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Last Updated on November 8, 2021

How to Stay Focused and Not Get Distracted

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How to Stay Focused and Not Get Distracted

You sit down at your computer, ready to get started on your work for the day when you decide to check your Facebook, then you really want to see what’s happening on Reddit. Next thing you know, the day is half gone and you haven’t even started working yet. Admit it, this happens more than you’d like to admit. If only you could force yourself to stay focused…

But what does staying focused actually mean?

When you come around the term “Stay Focused,” it would mean to keep yourself occupied with the task you have at hand rather than getting distracted by something that would affect your productivity. Focus is considered at the heart of everything necessary, such as perception, memory, learning, reasoning, problem-solving, and decision making.

Mark Cuban had stated the importance of focus exceptionally well when he said,

“What I’ve learned in these 11 years is you just got to stay focused and believe in yourself and trust your own ability and judgment.”

Without focus, you lose your ability to think effectively, as attention to detail is necessary to get work done. Every second you spend with your mind wandering off is a second lost, which could have been productively spent on work.

How Do You Stay Focused?

There are a few things you can do to help keep your mind from getting distracted:

1. Find Out When You Are the Most Focused

According to research, brilliantly documented by Daniel Pink in his latest book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, our brains have a limited capacity to stay focused each day.[1]

From the moment we wake up to the time we turn in for the day, we are using up our brain’s limited energy resources and, depending on the time of day, we will be moving between strong concentration and low concentration.

This means that for most people, their optimum time for sustained concentration and focus will be soon after they wake up. For others, it could be later in the evening—a kind of second wind—but that is rare.

Once you understand this, you can take time to learn when you are at your best and to protect that time on your calendar as much as possible. If you can, block it off and use that time for the work you need to do that requires the most concentration each day.

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2. Plan Your Day the Night Before

One of the inevitabilities of life is there is always a plan for the day. The choice is whether the plan you have is a plan of your own making or not. If you don’t have a plan, then the day will take control of you. Other people’s priorities, urgencies and dramas will fill your day. As the late Jim Rohn said:

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.”

If you take control and make it a habit to plan out what you want to accomplish the next day before you go to bed, you will find yourself staying more focused on your work and be less likely disturbed.

Now when I say plan your day the night before, I do not mean you need to spend an hour or so planning and mapping out every minute of the day. Planning your day should only take you around 10 to 15 minutes and you only need to decide what 10 things you want to complete — 2 “must do” objective tasks and 8 “would like to do” tasks. What I call the 2+8 Prioritisation Technique:

Do not be tempted to go beyond 10 tasks for the day. When you do that, you do not have enough flexibility in your day to handle crises and other unknown issues that will pop up throughout the day.

When you do not build in flexibility, you will soon stop planning your day. Only plan tasks that will have the biggest positive impact on your work and projects.

3. Get Comfortable Using ‘Do Not Disturb’ Mode

We have the ability to switch our electronic devices to do not disturb mode. Where all notifications are off and your phone or computer will not alert you to a new email or message.

Now after testing this function for a number of years, I can happily report that it does work.

When I sat down to write this article, I put all my electronic devices to do not disturb, closed down my email and began writing. I am safe in the knowledge that until this article is written, and I turn do not disturb off, there will be no interruptions or distractions.

Of course, it is not really about whether do not disturb works or not, it is whether you are willing to turn it on or not.

Most people believe they have to be constantly available for their boss or customers. This is not true at all. What has happened is because of your always available status, you have conditioned these people to turn to you first whenever they have a problem.

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You are not actually helping them at all. You are preventing them from having to think for themselves and develop the skill of problem-solving. By not being so readily available, you help them a lot more.

What it comes down to is your boss and customers are going to be far more positive with you, if you deliver your work to the highest quality and on time than you being available 24/7. Trust me on that. I also tested that one.

4. Learn to Say “No”

I am sure you’ve been told this before. We are wired to please and this results in us wanting to say yes to every opportunity that comes our way. The problem is we cannot do everything and every time you say “yes” to one opportunity, you are saying “no” to another opportunity. You cannot be in two places at the same time.

Jay Shetty shared an inspiring video on JOMO “Joy Of Missing Out”. Here’s the video:

Rather than allowing ourselves to be succumbed by FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out), we should replace that ‘fear’ with the “joy” of missing out. Because of our need to please, we say yes to things we really don’t want to do; yet when we do that, we miss out on doing things that bring us joy—creating something special, spending time educating ourselves and just having some quiet alone time with ourselves.

