How to Stay Focused in a World Full of Distractions

December 25, 2018

We live in a globalized and very demanding world where fast performance is required. With shorter deadlines every day, it’s often impossible to stay focused.

Consequently, to save time, our mind tries to do many things at the same time. This practice often yields disastrous results. This happens because the number of relevant stimuli increases and this makes us lose our focus and concentration.

In this article, we discuss the most common distractions we have to face every day and how to control them.

Not just external stimuli can distract us, but also intrusive thoughts. These thoughts may not even be related to the task we’re doing.

Why we get distracted

We lose our focus and concentration because, in a way, we’re programmed to do so. Our brain is a toolbox and it has many defense mechanisms that can affect our concentration.

Not staying focused can come from the brain's defence mechanism

One of the most important ones is directly related to pain. We tend to divert attention from the things that hurt us in order to avoid suffering. Generally, people push away those things that cause them pain as a way to escape that feeling.

Distractions can be positive in this sense, or at least we can use them in our favor. However, we almost always see distractions in a negative way. This is because a lack of focus slows us down and affects our productivity. Often, the problem is that we lose our focus and our thoughts start taking over.

What distracts us?

Some distractions are as ancient as humans and others are just a consequence of our modern lifestyle. We can get distracted by a fly or when our cellphone vibrates. There are also certain pathologies that affect attention directly.

Not everyone is equally susceptible to distractions. However, we can all agree on the fact that new technologies have changed the way we interact with our environment. Nowadays, we manage our life in two different planes: the physical one and the virtual one.

According to a study carried out by Udemy, 36% of generation Z and millennials spend 2 hours or more on their phones. 100 years ago, those same 2 hours were spent resting, reading, or taking a walk in the park. Once we understand this, it’ll be easier for us to practice some concentration exercises.

What can I do to stay focused?

These are some practices that you can implement in your day to day life in order to help you stay focused:

  • Establish priorities: Choose what’s most important to you and what isn’t (your job, your family, etc.).
  • Understand that distractions are necessary: We aren’t machines. Thus, we need to rest, eat, and socialize. Write down in your calendar the things you do for your entertainment. Some of these things may be going out with friends, reading a book, or watching TV. If you consider these things important, why aren’t they part of your agenda?
  • Unplug yourself: As we mentioned above, our virtual life challenges our physical one. Thus, you should set aside only a limited time for social media use.
  • Do one task at a time: Multitasking isn’t for everyone. If you can’t stay focused when you try to do two things at once, multitasking may not be your thing. Instead, try to complete tasks one by one.
  • Have realistic challenges: Don’t try to be someone you’re not. If you know that you aren’t capable of finishing a task in two hours, give yourself the time you truly need to complete it. Don’t lie to yourself.
Maintaining concentration is about keeping your priorities straight

Distractions are a necessary part of life

We shouldn’t worry too much about distractions since they’re inevitable. It’s important to control them, but also to accept them as a necessary part of life.

Our brain isn’t programmed to work at 100% capacity all the time. Thus, we should learn to identify our body’s needs and make sure to satisfy them. Take a break, eat, and exercise. All these things will help you stay focused during your everyday tasks.