In a world filled with pinging notifications, endless to-do lists, and unexpected life events, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by a sea of distractions. They seem to pop up everywhere—when you’re trying to meet a work deadline, during a crucial discussion with your spouse, or even as you’re diving into a long-awaited book on a peaceful Sunday afternoon.
If you’re like most folks working in the States, you’re being sidetracked every 11 minutes. And guess what? It takes you about 25 minutes to get back in the groove of what you were doing. That’s half an hour almost! What’s worse, if your work’s a bit tricky, it’ll take even longer to pull your attention back where it needs to be.
But here’s an eye-opening fact: while some distractions are genuinely urgent, about 90% of them aren’t nearly as critical as they seem.
Distractions aren’t just annoying interruptions that disrupt your workflow or personal life; they are a choice. Yes, a choice. Many of us unknowingly opt for distractions, allowing them to veer us away from our core focus. This implies that you have more control over your focus than you might think.
This article is designed to guide you on how to regain your focus and productivity. I’m going to provide you with some quick fixes and a unique method that my team and I have developed if you’re ready to take your focus skill to the next level.
Prepare yourself for a new perspective on distractions—one that will enhance your focus and bolster your everyday efficiency.
Table of Contents
- How to Not Get Distracted: 5 Simple Ways
- Reclaim Focus with the Reel It In Method
- Final Thoughts
How to Not Get Distracted: 5 Simple Ways
Here’re some quick ways you can try:
1. Remove External Distractions
Distractions, especially external ones, often come dressed in various shapes and sizes, from a blaring television to a lively family. And the solution to this is as simple as it is effective—distance yourself from these elements.
If the TV is playing havoc with your focus, turn it off or relocate to a quieter room.
Are your kids providing a lively soundtrack? Try adjusting your schedule to work early in the morning before they rise.
If your phone constantly demands your attention, mute it while you’re working. And even that creatively adorned wall in front of you might need some decluttering. While those photos, prints, and knick-knacks might be charming, they could also lead your mind astray.
This tip might sound blatantly obvious, and yet, it’s often ignored. So, take a moment to evaluate your physical environment and remove any potential distractions.
2. Start Your Day With a Clear Plan
Before you plunge into the whirlpool of tasks, take a few minutes in the morning to manage your schedule. A beneficial tool you could employ is the time management matrix. Use this technique to organize your responsibilities according to their urgency and importance.
Take the time to set your priorities. Determine which tasks are both critical and time-sensitive for the day. Identify which ones are important but less immediate. Then, figure out which tasks can be delegated or eliminated entirely.
This final category may include tasks that seem urgent but are not necessarily important or rewarding, such as addressing questions from colleagues, answering phone calls, or replying to emails just because “that’s the way it’s always been.”
Instead of getting swept away by the rush of these tasks, seize control and make conscious decisions on how you will handle them when they come up. And once you’ve made that decision, stick to it.
Be ruthless in following through. By gaining clarity and establishing priorities at the start of your day, you position yourself to effectively handle distractions and maintain your focus on what truly matters.
3. Be Selective With Your Tasks
Imagine you’ve got a mountain of 20 tasks to tackle every day, how effective can your focus truly be under such a heavy load?
The truth is, it’s nearly impossible to perform all those tasks efficiently if your mind is scattered in twenty different directions.
To minimize distractions, you need to strip your day down to the bare essentials. Limit your focus to just 2-3 significant tasks a day, and no more. It may seem counterproductive at first, but this narrow focus can bring immense benefits.
Productivity is not about doing everything at once, but rather about taking deliberate steps towards achieving your goals. Moving at a slower pace often proves to be far more effective than burning out because you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.
This approach is not only great for your productivity but also for your mental health. You’ll start to see consistent progress without being sidetracked by an endless list of tasks. In the long run, reducing the chaos of your day can greatly help you stay focused and not get easily distracted.
4. Block Time For the Tasks
For those crucial 2 to 3 tasks that you’ve chosen for the day, the best way to ensure they get done is to block your schedule for them.
