Boost Productivity

Are you having trouble focusing lately?

Am I the only one who’s finding it harder and harder to focus?

You know what I’m talking about. Think about the last time you read a full book. Or having a phone conversation without doing something else at the same time. Or, think about reading a research paper in college — one of those dense ones that takes 90 minutes to truly digest. Could you do it now?

My team and I want to hear how distraction is affecting you.

Tell me a story about how tough it is to focus now. What did you use to be able to do that you can’t now? What big goals have you been putting off because you can’t seem to buckle down?

What do you wish you could do if you weren’t so distracted? What have you tried and how did it work out?

Leave me a comment below. I promise to read every single one and share a few in a post we’re working on for next week.

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There Are 162 Comments

 

I’m amused that I received and read this email within 3 minutes of it being sent to me, on my personal email, while I am at work.

If that’s not a compelling answer to the “are you having trouble focusing lately?” I’m not sure what is.

Couldn’t agree more, Alden! Everything is almost instantly accessible. I noticed the number of times in a day that I would “check my Facebook real quick” between tasks only to end up scrolling like a zombie for God knows how long. I stopped using Facebook completely and I’ve noticed an alarming difference in my productivity, increase in client flow, and even my overall happiness.

coumarane

Hi
I meditate 20 minutes every day and I always say all day long”I am aware of…” when my conscience vanished.I also use the pomodoro technique(work with a clock for a 20 mn period)

Fernando

Without thought, whenever I get anxious or unsure, I’ll go to ESPN or YouTube. Also, I wikipedia everything. I literally read Joe Pesci’s entire bio all because I wanted to know how old he is. I got the The Stay Focusd app on Google chrome and now I only have a minute each day to wikipedia, youtube, or ESPN whatever I want. That and a small mindset shift. Ex: Rather than “Now I have to research all this?” I think “Let me just look this up and see what I find”

SOMYA tulshyan

I have my CA exams starting from tomorrow and right now I want to do anything, absolutely anything but sit and study. Pretty sure I will screw up. Totally unfocused and distracted.

Chantel Dahl

I’m having trouble focusing on the “discovery” phase of a new business. I work full time and have young kids and also like to keep our family busy – lots of gym time, classes for the kids, weekends of absorbing as much time with them as I can as well as maintaining our household. I am confident I can carve time out of my day/week to complete task-oriented projects once I get my brain wrapped around what I want to move forward with…but I just can’t seem to find the time to sit down and be creative or thoughtful.

Having worked with a very budget sensitive market for almost 2 years now and with two launches behind me, I find that the amount of work I put it doesn’t reflect in the results of those launches. This has left me feeling despondent. I am the sort of person who is an action taker – no matter how tough the going gets, I find a way to make things work for me, I find something to do to ensure that I am moving forward. This is the first time where I honestly cannot find anything to do to move forward. All thoughts/ideas that come to me are putting me off because of my fear of this being unsuccessful too. It feels like I have no energy to put in towards enormous amounts of work just to see dismal returns on them.

In my experience it’s more about what to do than it is about always doing “something” to move “forward.”

Carolynn

I read so much more as a kid. I’m talking being 10 years old and reading long wordy things by Tolkien and Stephen King and actually being able to ingest all of it. Now I have a much harder time thinking critically or reading for long stretches of time. It’s like my brain short circuits after 5 seconds of staring at a page instead of a screen. WTF.

I don’t think I’ve read a whole book since we had baby #3. I would also like to sit down and start blogging again, but I don’t know what to write about and have trouble getting myself to take the time to concentrate on what I want to say.

I’m the same way when it comes to writing. I started a blog, but only post about once a month. I want to write once a week, but I have trouble coming up with a topic that I can stick with for the entire post. They seem to devolve into random musings…which is not bad at the outset, but not what I wanted. Plus there is always something else to do around the house or someone else to take care of (Mom of 2 teens here).

Ever since I had kids, life has been GO GO GO! I lurch from one emergency to the next. On the one hand, having kids taught me to be more productive than ever – I had to squeeze high priority tasks in between diaper changes, feedings and the exponential growth of chores that comes with babies, and I now appreciate and use every extra 10 minute block that pops open. On the other hand, very few of those free time blocks get used on something personally important. My husband sat down to talk to me about something important last week while I was on the computer reviewing the finances, and I had to practice my deep breathing exercises to force myself to maintain eye contact and not start typing again. Even though it was really important to listen, I felt anxious that I couldn’t get back to what I was doing.

I also used to devour huge tomes within 1-2 days and had a long reading list. Now it takes me weeks to get through one, normal sized book reading sporadically for a few minutes before bed and once I’m finished, I have no idea what to read next. I get really down that I have nothing to look forward to.

Jonathan

Weird that this should come through on email now. I’ve set aside today to work on preparing for a salary negotiation and haven’t got hardly anything done. I feel that my phone is now more damaging than it is useful, with all social media easily accessible. My fault I know!

I make an effort to limit distraction because I have LONG had trouble focusing for an extended amount of time. That said, I tend to fall back into the same habits and am always roused by the sound of my phone vibrating. I try to ignore it, but I Know. Something. Is. There. Anyway, I always end up checking on the rationale that “it’ll drive me crazy if I don’t know what it is”. It’s rarely worthwhile, but I’ve just been distracted and pay the cognitive penalty. Ugh. (yes, I know I can turn off the vibration, but I never do… because I tell myself I might miss something important… and the cycle continues).

I find it so much harder to find my “flow” now. My procrastination seems to know no bounds. I used to be able to get lost in a book, or lost in a fancy spreadsheet model for work, or any number of things for HOURS at a time, but now I have compulsions to refresh my Feedly for new articles every few minutes or see what’s new on Facebook or Reddit. Once I actually get going on something for a solid 5-10 minutes, I can find my flow again and continue without succumbing to those compulsions, but it’s been MUCH harder to get started lately.

Everything tugs at you at every moment, and all day. It’s very hard to concentrate. And at the end of the day it feels like you’ve been at a stair machine all day.

Ludwig Topsy

Have developed a back-end data store, back-end management app and related Web API / Service, 20/7 for the past 3/4 weeks. But now have lost the zeal and energy to finish off the client apps

Yes! Focusing for extended periods of time has become harder and harder. A few years ago I would sit down to read for an hour at a time. Now I am content if I sit down and focus for 10 minutes.
If I weren’t so distracted I would work on more big picture plans instead of just going from task to task on my to-do list.
Recently, I did try to incorporate a new strategy that I learned from one of your guest posters. That is to block off solid junks of time on Fridays. I went and booked a conference room at our office to myself and stayed in there for two hours to just brainstorm and get down some plans for our next fiscal year. The results were incredible. After two hours I looked at the whiteboard and couldn’t believe how much good stuff I had gotten down. The best part was that after I started, the time flew by and I felt that sense of “flow”.

I recently ditched my smart phone and went back to a cell. I did this because I noticed that I’d lost the ability to read for more than a few minutes without compulsively checking my phone. I wasn’t sure it would actually benefit me, but you know what? It really has. I’ve regained my ability to focus. The only time I have trouble now is when I’m logged on to an internet enabled computer. The challenge really isn’t a mystery to me…it’s the internet and the access to email and social media. I’ve begun taking my non-internet-enable laptop out to do work when I need prolonged focus.
I would like to see a study done on how much smart phones actually increase productivity, as the claim goes. Yes, they give us access to things all the time, but that is just as often a path to distraction as it is to productivity. I’m not really buying into the smart phone being a net productivity booster.

Taylor shenberger

I used to be able to sit down and write for hours. I haven’t tried it in a while but even sitting down to write a single page in my journal is so daunting.

I used to be good at being comfortable with what life threw at me without trying. The days I’m distracted by the desire to learn all there is to learn about a wide array of things and being profitable enough to do so. I’ve explored Philosophy, Spirituality and a bit of Math but have had minimal luck getting back to profitability. I do have a few things lined up, but have been too distracted to knock them down.

Funny Coincidence. Last week all I can think about is how much I want to
go to the beach and smell some nice salt air. I used to live close to the beach, and it is ironic that, after living 25 years with a beach nearby, that I/family seldom went there anymore.
Now I live about 4 hours away from any beaches.
Friend asks me earlier in the week, to drive him there, becasue he has a beat up ,old van, that doesn’t have air-conditioning. It is a brutal drive in the van, I have done the drive with him, and really it beats you up.
Took most of the day for him to take care of his business affairs, and we got to the beach at 5pm approximately.
Daytona Beach has been , I can’t explain the term, but family-afied, sanitized, police crack down on real bikers, so the “EDGINESS FEELING” is pretty much gone. That sucks, it’s like the Disneyworld, “It’s a Small World” ride, kind of place. Ahhh, typed so much to get to the point … which is breathing the salt air, and trying to stifle the feeling that Daytona beach has been so fucked up, by the system trying to make a family atmosphere…in spite of that…smelling the salt air, the waves…the sand under foot…is still a pretty good recharge.

