How to Overcome Distractions and Be More Focused

When presented with the psychological tasks I give to my clients and students, many tell me how they get distracted prior to and during them. Likewise, with so much vying for our attention in modern life (even during a lockdown) so many of us get easily distracted.

“Work is hard. Distractions are plentiful. And time is short.” – Adam Hochschild

To control something we usually need to understand it correctly…First of all, figure out why you might be getting distracted?

It may be because whatever you are doing is not important enough to you to merit your full attention, or perhaps you are not driven enough to do that thing? Lack of focus sometimes comes from a lack of passion.

Even small distractions derail productivity. According to a University of California Irvine study, “it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.” Even if you only get distracted a few times a day, the amount of time you lose is significant.

So consider slowing down and examining the reasons that what you are doing may not be compelling you to resist the distractions.

Also, creating and working toward a long-term vision for your life and building and developing your skills and competencies to make that vision a reality will help you focus.

Clarity on goals and vision for life is not always easy to gain. We have to discover what it is that we actually want within our heart.

“Distraction leaches the authenticity out of our communications. When we are not emotionally present, we are gliding over the surface of our interactions and we never tangle in the depths where the nuances of our skills are tested and refined.” – Marian Deegan

Now that you are getting to know your why, let’s take a look at a number of ways to overcome and avoid distractions and be more focused on daily activities.

1. Keep your vision/goals in mind

First things first, why do you even need to focus? Do you want to become a skilled programmer? Do you want to write a novel? Do you want to start a business? Think about it. Knowing why you need to stay focused can help you push through the tough and tedious parts of accomplishing your goals. That’s when your ability to focus is really tested and when it’s most needed. What are you working towards?

2. Identify your distractions

Is it the phone? Is it the internet? Film streaming service or wayward thoughts? What is your distraction? Identify that first. It’s one of the most important things to strategise your responses and future progress.

3. Take steps

If it’s the phone ( which it mostly is for a great many of us!!), make sure to devise a plan that keeps you away from it when you are doing your most important tasks (i.e. those that contribute to your goals the most). For example, try and keep the phone away from your study table. So that every time you have the urge to check your phone you have to get up from your chair. Over a period of time, this becomes such a good habit that you can actually sit with your phone on the table and not touch it once unless you are done with your work. That’s called focusing on your Deep Work (thank you Cal Davenport, author of the book of the same name).

4. Keep reminding yourself that you need to focus

Everybody gets distracted at some point, but you have to become aware of what you are doing and bring back yourself on track. Whenever you realise that your mind is getting preoccupied with some other thoughts, erase the cache immediately and come back to what you were doing. This exercise will train your mind to become sharper day by day.

5. Create a distraction dump

If there is too much going on in your head try and note them down. Dump them in the notebook and carry on with your job. That way you won’t feel the fear of forgetting that important song you wanted to download! Your brain will be wired to think that you have all your thoughts put down somewhere so that you can go back to them when your studying is done.

6. Know self-discipline is key

Remember that you can watch thousands of videos on YouTube, read a lot of books and blogs to get motivated. However, it’s not realistic for a human being to expect to stay absolutely motivated all day every day. Motivation will come and go but self-discipline is the key. Create the habits and stick to them every single day, even if you don’t feel like it. Self-discipline is one of the most important things you require to sustain concentration. This is what stays with you. Let the power of habit drive you even if you lack motivation.

Read this article for more on this subject: 7 Ways to Stay More Self-Disciplined.

7. Meditate daily

Sounds difficult but isn’t hard to practice. Find some peaceful place and sit there for a while, Relax your body and mind, close your eyes, and let the mind go blank. Your mind will hover over various things, but you have to try and keep emptying the bin whenever it gets occupied. Even if you don’t succeed easily, the act of meditating itself is refreshing for your body and mind. In a few days, your mind can becomes better at noise cancellation, helping you focus.

8. Reward yourself

You can consider this as a way of training the brain how to focus. Whenever you are faced with a challenging task, think of a reward that you will get when you accomplish it with excellence. With the promise of a fulfilling incentive, once the task is completed, you will surely strive hard to concentrate on it so that you can pamper yourself as soon as it’s done.

9. Refrain from multitasking

Many of us brag about our ability to multitask and wear it around like a badge of honour. Multitasking is something that doesn’t come to everybody that easily. While multitasking can help you accomplish many things at the same time, it also leaves you more susceptible to slip-ups.

10. Over to you

It’s you who decides how to do things. Any amount of suggestions, tips, and ideas won’t work if you don’t want to improve yourself.


Organising your space may help. It may sound boring, but if you are spending half your time searching for that book you need, or that favourite pen that you can’t study without, then you are wasting valuable time. Have everything where you need it and set up exactly how you like it, and you will find that you are able to focus in a much more efficient way.

“Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember ~ the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.” –  Zig Ziglar


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Likewise, if you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar. Alternatively, go grab a copy of my Science of self-hypnosis book.