Can't Focus? The 5 Stupid-Simple Tricks To Deal With Distractions


Since I get various forms of this question emailed to me each week, I thought I’d share (with permission, of course)

Dear Amita,

Help! I want to be productive, but I keep getting distracted. I check my email and suddenly an hour’s passed and all I have to show for it is a million open browser tabs (with articles I’ll probably never read), screenshots of memes, and a half-written email. What can I do to stay focused and actually get shit done?

-Cara, Florida*

Cara, you're not alone.

The black hole of the Internet has sucked the life (and hours) out of all of us. While you can’t make the World Wide Web disappear, you can take a few precautionary steps to stop getting caught in it. Let’s break down your question:

1. Define Productivity

When you say you want to be “productive,” what does that really mean? Most people sit at their desk thinking “it's time to do work” without any real action plan for what they’ll get done. It’s easy to distract ourselves or avoid starting an unknown, undefined, or unwanted task. Simply put, No plan = No work.  

2. Limit your Email

Checking email isn’t the same as working. Sure, it feels like work, but it doesn’t equate to productivity. The click-bait headlines tempting us to waste time/money is only half the battle. The bigger challenge is the false sense of direction our inbox provides. We see an unread message and think we need to take action, forcing us to sacrifice our priorities. Inadvertently, we address the urgent rather than the important. To combat this, only check your email after you’ve created your plan. Then, close/silence your email and adjust your plan only if absolutely necessary.

3. Shut it Down

Open tabs are distracting and overwhelming. Instead, bookmark them or copy the link to a document/virtual post it. Then, close down all tabs you aren't ACTIVELY using.

4. Live a Little

Memes are hilarious and oddly empathetic to the human experience. Make time for breaks. You’re a human, not a robot.

5. Break it Up

One of the many reasons we feel overwhelmed is because we add things to our To-Do list rather than taking immediate action.  This was a major pitfall for me until I began using the 2-minute rule: If a task (or email, in your case) takes less than 2 minutes, don’t push it off. Act now! If it takes longer or feels intimidating, break it down into bite-sized, actionable items. Not only will it be easier to start tasks and take consistent action, you’ll feel less stressed and more motivated.

If you spend more time on distractions than you do on work, check out these psychology-backed tweaks to jumpstart your focus and productivity. 

(I post this cheat sheet above my desk…just in case!)

15 Tips To Manage Distractions

A few months ago, I surveyed my readers to find their biggest Time Management struggles. I was so grateful/overwhelmed by the thousands who responded. Between my clients, training, and attempts at a life, it's taken me longer than I'd like to admit to crunch the data, come up with solutions, and figure out the best way to support you. 

So, I'm super excited to share 3 things with you today:

  1. The results of the survey (Yes, you're normal)
  2. The FREE series you don't want to miss
  3. A tool to manage distractions (Actually, 15 to be more specific)

So let’s get started.

When surveyed, thousands reported that procrastinating, prioritizing, and managing distractions are their biggest time management struggles. (Check out the results in the word cloud below.)

So why am I telling you this? To let you know that you’re normal and that you're not alone! 

Let’s face it. We probably should have been taught “Life Skills 101: How To Be An Adult” in school. And while I can’t give you a time machine, I can give you a solution. I've spent countless hours speaking with experts, hiring coaches, reading books, and attending events all to develop these “adult” skills. 

So, to address some of these concerns and to save you the time, money, and hassle of having an ADHD coach come to your house and teach you to organize your closet (yes, I actually did that!), I’ve created new tools, a free video series and lots of other great ways to effectively Take Back Your Time. And, I’ve got a huge announcement to make soon, but til then, I hope these exercises, tips, infographics, and videos help you to feel more balanced, productive, and energized.

So here’s the first one: 15 Tips To Manage Distractions (Infographic). Most of us take 1 hour to do what we could be doing in 20 minutes. Personally, my weakness is Facebook. Or, if I’m really struggling to stay focused, I choose to engage in what I call “productive procrastination,” distracting myself with seemingly important tasks (like laundry.) Either way, we all could stand to be more efficient and use the extra time for the things we really want (whether it's fun, family, or a few more hours of sleep!) To make that happen, I created an Infographic of the 15 BEST tips to keep you focused (no pills required!) And, because I’m human (just like you) I have this posted as a reminder on my office wall. These are some of the best tips I’ve found in my research, my work with clients, and my own life. So check out the Infographic and the free series to come. 

To Taking Back Your Time,