I have 2 major goals I can’t focus on. First, I am working in a job I really like but I have become disinterested and my focus wanes. When this happens I start to watch YouTube videos. I also have about 10 unfinished books. The other major goal is getting my — website optimization and digital marketing for photographers — business up and running. I have a 6-month-old, 8-year-old, and a wife who gets sick easily. This makes it almost impossible to focus on this business at home. When I do have that time to work I am so stressed (from finances and lack of self-confidence) that I play video games to cope with my mental demons. There is a silver lining. I know from previous experience that when I meditate regularly I am able to cope better.

Don’t get excited everyone!…Site is not working, yet. lol Great comments! I’m like many of you. I have far more on my plate that most, and it’s extremely stressful, hard to focus, and get one thing done. I’m married, work a full-time job, writing a Structure FrameMaker 2017 workbook (on Amazon, soon), designing and developing a website, adding content (courses) to it, taking camera/video/editing classes, taking a class for WordPress administration., etc. Should I go on? lol I just pray morning and evening, make my list, prioritize, take a few things off the list, add a few more, and keep on going. I probably am doing it the hard way, but my first course will be ready next month.

My issues stem from the infinite possibilities in the world and understanding how much I don’t know. Oh, look at these ten million books to read or 5-minute videos by Ramit on How to (fill in the blank).

When I was a student, the path was clear. Learn this information, be in this room at 2:00, write this paper, pat myself on the back because I made the Dean’s list.

On the other hand, as a (young) working professional, there’s less of a set routine–and more importantly, less short-term, reasonably-obtainable goals–unless of course, I create them for myself (easier said than done).

“My issues stem from the infinite possibilities in the world and understanding how much I don’t know. Oh, look at these ten million books to read or 5-minute videos by Ramit on How to (fill in the blank).”

^ This!

Tomasz Poprawski

Yes. Really distracted. Even though I’m trying to combat distraction by meditating daily it’s still really hard to focus on single thing for longer time even though i know how important it is.

Digital world is really imprinting lack of focus on me ;).

I used to do a LOT more reading – like 400 books/papers a year (not newspapers). I also used to do a lot more bike riding, rollerblading and rock climbing. But for a while, I didn’t have time to do any of that at all. I went from reading 400 books & papers a year to Maybe 50 books a year. My bike and rollerblades hadn’t been touched in 3 years. I realized it’s because my priorities had changed, and not for the better. I tried several things – sheer willpower, electronic schedulers & reminders, getting my family & friends to help me keep up with getting back to reading & biking, but none of it worked.

Finally, I just made the choice to cut back on the amount of work that I was doing for others and go back to a paper planner. It’s worked out so much better! I carry my planner with me like I do my cell phone, so it’s always there to remind me. I’ve scheduled the time to go biking & rollerblading, time to read, time to hang with friends. And I treat that time as if they were my clients. That way everyone gets equal weight and no one thing or person is more important.

That subtle change in mindset and the paper planner has made all the difference.

100%. Focusing on making progress toward long-term goals is like rolling a boulder up hill when that hill is filled with people constantly trying to pull me away. I’ve known that I need to find a new job to escape from federal contracting for months but have only made enough progress to have one interview.

I’ve tried getting up early to work on skill building, networking, and applications. I’ve tried breaking those activities into specific themed days each week. I’ve gotten a thicker door on my office to cut down on noise. The modern world is filled with infinite things to do that aren’t the thing I need to be doing right now.

I find that I do struggle to focus. But I have also found that if I put on headphones and stream brain.fm or rainymood.com it can really help drown out a lot of those wandering thoughts I have which is often what leads to me wasting time on my phone.

When I started my business 3.5 years ago with no clients and no guaranteed way to make income, scarcity and survival drove me to work my ass off. Now that business is steady and I am making more than enough to get by on (and thrive), my productivity has tanked, I procrastinate on a lot of things (both my main law firm work and my side hustles), and there isn’t any real passion or hard work at the moment. It scares me, but no amount of talking myself into working like I used to seems to work. Any advice will be appreciated!

Are you a mind reader? I have been dealing with this problem for some time. I noticed it was something serious now that I am finishing my MSc and I have problems to concentrate on writing my thesis, studying for exams, even for getting back a reading habit I lost. Some days I think on burying my phone on a thick block of ice and working while it melts just to avoid the temptation of instant notifications.

Ricardo Alba

I think there is a change in the way we interact with information, without we know content went from readable to watchable an this watchability made is much more easy on the focus level, you don’t have to interpret too much everything is already squeezed, at the books you need to read word by word and understand what’s being said.

Oh darn! Chad reminded me of one thing that is critical, and I already mentioned but didn’t stress the point. A goals list is mandatory, and you must look at it everyday…maybe more than once. You can always edit it…add, delete, modify, but always look at it daily. It is a constant reminder of where you want to go and do. Out of site is definitely out of mind to stay focused.

I struggle so much with focus these days. Even with blocked out time using my calendar or using the pomodoro technique I find my sole losing focus constantly. It’s not just in work either. I now don’t seem to be able to watch tv or read a book without having to switch to something else after a while. Even watching a video on youtube causes me to lose focus and I end up looking at the related videos or reading the comments section. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and I’m trying to work on solutions. I’m pretty convinced that focus is a muscle that we can improve if we work at it. It’s clear to me that it’s not a simple case of just using a tool such as website blocker or productivity techniques like the pomodoro technique anymore. We’ve trained ourselves to switch focus so quickly now with the way we use technology that I’m wondering how to go about solving this issue without removing the distractions permanently. However since I run an online business this is impossible.

The best thing I ever did was get off of Facebook. What a time waster! I also binge on news. I also screw around too much on my smartphone. It’s now in my bag instead of readily available.

The only thing that helps me to focus is to write down what I want to accomplish at the beginning of each day. Once I get that done, then I am free to goof off. Unless it’s lunchtime, where I’ll surf the news, but I’ve had to limit my time to 30 minutes max. I waste too much time on “entertainment” “news” and have nothing to show for it afterwards.

I find that I have to defend my work time against distracting time wasters. I’ve also reframed my employment to being one of self-employment instead of just drawing a paycheck. When I see my employers as my clients instead of bosses, it helps me reframe my work. I have to give good service for my fee, and if I can’t do that then I shouldn’t be in business.

Yes, and I’ve started thinking that smartphones were an inauspicious development, and that messaging peaked with the SMS text around 1999 – short, direct, personal. Now I find it really hard to even watch 30 minutes of TV without my phone. I can avoid wasting time on the internet without too much trouble, if I don’t turn on my computer, but my phone invariably zaps my concentration, be it on meals, books, TV or anything else.

I work full time in conjunction with finishing graduate school, having a toddler, maintaining a home, and working a part-time job online to reduce student loan debt. I am constantly seeking better ways to improve myself with productivity and often find myself going down the rabbit hole reading something interesting for a few minutes which brings up another topic that is interesting so I read that for a few minutes, resulting in precious minutes being wasted all with the hopes of getting more work done but ultimately being distracted. I guess if I would just get to work and do what I need to do maybe I would have more time?!? I do find noise cancelling headphones work well with focus. This focus on productivity distracts me from the work and also prevents me from doing things I love like reading books, it now takes me months to read one book when I used to read multiple a month.

Yes, I AM noticing a difference in my ability to focus. I attribute this to either wifi itself, or scrolling through tabs on my computer. I’ve never owned a smartphone. I usually have 25 tabs open at one time…I find myself trying to listen to one thing, and then turning it off to flip to another tab. While I am reading a real book right now, I’m reading much slower than I used to read. I’m a high-detail artist and musician, so it’s my business to focus. I studied classical guitar before the days of email. I could focus on ONE thing then. I still MUST focus to complete my paintings but it’s just different today. I started feeling “fuzzy” – not the brain fog fuzzy – just difficulty in bringing things I know I know to mind, a few months ago. I just started filming myself playing guitar because I’m wondering if this lack of focus and memory is going to permanently change my ability to play guitar! I don’t have early-onset dementia…but yes, somethings going on in the atmosphere.

Eric Szczerbaty

Distraction causes me to feel “split.” It’s this weird feeling where I have SO MANY OPTIONS that I don’t even want to get started considering them.

This mental “split” makes me scroll through facebook, think too much, and not do anything productive.

I’ve been slowly substituting Facebook for paper-journaling both free form thoughts in one notebook and another panda planner notebook for tasks to actually do.

It’s also made me perceive PAIN with doing something.

I actually LIKE most of the things I can do, but because there’s so much distraction, so many people calling me, a girlfriend who takes all of my night time (I need to improve boundary setting), and no clear priorities,

I don’t set priorities because there are so many paths that I’m paralyzed that if I choose something, i will commit too much.

I think that I would lose the opportunity to have fun or to do what I want.

I used to be so hard working in college because I knew what to study to get through a class to get good grades. The rewards were clear and a well-defined path to get there.

What I failed to learn was a love of the PROCESS. I became so RESULTS based, that I forgot to enjoy the learning. I actually FORGOT most of the things I studied in college because I was so “split” while learning and now in the “real world.”

