Artist, Author, Mental & Spiritual Health Mentor, Coach for the Creative Mind
How to focus better in a world of distraction
How to focus better in a world of distraction

How to focus better in a world of distraction

Getting things done these days can seem almost impossible at times. Never mind our natural tendencies to daydream, but today we are surrounded by distractions that aim to steal our focus. Social media, YouTube, worries, stresses, the pressure to perform…they can all take their toll on our ability to focus and get the job done. How to focus better in a world of distraction becomes an important issue then. We cannot escape our responsibilities, and yet we only have so much time each week to get things done. So what can we do to improve our focus and make the best use of our time?

Why is focus so important anyway?

Well obviously focus is important or we’d never get anything done, right? If we were allowed to be aimless all the time the world would descend into chaos and nothing would ever be achieved except slovenliness. People need to feel like they are being useful and productive in order to have a sense of purpose and wellbeing. Staying focused keeps us on track before things get out of hand and we feel overwhelmed by the mounting tasks that are yet to be done. So the ability to stay focused on a task is good for our mental health. It keeps some order in our lives and gives us things to aim for which in turn gives a sense of achievement.

It’s when things get out of balance that we lose focus and we feel that sense of impending doom start to creep up on us.

So what can we do to improve our focus?

Here are some simple ideas on how to focus better. Don’t expect to be great at them right away. Learning to focus better is like training a muscle. It takes time and practice, but eventually, you will start to see results in your life.


Distractions are definitely one of the first things we think of when a lack of focus is broached. The most common theory is that distractions are bad and that we should eliminate them entirely in order to maintain focus and get things done. There is an argument, however, that claims the opposite.

The key is to give your mind just enough to do, so that your brain doesn’t have the chance to look elsewhere for stimulation.

A psychologist at University College London came up with what they call ‘Load Theory’. They claim that by working in a messy and chaotic environment we eliminate all the brain space for distractions allowing us to focus better on the task at hand.

I’m not sure how well I agree with this theory. Especially since it hasn’t been put through proper trials, but there is something to it. What we need to find is a balance. Small distractions are not always a bad thing as they can help our minds work through an issue by taking a moment away before coming back to it. For example, a Rubix cube or other desktop puzzle, a glance out the window to divert your thoughts, some music playing in the background… There are many small distractions that can in fact help keep our focus over a longer period by allowing for small interruptions. It’s really down to preference and what we know we can cope with.

Distractions on a bigger scale can be detrimental, however.

Constant interruptions from co-workers, family, or friends, for example, can really affect your focus. Try working away from them in a quieter place. Or set aside specific no-interruption times so you can get things done.

Distractions can, of course, be internal rather than external. Lack of sleep, stress, worry, pressures, poor health, lack of motivation, can all contribute to a lack of focus. Try to be as well-rested as you can before embarking on a task that requires your focus. Speak kindly to yourself and encourage yourself through motivational music or making a cuppa. Get yourself into the right headspace before you begin and you’ll find you can focus much better.

how to focus better. quotes about focus and determination. goal setting.

Limit yourself

Women are often dubbed as being good multitaskers, whilst men are not. I would say, as a woman, that I am able to deal with a few jobs on the go at one time. But I would admit that they are not necessarily jobs that require a great deal of my focus. If I am required to work to a deadline, or if a task requires much more attention, I will need to limit what I am doing to that one job. Deciding, therefore, what requires our best focus and what doesn’t is important.

Spreading ourselves too thinly produces sub-standard results in the end.

Improving how we focus better requires us to make the most of what we have available to us. Multitasking spreads our resources too thinly, so focus on one task at a time when the job demands it.

Take a break

No one ever did anything great by going all out and never stopping. All you end up with is brain-fry and feeling completely exhausted with an end product of sub-par quality. Forcing yourself to keep going when you are mentally fatigued is counter-productive and your focus will definitely wain.

This is kind of related to the whole distractions argument. When we allow ourselves a short break we distract our mind from the task we are doing and give it a slight reprieve. We get bored focusing on the same task continuously over long periods and that’s when our minds begin to wander. So by taking scheduled breaks we can alleviate the problem, and keep ourselves focused over a much longer period. Why not make a cuppa, take a short walk, complete a mundane task do some stretches.

Stop stressing

The more we know about the brain, the clearer it is that stress is the enemy of concentration

When we go all out and apply stress to a situation that requires our focus, we undoubtedly are going to get to a point where we cannot continue. And probably sooner than you’d think. Yes, the job is vitally important. Yes, it needed to be done yesterday. But by heaping stress on the situation, your performance will suffer. You are also guaranteed not to be fully focused because you’re more worried than anything else.

Research by Christian Olivers of Vrije University in Amsterdam found that people’s attention resources stretched a little bit further when they were simply told to back off and think about something else instead of concentrating fully.

So cut yourself some slack and allow your brain space to think about more than just this one important thing. Your stress levels will decrease and you’ll find yourself to be more productive in the end.

how to focus better. quotes about focus and determination. goal setting.

Stay in the here and now

It’s one of those new-age things that is often spoken about these days, but which few of us actually practice. Being present in the moment and not allowing intrusive thoughts about yesterday or tomorrow to interrupt us is a skill we could all do with being better at. When you feel those intrusive thoughts creeping in to distract you, try practicing some deep breathing to refocus and keep yourself on track. Remind yourself that yesterday is done and cannot be altered, and tomorrow will take care of itself. You can however control what you are doing right now, so make the most of it.

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