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How to focus in the modern world

The question that I get asked time and time again by my clients and the students I mentor is: “How do I focus on my work and stop procrastinating for hours every day?”

We all know that we are “wasting” so much of our valuable time on social media, messaging apps, and mindless browsing. Our ability to focus is like a resource bank that gets depleted and if you spend a large amount of focus time on things that don’t really matter then you will have little left over for when you really need to get something done.

Just to be clear, I am not judging you - we all do it! Tech giants have paid neuroscientists millions to make sure we get addicted to using their apps. But there are strategies that can help us fight back:

1. Charge your phone outside of your room at night

This will help you avoid scrolling late into the night and first thing in the morning because let’s not delude ourselves: if it is near us, we will pick it up.


2. Use an old-fashioned alarm

I can hear you all thinking: “But my phone is my alarm!” Yes, very good try! This is just an excuse that will keep your face glued to your phone.


3. Block focus time during the day

Put this time in your calendar, switch your phone to flight mode, and disable your email for the hours you have blocked. Only a few jobs require you to be immediately responsive so let’s not fall into the trap of answering immediately. If anyone asks, then just tell them you are focusing on X project and will be available shortly. If you have kids and working from home…then I am sorry you are screwed because I remember disturbing my parents every five minutes! Maybe you could hide in the bathroom? But seriously, I am sure you have a whole list of ways to keep them entertained whilst you work.


4. Go for a quick walk

I cannot stress enough that this is the cheapest way to get your focus back so why not use it? We humans are meant to be outside, and I am sure you have noticed the buzz you get after that first breath of fresh air and feeling the sun on your face.


5. Set clear boundaries

Don’t feel obliged to answer your friends or colleagues immediately. Real friends don’t mind and people who mind don’t really matter anyway! When you answer immediately you train people to always expect an immediate answer. My old boss once told me that she thought people who answered straight away weren’t focusing enough on their work!


One final thought – there is nothing inherently wrong with spending a bit of time procrastinating. In fact, the brain works better when we give it a break to assimilate what we have been focusing on. We are not robots; we need breaks during the day, so don’t beat yourself about it. It is when we are wasting hours on trivial things and wondering why we don’t get much done that it becomes a problem.

If you have a wonderful focussing trick of your own please share it with us below.