Now, for example, when I try to learn from online courses to build a business, community or freelance, I have to constantly battle that association with pain I had from studying in school and the endless distractions that “I should be spending time on.”

Jessica Dupuis

Oh wow…. So I have a hard time completing work-related tasks, specifically small ones. Webinars, involved projects, learning new things: I’m totally down. But remembering to stock the printer paper? Not so much. I keep a running to-do list, and the “easy” things are the ones I never check off.

Hi Ramit! I love your work.

YES! I have a tendency to get so distracted and have a million things swarming in my head competing for dominance. It makes it hard to be productive, present and at peace.

What helps me is Mozart. Listening to his music instantly resets my brain. The science supports this and many other beneficial effects of the power of classical music.

Mark Hurst

I cannot simply relax. I constantly feel like I am in a perpetual state of needing to do something, either because I am behind or fear that if I don’t make use of the few minutes I do have available I will regret it. There is no place to either to escape from it. If I’m outside, I see the lawn needs to be cut, weeds need to be pulled, or leaves need to be swept up. Inside, paperwork needs to be filed, toys need to be put away, floors need to be cleaned and laundry needs to be folded. Digitally, my inbox is constantly being refilled to the point that I feel I need to be continually checking it to keep it at a manageable level. This constant elevated level of stress, while making sure I get things done, is not how I want to run my life going forward.

Edward Griffin

Focusing on creative tasks has been a problem for me ever since having kids. I used to spend 1 or 2 hours working on writing/recording music, or creating software (I’m a software engineer, but also do fun stuff on the side). You just can’t do those creative tasks in 15 minute increments.

Yep – distracted and unfocused, that’s me! I’m 2 weeks from turning 53, a bit burned out: helping to raise my 3yo grandson, helping a family member re-org his business, helping parents, helping… everyone but me! I left a really abusive job situation in October – took a deep breath and jumped – and it honestly took a few months just to start feeling like “me” again – but now I’m so over-committed and burned out that I’m finding everything becomes a distraction! Time to push back a bit!

I’m a member of multiple Slack and Discord communities that are relevant to my industry. They are full of interesting people, techniques, help and discussion. I learn a lot from them. And they are a HUGE constant daily distraction.

In moments where I might write, code or design something, I feel a compulsion to “catch up”. I’ve always found it fairly easy to ignore social media. But Slack chatting is a whole new beast.

Miguel gomez

Yes. I’m distracted and sometimes very unfocused.
(I was diagnosed with ADD, a few years back as I’ve been like that all my life)
The medications helped, but I decided to drop them after getting some not nice side effects.
What was I able to do? Live without a smartphone. I’m “addicted” to it and it’s hard for me to put off. I can turn it off and put it on a drawer, for sure, but i can’t do it consistently.
Big goals that I’ve been putting aside? Focusing on growing my side gig. I really want to buy and implement Zero to Launch, but I’m afraid a won’t be able to spend the time and energy necessary to do so.

My wife and I have actually been talking about how distracted we both are all the time. We used to spend time together where being together was more important than any TV show or ding from our phones. Now, it seems like we are each other’s last priorities– we are working to carve time our to dedicate to us actively being together without the draw of technology to pull our focus away from each other.

Sloan Stiles

I’ll say “let me check ____” (insert weather/email/anything) and then without even thinking about it go straight to Instagram and after 10 minutes think ‘wait what was a supposed to be looking at?’ This is obviously a huge time suck, but is also embarrassing, it’s an actual addiction.

Gretchen

Probably I’m not too bad! My work requires me to focus on clients who are physically present. I always suspect that’s one of the reasons why they come to see me, to have a peaceful hour during which neither one of us is distracted. Just wordless music tinkling in the background, no screens, no phones, no beeping, no problems. It’s great. I do read books. I can sit for hours with a book in a comfortable chair. Please don’t hate me. I am annoyingly good at this aspect of life.

Funny enough, I’m not really all that distracted right now. I find that I can see when I get distracted easier and stop it before it happens. For example, right now my parents are watching TV and I know that if I didn’t have any earphones with music playing, I would be constantly distracted by whatever is happening on TV.

I find it helps to ask yourself the question: “If I were to do nothing else today, would I be satisfied?” If the answer is “no,” then I know it’s time to focus on something else.

BTW, Ramit, if you think I’m bullshitting, please tell me, so I can fix it.

Abdennor

I get distracted too many times @ work by colleagues asking questions.
that really get me losing my focus on the things that I was doing!

Breaking up with my girlfriend of 2.5 years. No joke: I’ve spent the better part of the last year convinced that we’d both be better off if we separated.

Instead of making the difficult, but right, choice to break up, I’ve instead filled my time with trying to artificially bump up the excitement and romance. Sushi dinners, surprise trips to amusement parks, and spending extra time together. All of it backfires because I am reminded constantly of how little we have in common, how we’ve grown apart, and the little personality traits that annoy me get highlighted.

Everything else in my life feels fine-tuned and focused. It’s my romantic life that I’m procrastinating on.

Jonathan

I find myself distracted at work more with each job. Every company seems to put sales in some variation of an open working space. I was at my most productive (a) working from home and (b) in an office where we each had tons of desk space and huge cube walls dividing us. What kills me (and my team) now is we’re constantly dealing with people walking by all day, no one has any privacy at their desk, and we keep getting questions such as, “Why do you use the quiet phone booths to make calls?” from people who’ve never worked a sales job in their life. There’s so little ability to really dig into work without some distraction.

When I’m home working on my own business, I get distracted in the same ways and for the same reason I always have. Except add kids. It’s really not worse than it was before. At work though? Tougher, much tougher.

I have trouble focusing for my upcoming entrance exam which is for LLB. I cant get in those legal words coz i am not from legal background but i want to do llb. Also i am working professional. Just gt 21 days for exam.

I get distracted by video games and movies. I want to stop, but my classmates and dorm mates also do it, so I get tempted to do it. And I have many ideas and I don’t know where to focus.

Elliott Pearce

I find it hard to plow through vague and nebulous tasks. Sometimes, the task could be something that only takes me 20 minutes after I get started, but it’s so hard to get started. It doesn’t help that there are so many distractions available, and that a decent number of them are actually of high quality. I love to read about “moneyball”-style sports analytics, thoughtful breakdowns of public policy, and other interesting topics when I should be doing my actual work.

Honestly man, I find it really hard to focus. I have my days where I’m in the zone and nothing can get in the way, but those are the exception, not the norm.

The biggest thing my focus keeps me from is getting Tea with Company up and running. I make progress on it every day for sure, but I could be going so much farther and faster if I focused better.

Jackie R

Relearning to focus has been my one of main goals this year. Best thing I found to combat the never ending distractions of phone, internet, cats and ooh shiny thing! has been setting aside a 30-45 minute block of tume to do ONE task. The results are pretty good. I’ve even read more this year as a side effect, although I still have been putting off some big goals because, well, migrating and launching a new website needs more than a couple 45 min sessions and who has the time? (Which i know logically I do…)

I can’t seem to focus enough during the week after a long working day to stick to a study schedule for the GMAT. As a result of this, I have spoken myself out of doing an MBA because, despite the fact that I loved studying in back in university and worked as an analyst, I feel like I am either not smart enough or not focused enough to do an MBA.
At work, I feel like I generally focus pretty well – OK, maybe sometimes my attention flits around a bit – but I often have nothing left for anything else by the end of the day. Also, if I haven’t slept enough, have had to much coffee or sugar, it’s like I burn out my focus. It’s like they say about willpower: Focus seems to be a finite resource.

I used to face distractions but after getting known to pomodoro technique am able to focus more and go with the flow

Andrew Gray

Absolutely. I think smartphones have made my brain want to be distracted all the time. Its really hard to be present and focus when you have a device in your pocket that can entertain you 24 hours a day.

8 months later and I’m still adjusting to my “new normal” after surgery which didn’t go quite as well as the doctors had hoped. Just writing this reply is a welcome distraction to what I should be doing which is re-sizing my artwork for my various gift products. :-)

I want to turn my blog of travel stories into a book. I get a spurt of motivation and write a full story, then it will take me months to write the next one.
I want to continue my education, but can’t seem to focus long enough to choose which direction to go.
My small business remains in the same place without growth because I can’t manage my full time job and buckle down into a routine that grows the business.

D'Angelo

I’ll just say this: showers used to be a heck of a lot quicker before I got unfocused. Before I could go into the bathroom, turn the water on, shower, and be done.

Now it takes me about 2 hours to take a 10 minute shower. Why? Because there’s no better private office than the bathroom! I get so much other stuff done once the door closes.

Problem is, I just feel so dirty afterwards. You know it’s bad when you’re legs fall asleep and it’s hard to get up to actually turn the water on!

Ramit – it’s like you’re reading my mind. After a long time of struggling with why work feels harder than it seems to be for others at my firm/in general, I’ve identified a weak ability to focus as one of the top 2 things holding me back (the other being effectively managing people). The Pomodoro method book is with me 24/7 right now to really buckle down and implement it.

