Sometimes you feel hemmed in by distractions, pulled in so many directions at once that you can’t hear yourself think. So let’s get into this quickly: Here are 30 ways to reclaim your focus when you’re distracted. Scroll to the bottom for a handy checklist of all these tips.
1. Unsubscribe from newsletters and circulars that aren’t useful to you
‘10% off Steak Friday’ when you went veggie last year? Unsubscribe. ‘Make £££££ out of your start up in 10 minutes with this course’ from a self-appointed guru? Unsubscribe. We’ve all subscribed to crap or things that were once useful and now aren’t, but every time junk email pops up it’s a distraction so get off those mailing lists.
2. Take a holiday from the news
Whilst it’s good to know what’s going on in the wider world, too much news is distracting and can drastically lower your mood. Limiting your news intake is particularly helpful if you’re an empath or sensitive.
3. Write a list with intention
Write out everything you think you need to do then interrogate it: What is really essential? What can wait? What actually doesn’t need to be done? Remove these things or put them aside for when you’ve done the key tasks.
4. Journal about your worries for 5 minutes
Let out your worries on paper but only write for 5 minutes so you don’t get too deeply involved. This is a great way to let out some pressure, and if you happen to hit on something you want to explore further set it aside for later
5. Limit social media
So draining! So addictive! Put your phone away whilst you do what you need to do and maybe take a longer break from social media if you feel it would be helpful for you. Social media is so fast paced that it can mess with your sense of perspective and long term it makes it harder to focus.
6. Be ruthless with incoming information
We’re drenched in more information every day than ever before. What channels can you cut out of your incoming information streams? What can you reduce? What do you really need to know and what’s just adding to your mental clutter?
7. Declutter your space
It’s hard to focus when you’re working in a cluttered space. Spend no more than 10 minutes tidying and clearing. No more than this though otherwise it could become procrastination.
8. Pause before replying
Some emails, calls and messages need an immediate response but most don’t and we treat them more urgently than we need to. Instead of reacting, pause, read, consider then reply. Set your own pace.
9. Meditate for 10 minutes
Yes, I know everyone goes on about how great meditation is, but it really helps! It seems counterproductive to spend 10 minutes doing nothing when you’re trying to be more efficient, but by meditating you’re giving yourself the gift of space and the opportunity to come back into the present moment.
10. Take a walk or exercise to clear your head
As with meditating this brings you back into the present and into your own energy. As you walk or workout you get into a different headspace, and it can also help with working off some tension if you feel on edge.
11. Set aside time for distractions
Promise yourself a block of time when you allow yourself to enjoy the things that would otherwise distract you.
12. Commit to dealing with the little things later
There are always small things that need doing and just knowing they’re sitting there, undone, can be so distracting. Instead of multitasking commit to being a singletasker and set aside a specific chunk of time to deal with the smaller tasks later.
13. Use a short burst of willpower
Willpower alone isn’t enough in the long run, and we all tend to rely on it too much, but for short bursts it can feel good to just lean in and get stuff done.
14. Talk it through with someone
So many times at work a colleague has called me to ask for help, talked through what they’re stuck on, answered their own question, thanked me and gone away happy. The person you talk to doesn’t have to be an expert on what you’re stuck on – just talking can help you to decide on your way forward.
15. Find the dependencies between tasks
Look carefully at what you need to do. What is the best order in which to do things? Does one task depend on another thing being done first? Think of it like building a wall; what tasks need to go on the foundation row? Which need to be done before other things can start?
16. Leverage the power of habit
Create a regular routine for working on certain things. Repeated often enough routines become habits, which makes it easier to focus on what you’re there to do.
17. Create focus triggers
Find something you can do when you need to focus on a particular type of task; in time you’ll come to associate this with getting focussed and it will help you to get into that mindset. For me it’s sitting at the kitchen table in the morning with my laptop, bullet journal and coffee. Not ground breaking but it tells me I’m here and ready to work.
18. Identify your critical moments
At what point do you lose focus and get distracted? Do you notice a pattern? Identify what the trigger is and work on removing it. For example, if you lose focus when you have to write a complicated email find a way to make that particular task easier, like breaking it into smaller tasks or learning more about how to plan and write emails.
19. Have only one To Do List
Choose one place to store your list if you have one and stick to it. Use it to pull together any lists you have scattered about on your phone, laptop, apps, paper, notebook, sticky notes and sweet wrappers.
20. Mindmap to make it visual
Lists aren’t for everyone and don’t always show how things link together. Making a mindmap is a great way to discover how tasks link together, drill down into the detail and draw out ideas, especially if you’ve very visual.
21. Take a break
Just. Stop. Walk away, do something you enjoy, come back fresh.
22. Listen to your body
What does your body need? Are you tired, hungry, aching? Not only are all these sensations distracting, they also flag up things you just need to take care of. So no grinding through it, go take care of what you need.
23. Pre-make decisions
Some things crop up again and again, so decide ahead of time how you’ll deal with them. This lessens how many decisions you have to make in a day which reduces the likelihood of experiencing decision fatigue and helps you to focus on things that genuinely require attention.
24. Automate where possible
Think in terms of switching from manual payments to setting up direct debits; setting rules on your email inbox to file certain types of message; block booking appointments. There are lots of things we do the long way every time but which can be set to automatic, taking a bit more off the To Do List permanently.
25. Delegate or ask for a helping hand
Does it absolutely have to be you who takes care of every task that needs to be done? If it’s at work who could help or do it instead? At home can another family member share the load? You may be taking on more responsibility than you need to when people are often happy to help if asked.
26. Cull your apps
A nice quick one this! Scroll through your phone’s menu and look for any apps you havn’t used recently, hit delete and know that there’s a bit less distracting clutter in your world.
27. Delete bookmarks
Are you as bad as I am for hoarding bookmarks of websites I think I’ll use but don’t? It only takes 5 minutes to check your bookmark manager and delete anything that doesn’t interest you any more, or file things so they’re easy to find if they’re still useful.
28. Turn off notifications
Ping. Ping! PING! Frequent notifications from social media, text messages and emails make it seem like we have 101 things that need attention NOW. But they don’t, not really. Turn off notification noises or switch them off altogether whilst you focus.
29. Choose an affirmation
A good affirmation is set in the present, uses positive language (such as “I am” rather than “I am not”) and is something you can believe ie. not so far fetched that a bit of you just thinks “As if!”. Affirmations can be a powerful way to set your intention and remind yourself of it throughout the day. Try something simple like “I am now focussed on what I need to do” or “I get stuff done”.
30. Have a freewriting session
Really unsure where to start or finding it hard to settle? Just write. Write about anything that comes to mind, with no filtering. Write until you stop. This is very freeing and helps you to get your thoughts in order, and can bring up a new perspective.