Distractions might come in various guises—an unexpected email, a ping from social media, a child craving your attention, or a coworker needing your assistance on their project. Each one of these interruptions can sap your willpower and make focusing on your chosen tasks significantly harder.
By blocking time for your most important tasks, you force yourself to stay focused and have them completed within a specific period of time — nothing else can interrupt you.
Try the Time Flow System‘s Focused Blocks to help you schedule specific periods to get the right tasks done. It’s an effective way to help you reclaim your focus and productivity:
5. Focus on a Small Part of Work
It’s easy to lose focus when you’re faced with a substantial goal. Most goals, after all, take weeks or even months to achieve, and the thought of the long journey ahead can feel daunting.
Here’s what usually happens:
- You feel discouraged because the goal seems too large.
- You daydream about the sense of satisfaction you’ll feel when achieving the goal.
Both of these scenarios are detrimental to your focus and are common pitfalls when you concentrate too much on the big picture.
Instead, aim to complete a very small, minimum amount of work.
For instance, if you have a project at work that involves conducting market research and presenting findings to your team. If this feels overwhelming, break it down:
Plan to spend one day on gathering data, another day on analyzing it, a third day on drawing conclusions, and a final day on creating the presentation.
By splitting the task into smaller, more manageable segments, it becomes less intimidating, helping you to maintain your focus.
So you’ve got a few handy ways to help you refocus now, and if you want to try to leverage your distractions to boost your productivity, read on for our unique approach.
Reclaim Focus with the Reel It In Method
Distractions aren’t merely external disruptors. They’re also reflections of an internal conflict—a sign that our mind isn’t fully committed to the task at hand. It’s why you’re suddenly intrigued by the chirping birds outside your window during a conference call, or why you’re mentally planning dinner during your child’s recital.
But what happens when you’re compelled by an undeniable necessity? Consider the last time nature called urgently. In those moments, all other concerns—urgent emails and messages—fell by the wayside. Your entire focus shifted to finding the nearest restroom. Why? Because your mind and body had no doubts about what needed to be done.
This laser-like focus was instinctive, a decision made subconsciously. But what if you could consciously bring this same level of unwavering concentration to your everyday tasks?
The key lies not in warding off distractions, but rather learning how to leverage them. Each of them can act as a stimulus to solidify your focus, helping you commit fully to your task without a shadow of a doubt.
Now let’s dive into a practical strategy for managing these disruptions— the Reel It In Method. Far from being a simple workaround, this approach allows you to convert distractions into valuable tools for enhancing focus. Moreover, with regular practice, it serves as a mental workout to strengthen your “focus muscle.”
The Reel It In Method targets the majority of distractions—those pesky 90% where you hold the reins. So, when that Instagram notification pops up, or a WhatsApp message pings, or your mind starts wandering to the daunting task awaiting you next week, remember—you have a choice. It’s not an automatic reflex, but a decision you make.
With this method, you’re equipped to make the right choices consistently. Each distraction presents an opportunity for you to fortify this decision-making process. Rather than being at the mercy of disruptions, you’ll become adept at handling them in a way that bolsters your focus.
Now, let’s break down the “Reel It In” method into three easy-to-follow steps. With these in your arsenal, you’ll find that mastering the art of focus isn’t as daunting as it once seemed. Here’s how you do it:
Step 1: Clear Your Mind
To start, set the stage with a bit of mental housekeeping.
Visualize a typical situation when you’re faced with an interruption. It might spring from an external source—perhaps an email notification chimes in, an enticing Instagram post catches your eye, or a message from a friend buzzes on your phone. Or, the distraction might emerge from within—a stray thought meandering across your mind, a worry gnawing at your consciousness, or a sudden recollection.
In such instances, our default reaction is often to chase the distraction. We are quick to check that email, scroll down the Instagram feed, or dwell on that worry. But this time, I want you to try something different.
Instead of instinctively reacting, I want you to halt. To pause and engage in a little mindfulness.