Key distractions:
– Overwhelmed by # of tasks – can literally lose an hour+ trying to figure out what to do next / how to prioritize or get motivated to take on the next daunting task (e.g., “I’m burnt out. Now I still have to make 20 slides today for this presentation. Ugh.”). Using Pomodoro method to help here
– TV on because I’m tired – drags out take-home work (frequent) contributing to going to bed after midnight, tired the next day contributes to lack of focus; rinse, repeat. That tired also contributes to “I’m tired, maybe I’ll skim Instagram for a few minutes before I get back to work”. I had one week recently where I just committed to myself to not turn the TV on during the week. I lasted until Thurs night and both my gf and I got a lot more work done in the evenings (still went to bed late; but was def more productive)
– Going after 3 directions instead of 1 – when I take on a new project or focus, I work in parallel instead of in serial, such as getting Getting Things Done, Pomodoro Method, and Fast Focus books. Can’t learn 3 systems at once (or 3 dif’t topics e.g., improving finances, improving focus, history book). I’m buckling down to focus on Pomodoro as the key starting point then can add/expand with others once I have a foundation.

I think the biggest thing holding me back from focusing consistently is fear. It’s my inner scripts holding me back from concentrating on writing or any other “deep work.” It’s a lot easier to continue to do “research” online for the latest “how-to” article, or whatever than it is to buckle down and actually do the work.

To combat this, I’ve started breaking down my weekly and daily goals into small chunks that make the barrier to entry as low as possible. Once I get an easy win or two under my belt, I find it easier to keep going. That and keeping my email, RSS feeds, and twitter closed and inaccessible seem to be helping, though it is a constant struggle.

It is definitely harder to focus than it used to be. Having the luxury of being able to determine my schedule for the most part: 98% time do not take or schedule calls before 1PM unless doing so will hold up a project; I have scheduled time on Fridays to focus on finances, writing and admin. No desktop notifications, I usually have my phone in another room, I don’t do Google chat.

I do get distracted when it comes to the creativity for personal work, like poetry or art, but I’m pretty sure that’s all in my head. :)

It’s definitely harder to focus these days. I have incorporated meditation into my daily routine, but even then I notice my mind wandering. E-mail dings me, my phone buzzes, a notification pulls me away, and, before I know it, my husband is walking in the door (I work from home when I am not traveling), and I haven’t accomplished anything that I set out to accomplish. I’ve tried different techniques, those most are half-hearted and have workarounds, so I get around them. I think that leaving this comment (though it is a distraction) is probably a bit of a wake up call for me. I am in the business of user adoption for my company, but I can’t even walk the walk. Something has to change – and soon.

Love this question. Thanks for pushing me to be honest about it! I find that it’s pretty silly-seeming things that I have trouble following through on. Like answering every text message that comes in (Has anyone else noticed a MASSIVE increase in texting volume over the last 8 months or so?), or leaving myself with a clean kitchen every time I make and eat a meal. I was having trouble with distractions from work, but it’s gotten better through diligence and paying attention to what the distractions are. Things that work for me, which I notice have been mentioned by others: pomodoro method, ditching the smart phone, only logging on to Facebook when I know I can handle the time wasted. While I am EXCELLENT at going into a grocery store and buying only what I need, I am somehow unable to apply the same mindset to Facebook.

For me the biggest change (which until recently did not have a name for thanks to Mark Manson) is attention pollution. I will watch a show and a show only, but my partner will be on her phone. While it *should* not affect me directly, it distracts me. Or with friends in conversations who pull their phone out on the table. Just the presence of it says, “at some point if I get bored here, I will turn to this thing for stimulation.”

I feel like a weirdo because if I am watching a movie, I want to watch the movie. If I am in a conversation, I want to be in the conversation. It seems like it is becoming more and more common where the presence of a phone enters all domains, distracting me in the process.

JONATHAN

I find that distraction creeps in when I’ve just begun a task that requires deep focus. I’ve been trying to work via Pomdoro, but still have trouble isolating myself and really getting into flow so I can create and make impactful things.

Sat down to read a chapter of a yoga training manual – 10 pages. In college, I read 100+ pages a DAY. It took me several breaks between texts, dealing with some insurance stuff, responding to a few emails, etc, before I realized an hour had passed and I still had one page to go (and I had to read each paragraph a few times because my mind kept wandering).

The only time I feel undistracted is when I remove technology from my life by leaving my phone far out of reach with no access to internet. Fack.

What I did to get better ?
1. Removed the alert notifications on Outlook to avoid constant distraction. I go and check my email, when I have to.

There are 2 kind of distractions.
1. External
2. Internal.
External ones like outlook messages are the easiest ones. Find a better , clam place to work.
The internal ones are the most difficult ones, I am still trying to overcome them.

Removing notifications is key, that’s been super helpful.

I don’t know if it’s a lack of focus or just plain burnout, but I’ve struggled lately with producing content. I’m a personal trainer, which means I work mornings, nights, and Sunday. It’s not a lack of time, but my actual work schedule itself. I get a decent window in the middle of the day to produce content and build my brand, but I find it hard to finish what I start. When I sit down to write a blog post, or I start to record a video, or whatever it is, I can’t help thinking “2 hours until I have to go back to work,” “1 hour left,” “20 minutes to go” and it becomes crippling. I want to get things done in one sitting because otherwise I struggle to regain the same train of thought, but that countdown slows me down.

Earlier this year I read 50% of our time is lost to distractions, that’s a ton of time. Two minute tasks could take up my whole day if I let them. Self control takes discipline. Personally, I don’t want to be like the fat kid who just wants to eat cake, by checking social media, email, and the news constantly. Goodbye to chasing squirrels. So I set aside 90 minutes to simply focus on tackling goals and 30 minutes afterwards to do a brain dump to break down and prioritize my task list for my next focus session. It’s good to be in the moment, to turn off distractions, and finally get shit done.

Social is a blessing & a curse to Get Shit Done. When completing a task and I get stuck, i veer to social media sometimes. Bad habit & delays focus.

EVEN WHEN I TRY TO ELIMINATE THE DISTRACTIONS, IT’S IMPOSSIBLE BECAUSE PEOPLE NOW HAVE 80 WAYS OF GETTING IN TOUCH WITH YOU. WORK/HOME LIVES ARE SO BLURRED BOTH WITH WORKING REMOTELY AND SOCIAL MEDIA … EVEN WHEN YOU TRY TO RELAX WITH THAT YOU CAN’T. ALSO IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN YOU CAN NEVER JUST TURN THE PHONE OFF – JUST IN CASE A CALL SHOULD COME IN. TORTUROUS.

Sorry for the capslock – for some reason I couldn’t turn it off with the last post but now my laptop is letting me. Grrrr.

Naomi begg

I tried to watch a 30 minute video analyzing the upcoming UK election, which, 3 years ago when I was studying full time, I could have done with no problem. But that video exhausted me. I had to take a break half way through. I thought I was making sure I still challenge my brain even though I’m not in school, but obviously not!

Am I struggling with focusing? I keep getting your emails over the last three weeks (which by and large do give me a lift – this isn’t a criticism) and I’m like – yes I BLOODY AM. Three weeks ago my partner of 13 years, the father of my 2 children (9,7) told me he’s been having an affair with a 24 year old at work for MONTHS (we’re definitively older) and I think, with the words, ‘where is your money (your priorities) being spent?’ ringing in my ears (something I was conscious of trying to address) thinking “YES, I’M FINDING IT REALLY DIFFICULT TO FOCUS”- I’m barely getting past basic needs, feeding the kids, doing the laundry, trying to be adult about explaining the current situation, balancing that against my own inner turmoil,walking the dog and not kicking off with the ex – basically I’m about to lose ALL MY SHIT, never mind get a handle on my focus. I’m physically out. So my answer is, yes, HUGE TROUBLE, I’m trying to keep the nutrition, the exercise, the headspace in the loop, but the struggle is more than real when I’m balancing this with the interpretation of my two children. It’s overwhelming.

That’s a full plate. I’m in a bit of a spot, presently in a high stress,bad, similar situation. Some years back, I was on a job away from home. I ended up staying with an ex-military guy, that had done some assignments, where he would be alone on a mission. He gave me some advice on dealing with situations that were going wrong. He told me that in crisis, you have to become something of an “Army -of-one”. I had seen the Army commercials that have that Army of one saying, but hadn’t been in the army, and really didn’t understand the concept. He explained about minimizing all that wasn’t related to the mission. Try to analyze only what is mission critical, and then implement. You have to start thinking, put a list together, focus on just what it is going to take to complete the mission. You have mission basic tasks you have to start thinking about. I was crisis-ing on this job, had some things going on at home, and wanted to finish my mission. Funny, he started me on saving all money, so I was washing my clothes , underwear, everything in the shower. Plus it saved time, I was tired and had a bug,so laundramat would have been tiring. I was stressed from the home situation, and was skipping food, so he got me eating regular, even if I wasn’t hungry. Little things, but mission critical. Cut down talking to home, since it was something that was agitating me. Hope this little bit helps.

