How To Find Your Focus When You’re Surrounded By Distractions
Endless notifications. Constant chatter. The long list of urgent tasks you need to complete. All of these and more mean that we are now more distracted than ever. If you feel like it is impossible to concentrate on one task at a time, you are not alone. In fact, over 70% of workers feel distracted at work; 16% claim that they are always distracted all the time. So, is it possible to cut out the distractions and find your focus?
Are you a multitasker?
So many of us pride ourselves on our ability to multitask. However, multitasking is just repeatedly interrupting ourselves. So much so that multitasking drains more of our energy resources than focusing on just one task at a time.
This is because every time we focus on something new (which can be every few seconds when multitasking), the body uses glucose and other metabolic resources. With constant stopping and starting, we quickly diminish our energy reserves, meaning we have little energy to focus and succeed with our priority goals.
Furthermore, studies show that when we are trying to multitask, our IQ levels quickly drop. One study found that when facing distractions, our IQ drops to that of an eight-year-old child. This can show a significant drop in your cognitive ability when multitasking. Consequently, your decisions may be less effective, and there is undoubtedly less attention to detail.
So, if you want the most productive, effective and successful output, it really is best to focus on just one thing at a time.
How quickly are you distracted?
- The average internet user has an on-screen attention span of just 40 seconds
- The typical student can concentrate on a task for no more than two minutes
- An office worker cannot focus on one task for more than 11 minutes
- It takes the average person 25 minutes to find their focus after a distraction.
The distraction addiction
The problem with our ability to focus on one thing at a time isn’t because of technology, but because we all have an internal desire for distractions. To our brains, a distraction is something new, and it is a novelty. This causes the brain to increase the levels of dopamine in the body; this is the neurochemical that we associate with rewards and pleasure. Furthermore, getting this dopamine hit is super-addictive.
Consequently, we want to seek out pleasure, and our brains think the best way to do this is to distract ourselves from the tasks we set. Even with strong willpower, that instant rush of feel-good chemicals with every minor distraction means they become harder to resist.
When you couple our inherent nature of wanting to be distracted with all of the tools we have at our disposal to distract ourselves (social media, devices, gadgets, boxsets and more) it is almost impossible to focus.
So, can you cure yourself when you’re a distraction addict?
How to find your focus
1. Clear your mind
If your head is full of all the things you need to do and think about, then you’ll never be able to concentrate on the task in hand.
Your brain tries to help you remember all of the items on your to-do list through something that is known as ‘rehearsal loops’. These loops mean that your brain keeps rehearsing these activities until you can actually attend to them.
So, the best way to clear your mind is to write down every concern, worry, task, job or activity that you are thinking about. Even the ones that aren’t urgent or don’t really matter. Then, once you’ve made a list, write a quick plan for how you’ll take care of each item.
This can help to free up mental space that you can then use to focus on your current goal.
2. Create the right environment
Whatever your goal is, or whatever you need to focus on, you need the right space. This should be an environment that works for you. Research shows the top performers are the ones that have a personal space, privacy and control over their environment.
The right environment will be a place that is comfortable, safe and free from distractions. For example, if your phone is your biggest distraction, don’t even allow it to enter your focus space.
The right environment won’t give you instant focus. When you set up your environment, be mindful of the things that are still distracting you and try to change or remove them. Then, as you get used to the place being your zone of focus and concentration, your brain will soon automatically associate your time there with forming good focused habits.
Soon, your brain will synonymously associate that a particular environment means focused goal-getting.
3. Practise, practise, practise
Focus, sadly, isn’t an overnight win. It takes time to build the habits of focus and learning to switch off those impulsive actions – like checking your phone without even realising you’ve picked it up. Try focusing for a short period and gradually build up.
There are lots of tools and tricks that you can deploy to help you focus, from blacklisting your favourite distracting websites to the Pomodoro technique where you focus for 25 minutes and then enjoy a five-minute reward break.
The best way to find what would work best for you is to determine what your biggest distractors are. It could be as simple as investing in noise-cancelling headphones or keeping your phone in a different room.
Keep trying to find your focus, and over time, you’ll develop this skill and find it much easier to concentrate on your goals while ignoring all of those attention-seeking distractions.
What’s in the way of your goal-getting?
Whether it’s distractions holding you back or something else entirely, my bespoke therapy plans can help you to find your focus and get your goal-getting back on track. Find out how I can help to remove any barriers and create the right mental attitude for you to focus on aiming high. Let’s talk about your goals and what’s holding you back – email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your free consultation.