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Staying focused in a 🌍 world of distractions

How often have you planned to buckle down and seriously focus on a work project, only to be distracted by everything under the sun?

More than once, I've fled the chaos of my home—with the goal to buckle down and focus on work. At one point, I even joined a lively, nearby coworking space. The allure of a professional environment with like-minded individuals seemed perfect for boosting productivity. I arrived with high hopes, armed with my laptop and a list of tasks to conquer.

But instead of finding peace, I end up surrounded by a symphony of other distractions! Pretty soon, I was participating in the frequent networking events, ended up in lots of 1:1 conversations with other professionals, or I would overhear an interesting discussion happening at the next table, where my curiosity would get the better of me and I'd jump in.

In the end, the very place I chose to enhance my focus and productivity ironically became a hub of delightful distractions. Ha!

The thing is, attention is a precious resource we need to manage wisely. Distractions, on the other hand, are costly. A study from the University of California Irvine found that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to a task after a single interruption. 

You do the math on that wasted time throughout the day – it’s alarming! 🥴

To avoid productivity setbacks and really make progress, we need to actively work on two things: encouraging our focus and reducing interruptions. It’s not always easy in a world that constantly vies for our time, but it’s doable. Here are some techniques to help you confidently minimize distractions and cultivate your most valuable resource: your attention.

Quick Confidence Tips to Remove Distractions and Hone Your Focus:

  1. Embodied: You’ve got to move it, move it. It may sound counterintuitive, but did you know that leaving your chair and walking around for five minutes every hour can improve your productivity and help you regain focus? The key to strategic break-taking is to avoid getting too distracted or sidetracked when you do it. Try to pre-commit to taking a ten-minute reinvigorating walk outside, or even doing 10 stretches or squats to relieve your body from long bouts of sitting. Even though it requires you to step away from your work, it'll renew your focus. It's when we use our break time to fall down the rabbit hole of online shopping or social media scrolling that our ability to focus plummets!

  2. Interpersonal: You can’t please everyone all the time. We know from research that humans don’t multitask well—we’re built for single-tasking! But what if your distractions come from other people? Chronic people-pleasers sacrifice their time, energy, well-being, and focus for others. They might to hesitate to set a boundary out of fear of letting others down or hurting their feelings. But I promise, having an arsenal of "peace protectors" makes this easier. So have some short phrases in your back pocket, like "That sounds really cool - I'd like to check it out this afternoon when I'm finished my project...," or "I'm too busy now but can I get back to you later?" It's more than okay to prioritize yourself!

  3. Mindset: Design your environment. If you’re prone to checking your phone (guilty ✋) or getting up for five snacks an hour, you may benefit from designing your environment for success. Try putting your phone in airplane mode or in another room until you finish your task. Identify other productivity killers like computer notifications and consider closing them to enable a deeper dive into your work. Keep your water bottle close by to limit unnecessarily getting up, and save your snacking for scheduled break times (see my embodied tip). Designing your environment by limiting your options for distractions can help you regain a sense of control.

With all that demands on our attention, it's essential to take control of our focus. It’s only when we learn to manage our attention that we’ll gain the time and energy to be creative and productive that we've always wanted. That’s how to reliably get things done in record time, with better results and with less stress.

What strategies do you use to maintain focus in your daily life? Share with me down in the comments. 


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