Couple of other thoughts. You have to focus on you. Think about your mental and physical well being first. Things have gone wrong, you’re mission critical right now. Since we’re not out in the field, having to find food and shelter, nonetheless, you still have to have those things. Minimize all distractions, that are not important.

I used to be able to go to university full time, then go to the Lab at night, and learn 2 different languages at the same time.

Now I can barely go to work and watch tv…

What happened to the old me?

Jairo.

Back in university, I’d have these full day power sessions. I’d be so in the zone, that I literally could focus effortlessly for the entire day! Days in a row. All I needed, was a short 15 minute break every few hours … get fresh air, or grab some food … and I’d be right back at it.

Now…. totally different story! I have two kids under three at home, who are still in the “bad sleeping” stages. It doesn’t matter if I stay up late to work or get up at 4 am, they seem to just sense it when I sit down at my desk! It’s crazy!

Strategies I’ve been applying:
My biggest learning curve over the past years has been to reframe work time in my head. Instead of 10 hour highly focused power sessions, I’ve accepted that the longest uninterrupted stretch will only be about 2 hours with toddlers in the house. Just accepting this has helped me get less frustrated and less flustered. I’m thankful for every 2 hour stretch I get!

I also, started closing all my portals (aside from my kids of course LOL) before I begin work, which has been super helpful. This means, closing my email, closing facebook on my computer, and most importantly turning my phone on airplane mode!

Lastly, I hired a baby sitter for a couple of afternoons per week. Yup, uninterrupted mom-work-bliss time :)

I am doing three things right now; Reading this article and comments; Reading an article on HBR and actually doing work while being at work.

So, you said something about distraction .. what was that again 😀

It is impossible for me to read Ramit’s emails in one shot forget reading a book.

This email couldn’t have come at a better time. I felt like my lack of focus had recently reached critical mass. I’ve noticed it especially at work, though to a lesser degree at home as well. I have the typical reasons for this: open work space at the office, easy internet access, smartphone, some relatively un-exciting projects, “too busy”, etc.

Here’s what I’ve done so far that’s helped:
– Moved everything that’s not 100% necessary off the home screen on my phone. All my social apps are buried in a folder on the 2nd screen, and this point of friction alone was enough to help me greatly reduce their usage. One less distracting thing.
– Tried out the pomodoro technique. Ironically, there are apps for that. It’s helped, though I need to be more rigorous about it.

Some good books I’ve read that address focus / productivity
– The War of Art (by Steven Pressfield)
– Deep Focus (by Cal Newport — can’t recommend this one enough)
– The Productivity Project (by Chris Bailey)

Still. It’s hard to break a really bad habit, and ultimately that’s what my lack of focus seems to be. I’ve got work to do. Just reading some good books won’t make that happen.

The thing that drives me insane is that I know focusing on something isn’t a problem – I *can* focus. When I have a work project deadline, I sit down and produce whatever it is I need. Most of it ends up being actually good and sometimes I get quite creative too.

But when I try to work on my own business or doing something else in the space where there is no clear structure, there is no one who I am accountable to. So I have this vague sense that… it’s not urgent? So focusing on things like this is hard.

I feel like sometimes I approach my life in a very deliberate, mindful way – and then focusing is not a problem, because focusing isn’t the core issue, it’s just a consequence. But staying in that mindset is the most difficult thing.

I find I can only do this when I regularly:
– meditate
– meet with my coach (or self-coach)
– have someone guide me through a structured program (your ZTL, DJ and Talk to Anyone courses have worked really well for me).

I work at a social media company. It’s bloody hard between getting work & personal pings throughout my day and then the enticement of looking at my feed on my way to answer a ping. And while I understand the dogfooding aspect, it’s really slows down my productivity.

Dani Espinosa

Yes. Focusing has been more challenging lately. I have been combating it by eating more simply. The less I have to digest on a physical level or the less effort my body must exert when digesting, for me leads to a clearer mind. More room to digest the circulating thoughts, desires and anxieties so my brain can actually focus on one thing at a time. I have been spending years trying to finish my Master Iridologist Diploma (Iridiology = Study of the colored part of this Iris to analyze personality and health information). I find it challenging because I either have a stable income that sucks all of my time and energy or I have unstable income which allows me time but distracts me since I am worried about security. I do my best to study in the mornings when I am fresh and not yet distracted. It is working slowly but surely.

Robert Laracuente

Ramit, oh where to begin. Focus has become such a difficult thing to maintain for me. I used to be able to read for hours. I used to program, back before it was called “coding”, for days on end. Now it’s a chore for me to get through some 40 minute youtube video explaining some of the frameworks. I feel it’s really limiting and have sometimes wondered if I’ve developed ADD along the walks of life (I’m soon to be 40)

Some things I focus well on, but I can’t read a book cover to cover to save my life… fiction or otherwise. It’s really frustrating. Ugh.

I used to have a lot of trouble with focus when it came to studying. A tried a lot and I mean a LOT of different ways to get myself to sit down and study. If i was in the library and alone I usually didn’t have any problems, but its when I needed access to the computer or to look up something that it was incredibly easy to get distracted or to click to something that was more interesting that I prefered to do.

I’m able to concentrate way more nowadays though. I guess to share for those who still have trouble with it, it involved a few things.

Using the pomodoro technique in 30 minute intervals to pressure myself to do as much as I can in those 30 minutes.
Removing distracting apps from the phone ‘s main menu.
Hiding away my bookmark toolbar on my computer.

The pomodoro technique is probably well known so I wont go into it here but it really helped me by breaking up my tasks into manageable was pieces.

But the last 2, I guess would go into the “eliminate distractions” category. I highlight these cause they are incredibly not obvious and were my biggest reasons on why I lost focus.
With the phone, I had a lot of entertainment app (YouTube, games, etc). It was really easy for me in one click to already be playing something and already lost focus. The real solution was to hide them away to make them less accessible. I put the icons into folders so they were harder to access and where I couldn’t see them. If I never saw them, I wouldn’t get distracted.

The same principle applied to hiding away my chrome bookmark toolbar. It was such an eye opener when I realized that every single time I opened up the browser, my hand magnetized itself towards that tool bar. Every. Single. Time. (it had all my most used sites like YouTube, twitter, etc) When I did hide away the toolbar, the results were instant.

I stopped feeling the temptation to click on something I wasn’t supposed to. And by just limiting yourself to using the search bar, less distractions meant more concentrated work.
I do have a rule though that I allow myself the toolbar in the weekend. That way I give myself the space to relax and waste some time, which I think is necessary and acts as a good “reward” for working hard in the week.

Hope this might help somebody out

Im a student so i cant focus on study, what i do is i say no to anything else for a period of time and it works

I also just have been shooting buckshot in a feeble attempt at finding something to hang on to. I know there is more to have but keep choosing not to focus.

I have the same problem. I can hardly focus for a longer time in my flat. When I really have to concentrate, i leave my iphone at home and go to the library.
A few years ago during summer time, i spent 4 months in a tent. I just took a cheap nokia phone with me for emergencies. I’ve never read that many books ever since.

Charlotte ALlen

I have been meaning to sit down and just hammer out the first version of an app I’ve been planning. I just can’t bring myself to do it in the evening after work.

Oh let’s see…well I am currently in a meeting at work, so I suppose you could say that I am no longer engaged in what used to be a very good fit. Fortunately, I am headed to a new role, but finishing strong will be a challenge over the next couple of weeks. I’ve simply outgrown my current organization. I can’t complain though since I am making a move, but this is about distractions, and I am most definitely distracted.

Radek Hecl

I found these elements are distracting me the most.

– popup messages
– internet connection
– smart phones
– refrigerator whenever I try to work from home (you know that “let’s check up the fridge” syndrome)

Now here is what I am doing to keep and practice concentration:

– turning off all the apps which can suddenly come up with notification
– going to coffee shop witout my smartphone and NOT connecting to WiFi there
– leaving all the electronic devices in the locker while working out
– when I am in sauna or on the bicycle (stationary one (; ), then I try just close eyes and see how long I can keep going without opening them. If you are not trained, then you would be surprised how short this is.

P.S.
I don’t have FB

Milind Padki

I am trying to generate 3 writing samples to launch my popular medical writing freelance business. Have not been able to complete anything, in spite of having excellent ideas. I think there is a lesson here for everybody: The general public can and will only read content written in simple words, filling only half a page and is full of graphics. (That is what I have made of myself these days!)

I remember writing for hours as a teenager. The stories seemed to flow so quickly my pen could barely keep up, and I loved the feeling that creating gave me. Now, I struggle to write more than a page at a time. I’d love to pursue writing professionally, but when I manage to make time for it it’s such a struggle to focus. I’ve tried scheduling time for it, I’ve tried using writing prompts, and while part of me knows that if I worked really hard at it I could be successful, part of me wonders if maybe it’s time to let that dream go…

Xavier Curia

Making time to read. I checked a book out of the library over a month ago, I wanted to read in a week. It’s been 40 days. Now I have to return it and I still haven’t finished it.
Also, making time to work on the copy for my website. I need to nail it in order to launch my business but I’m moving too slow.