Learn to say “no” every time you get a notification to your phone. Ignore it. Learn to say “no” to your colleagues when they want to gossip. Learn to say “no” to volunteering when the thing you are being asked to volunteer for does not excite you. Just learn to say “no”.

By saying “no” to opportunities, distractions and interruptions, you are saying yes to better and more meaningful things. Things you do want to focus your attention on.

5. Be Intentional

The reality is, if you absolutely need to get something done then you need to be intentional. You have to have the intention of sitting down, focusing and doing the work.

There’s no magic tricks or apps that will miraculously do all your work for you. You need to intentionally set aside time for undisturbed focus work and do it. Without that intention, you can read as many of these articles as you like and you still will not get the work done.

It is only when you intentionally set yourself up to do the work, turn off all notifications and do whatever it takes to avoid distractions will the work get done.

How To Stay on Task?

Now that we know how to bring direction to our lives and have a little focus let’s take it a step further and ensure we stay focused at work. Let us look at ways you can guarantee that you won’t be distracted during work.

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1. Dedicate a Working Space

When you pick one area as your workspace, you are training your mind to associate that place to work. As soon as you walk into that space, you’ll find it easier to get into “work mode” and stay focused on the task at hand.

While you’re at it, have fun with your workspace. Add designs that motivate you and make you feel good—perhaps pictures or motivational quotes, plants, and even natural light. However, be careful not to overdo the decorations, or you might be putting in more distractions.

Keep your workspace tidy and organized. A clean workspace helps reduce anxiety, minimize opportunities for procrastination, and boost your motivation.

2. Distribute Your Work Time

Planning your day and sticking to that schedule will help you avoid distractions.

Work in blocks. One smart way to plan your day is to work in 60 to 90-minute blocks. Give yourself a fixed amount of time to work, say, 70 minutes, and focus solely on that task until that time is over. Reward yourself with breaks in between; when you do, make sure that that time is spent solely for breaks!

Set deadlines. When talking about productivity, Parkinson’s Law is a famous concept that says, “Work expands to fill the time given to complete it.” To explain it in simpler words:

When you allow yourself four days to accomplish Task A, which could be done in one day, you tend to fill the remaining time with diversions. Instead of finishing Task A in one day, you might allow deviations in between: watching a YouTube video, mindlessly scrolling through your Facebook and Twitter feeds, or even cleaning your desk impulsively.

On the other hand, when you’re up against a tight deadline, you tend to develop a laser-like focus to finish on time. You will find yourself concentrated on the task until it is done—because you have no time to laze around!

3. Let People Know You’re Working

Don’t let people distract you from work by making it known that you’d be at work at the specified time of the day. You can do this by putting up a sign around your workplace, setting up your team apps status to busy, and wearing headphones if your workplace has a lot going on around you.

Putting on music while studying or working is another good way of providing yourself with focus. Studies suggest that listening to classical or instrumental music helps improve concentration.[2] That said, feel free to explore other music choices and go with a genre that enables you to focus and work better.

4. Set Up 3 Main Objectives

To-do lists generally help us remember all the things we have to do and accomplish them on time. However, a long to-do list may be doing you more harm than good; it can make you feel tired and overwhelmed even before you start.

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Counter this by giving yourself 3 main tasks to accomplish every day. No more than that.

When you limit the things you have to finish in a day to a realistic and feasible amount, you’ll have a clear idea of the tasks you have to do, and you will consequently feel good about it as you are able to check off more things.

Every morning, ask yourself: What are the three most important things to accomplish today?

All other tasks that didn’t make it to that list should go on a separate list; your priority for the day is to finish the top three tasks you previously identified.

Bonus: Apps & Tools to Help You Stay Focused

Our mobile devices are the biggest distractions we have taken up during this digital era. With access to so many applications and programs that can take up hours without end, it has gotten difficult to stay focused on the tasks at hand. However, with these productivity apps, you can cut back on apps that can potentially distract you from your work: 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools

In addition, you can use this Chrome Extension StayFocused, to restrict the amount of time you can spend on time-wasting websites so you have to stay focused. The extension is totally flexible, allowing you to set the amount of time you can waste each day, determine which websites are time wasters and decide if you’d like to block certain sites altogether.

