Tips for Staying Focused and Resisting Distractions

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Effortless" by Greg McKeown. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you have difficulty staying focused? How can you resist the pull of distractions and get your mind to focus?

With so many things vying for our attention these days, it’s hard to stay focused on one thing at a time. Distractions are literally at our fingertips, only a click away. Fortunately, it’s in your power to shut off anything that interferes with your ability to stay focused and get work done.

Here are a few tips for staying focused and keeping distractions at bay.

Staying Focused: The Struggle Is Real

In modern society, with its countless distractions and access to seemingly limitless information, it can be hard to remain focused. However, McKeown says that with practice, you can learn to limit these distractions and maintain alertness and awareness. You can do so by being mindful of your thoughts and intentional in your actions. This will help you be more productive and have stronger relationships. To reach an effortless mindset, McKeown recommends a daily ritual that combines some of his previous advice:

  1. Clear your physical space: Find a quiet room or space, and take a moment to tidy it up. Turn off your phone and remove any other distractions.
  2. Relax: Sit comfortably for a few minutes, close your eyes, and breathe. Release tension from your body.
  3. Practice mindfulness: Acknowledge your thoughts, then let them go.
  4. Practice gratefulness: Remind yourself of the things you’re thankful for.
How to Focus

An effortless mindset requires intense focus, something many struggle with. In Hyperfocus, Chris Bailey
gives the following tips for staying focused on a single task:

Choose when to focus: Decide when and for how long you’ll hyperfocus. Choose a period of time that can be easily attained. As you get more accustomed to hyperfocusing, you can increase the duration.

Choose what to focus on: Consider how impactful different tasks are, and do the most impactful ones first. To determine how impactful a task is, evaluate the immediate and long-term effects.

Limit and manage distractions: People struggle to avoid distractions if they’re available, so limit them as best you can. If a distraction pops up, keep your original goal in mind until it passes.

Use mindfulness and meditation: Meditation and mindfulness help improve your working memory, which helps you perform more complex tasks and maintain focus. To meditate, focus on a single thing, like your breathing. To practice mindfulness, pay attention to everything you’re experiencing in a single moment. Go through each of your senses and take mental note of what you perceive. 

Prevent your mind from wandering: To do this, perform tasks that match your skill level. Tasks that are too easy can be boring, and tasks that are too difficult can induce anxiety, both of which lead to mind-wandering. 
Tips for Staying Focused and Resisting Distractions

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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