It’s pretty obvious that we live in a distracting world—now more than ever thanks to the technology we have today. And yet none of us are ever really taught much about how to stay focused on the important stuff. It’s like we’re just expected to know how to do it.
If you regularly find yourself wondering where all the time went and why you never get nearly as much done as you’d hope to, then you might find some of the following tips to be of help.
1. Start Paying More Attention to Your Attention.
The simple act of just noticing that you’re distracted is helpful. And you don’t even have to pull yourself out of the distraction to benefit from it. As long as you make a regular habit of heightening your awareness and looking inward on yourself, you’ll start to notice more when you’re distracted. That alone can eventually be powerful enough to make you change your actions.
2. Remove Temptation.
Removing yourself from a distracting environment or getting rid of distracting objects is one of the easiest and most helpful things you can do when you need to stay focused on completing a specific task. You might have to take something you’re working on out of the TV room and into the home office where it’s quiet. You might need to turn your phone off. You might even need to say “no” to people and their requests more often. Whatever it takes to help you get what you need to get done.
Visualization involves consciously imagining the process (a.k.a. the work) and the result (a.k.a. the reward) of whatever it is you want to achieve. Set aside a few minutes where you can put yourself in a quiet environment so you can close your eyes and picture yourself carrying out the work. Be as detailed as you can in your visualization, and remember that without imagining the process along with the result, it won’t be nearly as effective.
4. Commit to Doing Just One Thing at a Time.
You can’t multitask and be focused at the same time. Splitting your attention into multiple parts makes you less efficient and impairs your decision-making. You may even want to combine this with the point about removing temptation since it’s often quite tempting to multitask. Put conscious effort into focusing on just one thing before you move onto something else.
5. Manage Your Willpower the Right Way.
Nobody has unlimited willpower, so learning to identify when it’s highest (usually in the morning) is ideal. Do your most important tasks at this time when you really can’t afford to lose yourself to distraction. Likewise, learning how to make your willpower last longer by taking frequent breaks can help you avoid getting taken over by distracting habits later throughout the day.
6. Establish a ‘Trigger’ That Forces You to Do a Quick Internal Check in With Yourself.
It’s normal to get drawn into distraction from time to time, and even if you regularly try to heighten your level of awareness about it as mentioned in the first point, sometimes we just don’t even realize we’re actually distracted until we’re too far gone. To prevent this from happening too often, pick a visual sign or actionable situation that acts as a trigger signal to check in on where your focus is. For example, a trigger could be a specific number, a color, a simple word, another person’s smile or a doorway you walk through.
Any time you notice your trigger out in the wild as you go about your everyday life, it should send the automatic message to do your awareness check and make sure you’re focus is on the right thing. It will take some time for your trigger to become more automatic, but with practice it can quickly turn into a super powerful tool.
7. Think About Your Own Death. (Not Kidding.)
Bet you didn’t see this one coming! The reason why you should consider giving some thought to the fact that you’re going to be gone one day is not to bring you down, but to put into perspective the value of time. Distraction robs us of time that we can never, ever get back again. Yet we all think and act like we have all the time in the world. Life really is way too short to be so distracted.
This tip may not be for everybody, particularly if thinking about it triggers too many negative emotions. But if you can stay grounded and fully accept the reality that your time is running out (and this is true for all of us) then you can use that to your advantage. It may just be the right motivator you need to make every moment of your life really count.