    Bottom Line

    Rather than avoiding distractions, it’s a smarter practice to manage them. A little diversion now and then can help you recharge and freshen up, but you should learn how to control them and, ultimately, create work habits that work best for you.

    Remember, you are in control of your time and what you do with it and where you spend it, never give that control away to anyone else.

    Featured photo credit: Stefan Cosma via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Carl Pullein

    Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

    long term career goals Tap Into Success With These Long-Term Career Goals Tips setting goals How to Set Goals Smartly to Accomplish More in Life How to Concentrate And Focus Better to Boost Productivity What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Boost Productivity With It) How to Stay Focused and Not Get Distracted

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    Last Updated on November 29, 2021

    How to Become Indistractable: 4 Powerful Tactics to Help You Focus

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    How to Become Indistractable: 4 Powerful Tactics to Help You Focus

    From modern technology to interactions with our friends, family, and coworkers, distractions are practically unavoidable. This makes it very hard to focus, especially for a sustained period of time on a specific task. Becoming indistractable, then, is an important skill to learn if we want to be truly productive.

    Distractions aren’t going to decrease any time soon with advances in technology. Therefore, there is no better time than now to learn the best strategies to help you defeat distractions head on. Remember, many distractions may be out of your control, but you can learn to take charge of whether or not they take control of you.

    In this article, you’ll learn not only why distractions are so destructive, but also why they exist in the first place, and a powerful technique that can help you get rid of them for good.

    What Is a Distraction?

    A distraction is anything that draws attention away from what you’re doing at a given moment. Examples include looking at your phone each time a notification pops up, chatting with people who stop by your office space while you’re working, or checking social media or emails while trying to finish a big project.

    Distractions can cause problems for more than just a few seconds. When you switch your attention, you create attention residue, which can linger for an extended amount of time, getting in the way of your focus.

    If you really want to become indistractable, you’ll need to overcome each distraction that steps in your path.

    Traction: The Opposite of Distraction

    We’ve come to the conclusion that distractions are bad, and we don’t want them interfering with what we need to get done. What we want to achieve is the opposite: traction. Now, there aren’t any official antonym for distraction. However, I propose it so as by definition traction is any action that moves us towards what we really want.

    Traction is an action that you fully engage in with intent—following through with what you say you will do.

      How To Tell If You’re Distracted

      Most people find it quite common to be distracted. The bustle of everyday life, heightened by social media and other means of escapism into a reality that’s not ours, has offered everyone things to pass their time with.

      Today, being distracted leads to wasting a significant amount of time during the day. Yet, it is not addressed as seriously as it should be. If you can spot the signs of distraction, then you can tackle the issue in time and live the life you want to.

      “Most people don’t want to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that distraction is always an unhealthy escape from reality.”
      [1]

      We have become so used to being distracted that we hardly see it as a bad thing anymore. Distraction can look different in various kinds of people. However, if you’re looking to become indistractable then here are signs to look out for to check if you’re becoming distracted so you can address the issue in time.

      • You find yourself wanting to check your phone frequently: Checking your phone often or feeling the need to constantly be active on social media during work hours or when you’re doing a task is one of the biggest signs of distraction.
      • You look at an object for a long time unable to figure out what to do with it: Although you have something to do, and the materials to do it with, you find it hard to figure out how to go about the task
      • The thing you’re working on feels so boring you want to do something fun: This stems from dissatisfaction with the work you’re doing. This dissatisfaction leads to you feeling bored with your task and seeking external comfort in something ‘fun’.
      • When you’re doing something mundane, you’re thinking about doing the things you like: Constantly thinking about things you like is what most people do when they cannot keep traction with the work in front of them. This usually happens when they are thinking about activities they look forward to once the task is over.
      • Audio-visual stimuli around you make it hard to focus on the task at hand: Although you’re working on the task, every voice or passing visual catches your attention. This may cause you to forget about work and listen in on a nearby conversation instead.

      The Reasons for Distraction

      When we talk about distractions, we’re talking about human behavior and reactions to the distractions themselves. And, all human behavior is marked by external or internal triggers.

      External Triggers

      External triggers

      are cues that we take from our environment that tell us what to do, such as pings from our phone or computer that prompt us to look at whatever the alert is announcing: an Instagram update, an email, a text from an old friend. These external triggers compete for our attention with whatever task we’re ultimately trying to focus on. Sometimes, the mere presence of an object itself, such as having your phone nearby, can prompt you to give it attention.