Justin Rhodes

I used to be able to enjoy the pleasure of a meal, be it lunch at work or dinner at home. Nowadays I feel like my hands are idle while chewing, so I feel guilty I’m not doing more. Actually staying focused is a less of a problem for me than battling guilt I feel that my focus time isn’t better spent elsewhere. Breaking things into small enough tasks that I can finish in a reasonable time – but still feel like I accomplished something – is a major source of anxiety. Thinking about what else I “should” be doing prevents me from focusing, or I don’t even start in the first place.

Alex bulley

If it has to be just one thing I’ll pick taking 30-45 minutes to study chess strategy and tactics. It’s been hard for me to get into the groove consistently. I think it applies to a lot of other stuff too.

I’ve been feeling more and more manic trying to give attention to the things I’m working on: reading, studying chess, developing my blog and reading your material (and others). There’s so much to do it’s hard to spend time giving one thing my full attention.

I was thinking today that I focus very well in the car compared to at home. I can’t go anywhere else so I don’t mind absorbing an audiobook, listening to an album I’ve been wanting to hear or (more importantly) focusing on improving my driving skill.

I feel increasingly aware of opportunity cost to a really debilitating degree.

There are multiple reasons I don’t focus so well but the main one I think is
I have had multiple life failures, I think my lack of success has caused me to burn out/give up

I work from my home office on the computer. (Video editing). I have to force myself to not go check email, facebook or the fridge. When I have to meet a deadline I use the Pomodoro app, but it feels like a leash. When I enjoy my work, I don’t have a hard time. But when I have to write sales copy or something, OMG, I can find 10 other things to do to avoid it.

Kiran umapathy

Workplace norms for knowledge workers have shifted or become more pronounced. It’s almost expected that you read all communications immediately (email, Slack, etc), even when that’s not the best use of your time. You can operate on that, but it comes at a high cost. I feel like the best things are created because we spend focused time on them and that being too distracted may impact our ability to focus long term.

I also have trouble focusing because I am bombarded by social media, texts, or other interruptions. I feel like that scene in Portlandia. A few things that I have tried with success are eliminating the apps I spend the most wasted time on from my phone. I also have been experimenting with blocking off time in my calendar. and assigning that as focused work time, with the majority of it being spent using pen and paper, before digitizing it.

I can’t seem to focus on anything right now. I can’t get myself motivated to do even the simplest of things. I feel more unproductive than at any other time that I can remember

I used to read a lot, and super fast at college. I noticed a direct correlation with my lack of focus and the use of my beloved smartphone. At work I used to sneak out just to check my latest social network status and email, only to see nothing interesting. And doing it again 2 hours later. I felt I could not handle a good conversation anymore, felt like I forgot so much that I learned and had nothing to talk about. I felt I HAD to check my emails 12 times an hour. To help I deleted all apps and notifications, installed StayFocused app, started going to bookstores again. I can see the difference. THIS IS A CONSPIRACY TO CONTROL HUMAN MIND WITH APPS AND SMARTPHONES!

Jon Weisberg

It’s been quite hard to focus at work when I’m bored with what I do and I’ve been dealing with family issues. Plus I’ve been very motivated by multiple business ideas. I even caught myself daydreaming and writing down my ideas at work. I had to catch myself so I could pay attention and save my business creativity for lunch time and after work.

SAMUEL johnson

I’m finishing up a Masters degree by coursework, and for all my education I’ve been unable to focus with lectures. Either in-person or recordings on the computer, I multi-task and play around doing other things on my laptop. Now I’m so unable to focus on a single thing, I can hardly even sit down and watch a TV show or movie without wanting to do something else at the same time.

Michael Key

Yes, I often struggle with focus due to the information overload that the internet provides the occasion for.

I’m an eager learner and have a perfectionistic and maximizing nature, so I tend to leap at any information that provides any glimmer of perfecting myself and getting my goals fulfilled to the fullest extent.

I’m working on focusing and finishing on what truly matters now thanks to the Finisher’s Course.

I’ve been struggling to start and stay consistent with ZTL beacuse of my fear of success and imposter syndrome. They materialize as distractions beacuse the overwhelm is easier when you start with good intentions but my ADD mind craves a distraction to make ZTL work interesting.

Same thing at work. Have a fairly senior level management job but I very easily get distracted by incoming email beacuse I know it’ll have a fire that needs to be handled. It keeps me from being my best self at work and elevate my brand. Taking on these emails makes me loose control of my daily objectives and agenda. My agenda becomes other ppls agenda which keeps me busy and a sense of importance. I put me last. I end up with a sense of frustration and disappointment in myself.

I’ve tried Pomodoro, I’ve tried lists, I’ve tried GTD, I’ve tried inbox zero, I’ve tried Sunday rituals of stating my weekly and daily goals but those pesky emails derail my objectives and take me on a tangent. Before long the week is gone ND I’ve only managed to make other ppl happy.

:'(

kENNETH DALE

Ramit,
Could I be part of your team?

“Think about the last time you read a full book.” – Today literally (coincidence). But I finished another book about 2 weeks ago as well.

“Or having a phone conversation without doing something else at the same time.” Doesn’t usually happen. I have a rule: I do not message ANYONE at anytime unless it is between 2 PM and 3 PM. The only exception is if I am meeting with that person and the person texts me “where are you?” then I am allowed to respond. When I talk with someone I usually do not multitask. And when I do work I usually never talk to anyone.

Regarding the dense research paper: Yes, I could do it now.

Ramit, here is my story. I am a ROBOT. I have a list of GOLDEN RULES. Here is my list of rules.

-I am not allowed to read any irrelevant website at any point (including all news websites, sports teams, a funny article – NO IRRELEVANT YouTube videos)
-I am not allowed to read any newspaper or magazine.
-I am not allowed to watch TV or to use the remote control UNLESS I use the remote control to turn a TV OFF.
-I am not allowed to play any type of video game, on the computer or on my cell phone.
-I have closed my Facebook account. I only use WhatsApp and even then I am sometimes tempted to leave.
-I only send WhatsApp messages between 2 PM and 3 PM each day. Any other time of the day, people will have to wait. (only exception is when I am about to meet somebody and they want to know where I am)
-If there is an emergency, I am allowed to make a phone call (at any point in the day).
-If I am doing work, I do not answer phone calls. I return the call when I am done.
-If I enter someone’s room and their TV is on, I can watch the TV as long as I remain standing up. I am not allowed to sit down or lie down at any point (this is to avoid me wanting to stay there for hours… I will get tired of standing up eventually and will leave)
-The exception is if I watch a movie home with my family on a Sunday… then it is allowed, only during the movie. If they start watching TV I am forced to stand up and immediately leave.

Ramit, I did not create these rules overnight. I used to be a chronic, compulsive procrastinator. I was such a severe procrastinator that it affected my life dramatically when I was in college. I did not feel motivated in my classes. The thought of dying crossed my head several times during those dark times. I had a scholarship and lots of family pressure… but I hated my classes so I was not able to get myself to work. I would stay up all night on Facebook and not get my work done until an hour before my class.

Do you know how stupid and helpless I felt staying up all night, every night, doing NOTHING? I went to the psychologist and felt stupid confessing that I did this. How easy would it be to get my work done at 11 PM, and then go to sleep? Why did I have to stay up 9 hours wasting time, and then do my work at the last minute?

Sometimes I woke up at 6 PM, having slept through all of my classes. Sometimes I would get my breakfast at 3 AM: pizza from the 24 hour cafeteria (almost the only remaining food at that time)

I lost weight, gained weight… Depression, anxiety.

When I returned home, almost having quit college in my last semester, I took a year off. This is what my father had promised in order for me to keep my scholarship and to get my degree (BA in Computer Science).

This year off I decided to work on artificial intelligence which was one of my passions. However, I failed… In the middle of my year, I decided that I would need to make a living after that. So I started getting “commercial thoughts” which led me astray. I lost my “scientific focus” and started gaining a “commercial mentality” which was a bit incompatible with the scientific nature of what I was doing, and caused me to develop an internal conflict which led to…you guessed it: more time wasting.

Eventually my dad hired me for a 3 year project that I never finished and never sold. The project was supposed to take 1 month and my dad was supposed to pay me $1000 for the project. The project got extended so grotesquely that at the 2nd year mark my dad decided to give me a salary out of pity (he hadn’t paid me a cent till then).

It was at the 3 year mark that I read The 4-Hour Workweek, and I started outsourcing my programming work. (Note: I took 3 years on the project because I WASTED TIME LIKE CRAZY, not because the project was that long. It was College 2.0).

Finally I didn’t feel 100% unfulfilled in my work. But indirectly I had been preparing for change. I had been reading and studying books relating to the Law of Attraction. I had gotten into self development, although I still COULDN’T SEEM TO FIX my damned procrastination and time wasting issue.