Before you yield to the distraction, do a swift, easy breathing exercise. It’s so simple and quick, it will only take a few seconds:
- Close your eyes. This creates a moment of calm, away from the visual noise around you.
- Take in a deep breath. Feel the air filling your lungs, and hold it in for a count of 5.
- Then exhale. As you release your breath, visualize your mind letting go of everything it’s holding on to.
If it takes more than one breath… that’s okay. Repeat the process, taking in deep, cleansing breaths. Each time you exhale, imagine your mind becoming lighter, releasing more and more.
This simple act of mindful breathing forms the first step in mastering the “Reel It In” method. It sets the foundation for managing distractions effectively, allowing you to proceed with a clear, focused mind.
Step 2: Gain Instant Presence
With a clear mind, it’s time to ground yourself firmly in the present. The ‘now’.
Picture your mind with numerous lines extending from it, reaching out towards various thoughts, worries, and reminders. These are the things that compete for your attention, the things that disrupt your focus.
Now, visualize reeling these lines back in, much like a fisherman pulling in his rod. Each line you reel in signifies a piece of your attention being returned to you. You’re gathering your dispersed thoughts back into yourself. You’re recentering your focus.
Silently affirm to yourself: “Nothing matters except this moment.”
The Significance of Instant Presence
Gaining instant presence is critical because the present moment is all you truly possess. The past is a memory, the future an anticipation. They exist only in our minds.
Too often, our actions are influenced by past events that we cannot alter or future anxieties that are far from certain. It’s important to remember that what truly matters is the here and now. The present moment is the only reality that we can directly impact.
So, how do you reclaim your focus? Here are some self-reflective questions to guide you back to the present:
- What am I doing right now? Why am I doing it?
- What do I need to achieve so that my time is well-spent?
- What’s the most important thing I could be doing right now?
- Is this urgent? Does it warrant my immediate attention?
- Do I need to care about this? If so, why?
- Will I regret spending time on this later?
Asking these questions helps you discern the urgency and importance of the disturbance at hand. It will enable you to make an informed decision on whether to engage with it or to refocus on your current task. The ultimate aim is to ensure that your time is spent productively, every single moment.
Step 3: Make A Decision
To truly address a distraction, you must process it, and that means making a decision about it. Ignoring it merely causes it to resurface and pester you until it’s addressed. To achieve peace of mind, you need to make choices.
Here are a few simple guidelines to help you along:
Create a “Distraction Follow-Up” Task List
Consider dedicating a specific task list to managing the random interruptions that pop up throughout the day. Write down whatever needs to be done in response to them.
The idea here is simple: once you’ve written a task down, you’ve effectively told your mind it can release that thought. You’ve captured it, and you’ll address it in due time.
Allocate Specific Time Slots Each Day
Take time each day to address the tasks on your “Follow-Up” list. You might, for example, set aside 30 minutes after lunch, and another hour before you prepare for bed.
The goal is to consistently clear your list throughout the day, preventing it from becoming an overwhelming backlog.
What’s the common denominator in these steps? You’re scheduling a time to focus on each distraction.
You’re not ignoring the distraction; instead, you’re acknowledging it and committing to addressing it later. This allows you to make a decision, let go of it, and return your focus to the task at hand.
With this strategic approach, you’re effectively turning distractions into structured tasks, maintaining your productivity while ensuring that all matters receive their due attention.
How to Not Get Distracted
Distractions aren’t always external elements vying for your attention. Sometimes, they’re internal conflicts, the choices we make, and our inability to prioritize what truly matters. With each distraction that arises, you have a choice. You can choose to get carried away or take control.
Practice the above strategies and see how they work for you. Over time, you’ll find it easier to manage distractions and maintain your focus, enabling you to get more done and ultimately, get closer to your goals.
Your focus is your superpower. Use it wisely on things that truly deserve your attention.
|CBS News: Researchers: Typical Workers Get Interrupted Every 11 Minutes