      Internal Triggers

      There are also internal triggers, which are simply cues that come from within, such as hunger, anxiety about an upcoming event, or feeling cold.

      All human behavior is prompted by external or internal triggers; therefore, traction and distraction both originate from the same source.

      How to Overcome Distraction and Become Indistractable

      Distractions can easily take over your life, but below I outline 4 simple tactics to take back your control and become indistractable. This concept I am sharing with you now draws from my book Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.

      1. Master Internal Triggers

      To overcome distractions and slip into deep work, you first need to understand your root cause of distraction. Humans have a natural tendency to want to escape discomfort. Even at times where we are going after pleasure and positive events, our drive often revolves around freeing ourselves from the discomfort of wanting.

      In truth, we will turn to social media, emails, video games, and Netflix not necessarily for the pleasure that they provide, but because of how they free us from psychological discomfort within. While it provides temporary relief, it is an unhealthy way to deal with your life. Even though you can’t control all outside situations and occurrences, you can control how you react to those circumstances.

      Various studies show that when humans don’t give into an urge, craving or impulse, it can trigger rumination and make the desire grow even stronger. So, when you eventually give in, your reward is increased, which can turn quickly into an undesired habit.

      Identify the Feeling or Thought Behind Your Urge

      When you find yourself wanting to give into your distraction, stop and become familiar with the internal trigger. Are you feeling anxious, overtired, or maybe you’re underprepared for the task at hand?

      Write Your Feelings Down

      Using a log and writing down the time of day and what you were doing, along with the feeling that accompanies it. Doing so will help you link your own behaviors with your internal triggers, which will help you better notice the thoughts and feelings that precede certain behaviors and better manage them.

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      Get Curious and Explore Your Feelings and Sensations

      Have a sense of curiosity towards your feelings. Notice if you have butterflies in your stomach, or a tightening in your muscles.

      2. Make Time for Traction

      Planning is critical to beating distractions, because if you don’t plan your day, surely someone else will! When you’re not clear on how you want to deal with your time and attention, anything and everything becomes a potential distraction.

      First, you need to turn your values into time. Of course, many of us want to spend more time with things that matter most to us: our family, friends and hobbies. But, we often fail to do so because we don’t make time for them in our day.

      So, you must acquire the attributes and values of the person you want to become.

      Examples might include becoming a contributing member of a team, spending quality time with your children, jumping into continuing education, becoming physically fit, or giving back to your community. Many of us wish to subscribe to these values, but without making the time to take actions to live them out, they’re simply empty aspirations.

      Timebox Your Schedule

      Timeboxing is, in my opinion, the most effective way to ensure time for your values. Timeboxing is the process of deciding what you’re going to do and exactly when you’re going to do it, helping you become indistractable.

      You simply create a daily calendar template for how to spend your time, so that you have no white space in your day. It isn’t important what you have planned to do, as long as you stick to it. If you feel a need to scroll through social media, just make sure you have planned appropriately for it.

      Be sure to include 15 minutes per week to reflect and refine your calendar, improving it week by week. You can ask yourself: When did I do what I said I would do, and when did I get distracted?

      At times where you became distracted, note what triggered it and come up with a strategy to use the next time the distraction or urge arises. Also ask: Are there changes I can make to my calendar that will give me the time I need to better express my values?

      Synch Your Schedule With Others

      Once your ideal week has been planned, be sure to notify others of importance in your life. Make a clear intention to stick with your plans and involve those who matter most. This could be related to sharing household responsibilities, alerting your boss to your timeline intentions at work, or even scheduling a date with your partner.

      3. Combat External Technical Triggers

      Tech companies are adept at using external triggers to hack into our attention. There are countless ways they do so, but our smartphone use is fueled by many of these triggers.

      Research shows that ignoring a call or message can be just as distracting as responding to one! If used properly, though, you can take control and rely on these external triggers to remind you to follow through with what you planned.

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      To do so, simply ask whether the external trigger is serving you, or if you are serving it. If the trigger leads you to traction, keep it; if it leads you to distraction, get rid of it. A few things to consider:

      1. Remove any and all apps you no longer need.
      2. Remove any apps that you enjoy, but you can use on your computer instead.
      3. Reduce the clutter on your home screen by rearranging the apps on your phone.
      4. Remove notification settings for each app that you don’t need updates on (social media, etc.).