I lived with my parents, so I told my mom to change the computer password and to not give it to me, as a way to deal with this procrastination.

And yes, I investigated on how to deal with procrastination… but all of the advice on the web seemed like BULLSHIT at the time, and it really was. Most of the advice out there dealing with procrastination just DOESN’T WORK.

I mean, how am I supposed to “sit down and write all of the things that cause me anxiety” and to “make a list of my priorities”… I will just PROCRASTINATE ON THAT. I mean, do the internet geniuses not know that I could have figured that out on my own? Procrastination is an emotional thing and it makes no sense. It kind of reminded me of what some of my textbook-psychologists would tell me “Well, don’t you think it would make more sense to go to sleep earlier? Staying up all night watching YouTube is just giving you more stress.” Oh really? It’s not like I am mad at these people. I’m not (well, maybe a little). But hey, all I am saying is that I am the first person that will tell you that my behavior was worse than retarded. It was irrational, absurd, self-sabotaging, whatever you want to call it. It was stupid. Like, really “roll-my-eyes an impossible angle” stupid.

But I had no conscious control over it. And even though I was in denial that I could not muster conscious control over my impulse to “not give a shit”, I kept trying. And eventually, I figured what worked for me.

Thus… I became a ROBOT. I was not born a ROBOT. I was born Ken, a sweet little kid (a curious one, at that), who would drive professors and parents crazy with his questions… “How can Santa fly in that thing? It makes no sense. Explain to me in detail how he can pull it off”.

But I became a robot FOR MY OWN SAKE. A lot of people who have trouble in areas like working, studying, concentrating, procrastinating, interacting with others… aren’t these people just SPECIAL? A lot of the time they are. These people have hidden talents. A lot of the time, they are misunderstood.

And I knew that too. I also knew that, deep within, I was very ambitious,. And that I had DREAMS. And that I was getting in my own way. My procrastination, and my time wasting, were getting in my way.

So I decided I would need to go to the extreme, in the other direction. Why not? Extremely successful people are… extreme in a sense. Aren’t they?

Yes, taking my productivity to the extreme seemed like the safest way to ensure I gave my dreams my best shot. And, even more so, considering the fact that I WASTED SO MUCH FRICKIN TIME ALREADY. Talk about balancing the equation.

So, back to the present. I am a ROBOT and I am becoming more of a robot by the second. Don’t take my word for it, take my girlfriend’s. “Ken, sometimes I feel like you are like robot. You should sometimes relax… or you know… remember that you are human and take a break.” My response is usually along the lines of “Why thank you? I take that as a compliment. A robot is exactly what I aspire to become, and thank you for showing me I am on the right track.” Not kidding… It’s a conversation we have had more than once.

In the end, she tells me “I love you that way.” And you know, I believe her. I believe her because I know that she sees the DRIVE in me. She sees my determination. And my determination is what causes me to hate waste deeply… (Yeah, I know the Law of Attraction states that hating something attracts more of it… but you get the point).

Currently I am working from home in what used to be my office job. Do I work less? No. I work more because now I don’t have to commute. Gosh, I see those poor commuters. They really have to throw two hours of their day out the window every day? (yeah, there are other things you can do in that time, like listen to something, but come on) I can’t believe the government hasn’t invented a more efficient way to live life than to have to physically drag your body across two distant locations (and quite inefficiently so, if you take traffic into consideration).

Look, I’m just trying to make ends meet. Trying to keep my goals in sight at all times. That’s just what I do. Economically, I have recently had a fresh start (because I was horribly in debt). I am learning from my past habits.

Also… I just want to point out, as a side note, that it is not easy being a robot while being a human. Or, shall I say… having a robot schedule while being a human. A lot of my schedule depends on the FLOW of what I am doing and can seem spontaneous. Currently my productivity depends on WHAT I KEEP MYSELF FROM DOING, rather than a marked schedule. We do suck at estimating how long a task will take. It is better to just go with it… Just go with the flow, finish it whenever it happens.

But as long as I am not doing what I consider to be WASTE, I think my current focus is always something that is providing value to my life. Real, long-term value. The short of it is that my current productivity lies in WHAT I DON’T DO, rather than what I do, do.

If I eliminate all wasteful activities, I am left with only the productive ones… the useful ones… the ones that are worth it.

Another lingering question is… HOW AM I ABLE TO ENFORCE THESE STRICT RULES? Especially given my past lack of self control.

I have a variety of methods for this. In fact, there was ONE EVENT in my life that was the turning point in terms of my procrastination. It was this ONE EVENT that made me realize I could do it. I could defeat procrastination.

Now, I have felt “inspired” before… And inspiration can make you focus and work in ways that you didn’t know you could. But I have learned not to rely on “inspiration”, because that is almost a matter of chance.

Currently, I have my own methods to guide myself. It is not willpower, although the habit of keeping your own commitments is a worthy one. Sure, there is accountability involved. And I have used accountability in creative ways. This is what has kept me on the right track.

Now I believe I am on a great track. I have leverage over me that a lot of people don’t have, and probably don’t want to have. Because most people would rather go with the flow rather than stand up to old strong habits. But it is only deep dissatisfaction that can make you muster the strength for that.

I could explain my “creative methods for accountability” in order to enforce my rules, but I don’t want to overextend (more than I already have). I did want to overextend a little bit, because overextending is exactly what one has to do in order to become “special” or “noticed” or “incredibly valued” in some cases. One of my freelancers overextended so much… overdelivered is the proper word, that I did not hesitate to pay him more bonuses and offer him more opportunity.

Anyway… just so you don’t think I am acting mysterious, my last two methods of accountability were simple. A year ago, it was my girlfriend. Today, it is YouTube. Yes, I use the INTERNET to hold myself accountable. If I upload a video saying “Hey guys, I will try to not waste time for 60 days and follow these rules closely… And I will keep uploading some videos every now and then, explaining how I am doing,” this is actually enough for me. It was during a breakup that I decided I wanted to do something like this to hold myself accountable.

But the first time I ever could follow these strict rules was during a moment of “inspiration”. It happened in 2014.

“Inspiration”, “accountability”, you name it. There are different ways to leverage yourself.

But as of today and right now, I am proud of being a ROBOT, or of becoming one.

Why? Because I want to be a machine working nonstop for my dreams.

And yes… my rules have a limit. Currently I must follow these rules for 66 days. After this happens, I am allowed to waste time all I want. But I know that I will not waste time for too long… It feels terrible to not be working for your dreams, so I am confident that I will soon create a new 66 Day Challenge and the cycle will start again.

Also, I keep adding new rules in each “challenge,” as older ones start to become automatic.

Ahhh… the habits of success.

Wow, I really must stop writing now.

Thank you Ramit, for writing an email that caused me to get inspired to write this. Productivity, focus, and success, are topics that are close to my heart.

Did I “waste time” by writing this? I do not know… But my rule allows it. Any website that is linked from you is a “relevant website” according to my rule, and I am allowed to spend as much time as I want on it. And why not? It is quality stuff… and success-related.

That said, if you need or want someone like me, for any purpose, let me know. Sorry, I missed the course titled “How To Get Hired By Ramit”. Not that I am looking for a full time job anyway, with all the projects I do have, but productivity rocks my world.

Regards
Robot Ken

I struggle from information overload. I horde data, whitepapers, workflows, flowcharts, almost any type of information. I search for the perfect productivity app. I try and devise the perfect daily schedule. I try a hundred life hacks or habit changes at a time. All of this leads to me being extremely unproductive. While I’m searching for the holy grail, I get distracted by all kinds of meaningless information. Facebook, reddit, etc. My lack of productivity leaves me anxious and depressed, so I lose myself in a website, app, game, or whatnot. It’s a terrible cycle that has killed my focus. I used to be a workhorse and a top performer. Now I feel like a shell of my former self. I’m tired of working hard after hours to make up for time lost during the day.

Nicholle

Ha!..Focusing seems to be getting harder and harder for me lately. It seems nothing holds my attention past 2 seconds. I’m typically doing something else during a phone conversation and sometimes my mind is totally somewhere else while I’m physically working on a client, Often I find I’ve tuned them out during conversation. I’m sure most of this is due to my desire to go in a different direction in life, business wise…I play it all out in my head….what has helped thus far for me?…Journaling! (getting it out of my head)

Sometimes I feel like I have so much to do, and I end up becoming overwhelmed by the prospect of even the smallest tasks. I end up only completing urgent tasks (although they still are somewhat important), and not focusing on the tasks that will have positive impact that’s not near immediate.

I used to read three or four books a month. I loved reading. Now I get books out of the library read about six pages and they sit there while I check Facebook, LinkedIn and Apple News. It’s infuriating and yet I am fully distracted all the time.

I recently read Deep Work, The ONE Thing, Essentialism… and all three books felt like a big whack on the side of the head: “You’re doing it wrong!” I am absolutely convinced that lack of focus is the single most pervasive barrier to my current goals.

