Distractions are everywhere, making it difficult to stay focused on what’s truly important. Based on my own experience, here are some thoughts and tips on how to remove distractions and maintain focus on your priorities:
1. Identify Your Priorities
Before you can focus on what’s important, you need to know what that is. Take some time to reflect on your goals and priorities, both short-term and long-term. Write them down and refer to this list regularly to stay on track. I use a simple note (via Apple’s Notes app, since I’m pretty locked-in to the Apple ecosystem) to quickly capture and review the most pressing tasks.
2. Set Boundaries with Technology
Consider turning off notifications or scheduling specific times to check email and social media. I disable most social push notifications by default, and leverage iOS Focus modes to highlight the things I care about at any given time (e.g. work versus personal time). If there’s any single thing you try from this list, try disabling push notifications.
3. 5-minute rule
Sometimes the hardest part of getting focused is just getting started. The 5-minute rule is a helpful procrastination-buster; just do whatever you’re dreading for only five minutes, and if it’s absolutely terrible, allow yourself to stop. I’ve found this often leads to realizing that the task isn’t as daunting as it seemed, and am likely to continue working on it beyond the initial five minutes.
4. Take Regular Breaks
Schedule short breaks throughout your day to allow your brain to rest and recharge. This can help prevent burnout and maintain your motivation. One of the most helpful changes I’ve implemented from my Twitter days is to start meetings at 5 minutes after (for 30-minute meetings, resulting in a 25-minute meeting) and 10-15 minutes after for 1 hour meetings (resulting in a 45-or-50 minute meeting). I’ve found these short breaks to be super helpful as a way to ensure I’m walking around, grabbing water, stretching, and/or finishing a few notes from a prior meeting before staring the next one. It works even better if your entire team or company agrees to operate with these short breaks.
5. Develop a Routine
Establishing a consistent routine can help train your brain to focus during specific times of the day. This might involve setting aside specific hours for work, exercise, and relaxation. Be flexible and adapt your routine as needed. A routine became super important as my time became less available, both due to increasing work and personal responsibilities.
6. Embrace Imperfection
Accept that it’s normal to become distracted occasionally, and don’t beat yourself up when it happens. Instead, acknowledge the distraction and gently redirect your focus back to the task at hand. I’ve found that striving for perfection in my schedule or tasks ends up making me feel worse over time, compared to just doing it. Set realistic expectations and remember that progress is more important than perfection. Celebrate small victories and learn from setbacks to maintain motivation and continue moving forward.