      4. Make a Pact to Prevent Distractions

      Forethought is the antidote to impulsivity and key to becoming indistractable. Therefore, it’s useful to pre-commit to something in order to overcome distraction.

      We cement these decisions far in advance of any temptations and distractions that may come our way. This should only be undertaken after you have followed the other three steps and learned to manage internal triggers, make time for traction, and reduce external triggers.

      Here are the three types of pacts:

      Effort Pact

      This is a kind of pre-commitment that requires you to increase the amount of effort towards something you would rather not do. Increasing your effort forces you make the decision as to whether the distraction is really worth it or not. Some great apps that can help you with this include SelfControl, Forest, and Freedom.

      Price Pact

      This pact puts money on the line, where you get to keep your money if you follow through with your intended behavior, and if you get distracted, you lose your funds.

      I committed to a price pact when finishing the first draft of my book, promising an accountability partner $10,000 if I failed to finish my draft by the set deadline. This was an incentive for me to finish writing my book and keep my money.

      Identity Pact

      This is the method of using your self-image to impact your behavior and become indistractable. By deciding on and undertaking a new identity, you will empower yourself to make decisions based on who you believe you are. Think about vegetarians—they do not have to expend much willpower to avoid eating meat because they have committed to that as part of their identity.

      To become a person who is indistractable, stop telling yourself you are a person with a “short attention span” or an “addictive personality.” Rather, tell yourself, “I am indistractable.” If you say to yourself that you are easily distracted, it instantly becomes a truth. Yet, if you commit to believing that you are indistractable, you will immediately begin to implement these strategies, which will empower you to conquer any distraction that comes your way.

      Easy to Use Tools That Help You Stay Focused

      Technology doesn’t have to be the enemy if you’re looking to become more focused and avoid distractions. Some anti-distraction tools and apps help keep you focused by blocking out possible causes for distraction.

      You might be the sort of person who faces distraction at work, or you just can’t make yourself sit down at your desk and get to work, but there’s always hope. Here are some of the best tools that remove distractions and bring out your best potential.

      1. Dewo

      This apps blocks all distracting social media apps automatically, keeping you free from notifications and the constant light-up of your screen. The best part of Dewo is that it gets accustomed to your focus patterns and can even go on ‘automatic’ mode for you.

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      You can ask the app to schedule meetings and appointments for people in your contacts, and it simply picks the most convenient time for you that won’t interfere with your focus schedule.

      2. Freedom

      The Freedom app, much contrary to its name, restricts websites and locks up the internet during focus hours. Once you’ve made up your mind to lock up apps then it won’t let you access them regardless of how you feel later.

      For those who find themselves distracted even on their laptop, this app will work on the computer as well. Most people may consider these methods ruthless, but they are incredibly effective.

      3. Focusme

      Readers who are looking for an app that helps them create healthy work patterns, minimize distraction, block attractive sites, and much more – FocusMe is the perfect app for you. This app helps block out certain apps and sites for selected periods.

      It also gets used to the owner’s work ethic and gives helpful tips and suggestions on what apps to block and when to take breaks. This increases productivity and reduces the chances of dissatisfaction and boredom.

      The Bottom Line

      To become indistractable, you don’t need to have superpowers. It’s truly as easy as following the few steps mentioned above. When you master internal triggers, make time for traction, dissolve any extraneous external triggers, and prevent distractions by creating pacts, you will reshape your entire life.

      However, the important part is to understand that to make a difference, you need to act now. There is no better time to regain control over your life than the present. Taking things step-by-step helps you sustainably achieve your goals. You want to be indistractable for the rest of your life, not just for the week.

      Once you have the ability to see tasks to the end after having committed to them, nothing in life can derail you from your path. This is why indistractability is important, it disciplines you to deal with the harsh realities of life.

      Here are some tips on how to work on your traction just as you finish reading this article.

      • Go through your apps and remove ones that are absolutely unnecessary to your life and goal. You may keep only two that you use for games or recreation.
      • Practice mindfulness through keeping a diary, making observations about your day, having a to-do list, and much more.
      • Whenever you find yourself distracted, re-evaluate the place of that distraction in your life and how it implicates your life’s goals.

      More to Help You Stay Focused

      Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Nir Eyal, Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life

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