

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2. Split Work Into Edible Chunks

Don’t aim too high. Don’t expect to do big chunks of work in a single step. That was one of the most surprising situations I encountered when I first started to work from home. Instead of a steady, constant flow of sustained activity, all I could do were short, compact sessions on various projects. It took a while to understand why.

When you work in a populated workspace, you behave differently. There is a subtle field of energy created by humans when they’re in their own proximity, and that field alone can be enough of an incentive to do much more than you normally do. Well, when you’re at home, alone, this ain’t gonna happen. That’s why you should use whatever productivity technique you’re comfortable with to split your work in small, edible chunks: GTD, pomodoro.

3. Work Outside Home

In coffee shops or other places, like shared offices. It may sound a little bit counterintuitive, to work outside your home when you’re working from home. But only in the beginning. You’ll soon realize that working from home doesn’t mean you have to stay there all the time. It basically means your home is also your office and you’re free to go outside if you want to.

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I know this may not apply to all of the “work from home” situations, but for those related to information processing, when all you need is a laptop an internet connection, that usually works beautifully. It adds a very necessary element of diversity and freshness. It can also be the source of some very interesting social interactions, especially when you have to solve all sort of digital nomad situations.

4. Go Out!

Working from home may be socially alienating. After almost 3 years of doing it, I finally accepted this as a fact. So, apart from balancing your home time with consistent sessions of working outside of your home, you should definitely go out more often. Our normal work routine, the one that is performed in an office, that is, makes for an important slice of our social interaction needs. Once you’re working from home, that slice won’t be there anymore. But your need for social contacts will remain constant.

So, my solution to this was to grow my social interaction significantly over what I was having when I was working in my own office. Going out to movies, running in the park, meeting for drinks or just chat, whatever it takes to get me out of my home/working space. On a one to ten scale, my social life before was around 3 and now is at a steady 7.

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5. Thoroughly Log Each And Every Day

It goes hand in hand with keeping a personal journal, but this time it’s about work, not personal feelings and experiences. Keep a detailed log of each project and be always ready to pick up from where you left one day or one week ago in just a matter of minutes. It’s not only a productivity enhancer, although it will help you be more productive, but it’s more on the accountability area.

When you work from home you’re your own boss. And, for any of you who are (or have been) bosses, this is not an easy position. You gotta keep track of all the information about your team and of every advancement in your projects. That’s what a boss is supposed to do, after all. When you work from home you have to perform this bossy role too, otherwise you will be lost in your own unfinished ideas and endless project stubs faster than you think.

Featured photo credit: Ian Harber via unsplash.com

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