Changing my behavior to improve my focus is damn hard though. It’s not just habits–it goes deep to my core beliefs about the world. Being an opportunist, looking for the quick but unsustainable wins, trying to be a jack of all trades… these behaviors are intimately tied to the scarcity mindset and the fixed mindset, the two boogeymen that hold back every smart person from doing great things.

Rewiring these mindsets is a major task in and of itself–something that requires focus. It’s almost a chicken and egg problem, then, to try and tackle it. But I’m optimistic… I think I’ll figure it out eventually. Maybe when I do I’ll let you know.

I had two goals starting this year: (1) pay my income and self-employment taxes and (2) make $4,000 in one month of my business. I completed the first goal. For my first year of freelancing, it was a real eye-opener.

My girlfriend had planned a 3 day trip to California to go see a concert (her name is banks!) after my taxes. We went and the concert was amazing. But when we got back, I was in an existential breakdown. I was asking myself, “why am I focusing on freelance writing?” or “what do I truly want to do?” or “why did I give up music?”

Then I got the flu.

You can imagine, it knocked me out of my routine and, while sitting in my bed dying, I had a lot of time to think.

When I recovered, I felt lost. Why do anything? Does anything I do matter? Not only that, but my brain was addicted to the dopamine rushed of Netflix. Having not felt this way in years, I went straight to finding the right books to read. The first book was the “Tao Te Ching” by Lao Tzu. The second book was “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius.

I figured that this lost feeling was a sign to grow. As I read those books, I started to learn how to come to terms with this meaningless. To rise, according to Marcus Aurelius, “to do the work of human beings.”

I’ll admit, I’m struggling. I want to get straight into writing about philosophy. I want to create an album. But something is telling me that this is just my mind getting bored and wanting to switch to something else… instead of sticking with one thing till I see it through.

So I am building back up my work routine. As well, I am addressing core problems in my business that I put off to try and just build top line revenue.

And, I am now focusing myself on practical philosophy, because I think this phrase rings true, and I paraphrase “when you think you have something figured out, you are at most risk.”

It was a little eerie to receive this email now, because this is exactly what I’ve been experiencing lately.

At the expense of sounding new agey, I’m a firm believer that your behavior is dependent on the underlying energy of your life at the moment. When I’m having a hard time focusing or disciplining myself to put in the necessary hours of hard work, the only thing that works is putting myself through a temporary austerity phase. That means no drinking, no sex (or at least no thinking about sex when you’re not having it), no junk food, no TV or dumb entertainment, strict schedule. It usually only takes me a few days to reorient myself, and from there the motivation takes care of itself.

There’s a phrase I picked up a few years ago, I don’t remember where, but apparently it originated in the special forces (or so I was told): “If it doesn’t suck, we don’t do it.” It’s one of my favorite sayings, and in times like this I remind myself of it.

How distracted I am is dependent on how distracted I’ve been lately, so if I’m in a particularly unfocused phase (of, say, 3 or 4 days) I just spend an hour writing and it goes from “random thoughts” to “to do lists” pretty quickly. That said, my to-do-list mania and over-productive FOMO keeps me from doing things I used to do when I was younger, like play the piano for hours or invent little devices. When that happens, I just tell myself that I have to stare off into space for about 10 minutes, and I reward myself for it. Everybody has different ways to cope with distraction and the fear of being distracted, but austere living without reward does not help me. I know that I need a little time to stare off into space to be creative. That said, Facebook and YouTube, I know, are just poor substitutes for quality time with friends. So, when I find myself in the dregs of the Internet, I call up friends and make plans for later. Then I can get back to work.

In fact am always distracted by events that has taken a better part of me. It’s not just about reading other stuff that distracted me. No.The problem is that I took some loan in 2014 from the bank using my payslip which would cause me a three year deduction. This has affected my credit card.I promise to bounce back at the appropriate time. It is my wish and prayer that it will not be too late for me.

Hello,
I am starting my new digital marketing agency. I am faced challenges to find new client. I sent mails 30-40 daily the 100% open rates but can’t get any reply. This is my big distraction. Can you help me in that way?

Nitin Trivedi

Dear Ramit,

I am waiting for reply of my mail dt. 21.04.17 and reminder on 24 & 29 April.

Please reply for the same.

Thanks

nitin.

Sat Sri Akal Ramit Veer,

I was not feeling well because of thought attacks after every hour.

I am having a debt of $5622. (I lend loan from my family and friends to create an event because I thought I can make money and run my own business with that business. But I was wrong. (I started my business 2 years ago –[a publishing platform] not earned even a single cent. Now to make income streams I thought about creating an event and I failed with my partner. I am a dropout too.)

Now to cover up that debt I am working for a coworking space as a paid intern ($467) for 30 days, as a sales person. (I don’t know what will happen after 30 days. I have to sell 10-20 seats to save my ass).

In these two years, I learned about PR and has cultivated many relations. Now, this week I am having one sale call where I will understand the potential customer and then on our follow up call I will pitch the proposal. I know I can get this sale.

Coming back to your email — it really made my day. I am so much brain fucked with many thoughts, can’t even keep with my sleep — when you said “are you having trouble focusing” — yes I am having trouble focusing. I don’t where I am going.

Currently, I am doing one job where I can earn money for my livelihood — on the side hustle, I am looking for potential clients who can pay for PR services.

I don’t know how will you help but I know you can help – I know I have made mistakes, now I am improving. I think I need a clear focus to where to focus or a roadmap.

Bhai bachao mujhey

Jens Andersen

Last month I had a bunch of free time while half of my class went on a 3 week field trip to Silicon Valley. I’d been meaning to work on a business project in the meantime, adding it to my daily To-Do list each day, but somehow finding that I would always prioritise other things, and say to myself at the end of each day “Okay, tomorrow then…”

There was the odd time I got started on it for ~30 mins, but then would get distracted by something else and return it to the back burner.

One of the key reasons why I think I’ve found it difficult to focus on this project is the ambiguity the situation. My key mission has been to re-establish communication with my partner on this project, and update him on a couple of potential insights about the project. I’ve been putting it off, because I don’t really know where I stand at the moment, and I also feel a bit confused/overwhelmed regarding what needs to happen to move the project forward. The anti-momentum has also made me question my level of commitment.

It seems that my lack of focus has been connected to a Steven Pressfield-esque ‘Resistance’

I also suspect that this focus issue is connected somehow with the malaise of a post-modern society, and that approaches such as Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy are becoming increasingly relevant.

I thought I was the only one who can’t focus ,I work during week.
My main problem is my work is too demanding ,I have Register Two Companies name’s this year but I haven’t started with the next step I keep on postponing ,I don’t want to talk about Books it’s bad I have only bought one.I think I need help.

I used to struggle with focusing more than I do now. (And I still do from time to time.)

As a kid, I was diagnosed with ADD, put on ritalin, and promptly became a pharmaceutical induced zombie for the next 10 years.

And (more importantly in my mind) I adopted the false mindset of “I just can’t focus like other people can.”

Flash forward to present day:

-I wake up at 5:30 every day.
-I can focus for 90-minute stretches.

But first…

[Where I still struggle]

-When I’m directly interacting with technology (phone, computer) and I forget what I’m supposed to be doing after flying through so many apps and screens.

(My workaround for this is…can’t believe I’m about to share this…silently chanting the task to myself. This hijacks my internal monolog to keep me focused when there’s a lot of input from apps and web pages.)

Now…

[Five tools that have massively helped me:]

-Freedom.to to block distracting websites for 22/24 hours per day on all of my devices. No more getting lost on Reddit or Wikipedia. Now, even when I have those two hours of free time, I often forget to check the distracting sites.

-Defining clear objectives. Each week I have 2-3 crystal clear objectives for the quarter, so I never get stuck in the quagmire of ‘what should I do next?’ Huge game changer.

-Bullet Journal. I resisted this journaling technique for over two years because I thought I could “handle it on my own” I was wrong.

Bullet journaling is simply using markers (•-><oX*) on a paper notepad to stay on top of tasks during the day.

-Unfollowing everything on FB. Less input, more output. Added bonus: I don't know what's going on in the world so I have more interesting conversations with everyone.

-Food. I'm just starting to really experiment with this one, using food to fuel my day, avoiding sugar and foods that make me go 'blaaaah…'

And through these actions of a productive person, my mindset has started to shift toward the feeling of 'wow, I actually can focus when I want to'.

Nisha Patel

Pre kids, I used to have the time to meditate every day. Now I struggle to find the time and when I do, I can barely do 10 minutes without thinking of other things I need to do. I also keep starting lots of courses but don’t seem to have the time to finish them.

I am a ghostwriter and real estate photographer, and I’m finding it hard to consistently pitch to both types of clients because of distractions – they are two totally different types of clients, and the methodology of pitching are very different.
I am taking the urn 1K course right now, and I’m finding that helpful for being more focused with a purpose.

I’ve known about the effects of social media and technology on the brain for a while. Cal Newport’s “Deep Work” has had a big effect on how I do work. The only problem is that one of my side jobs is as a social media manager. I need to know how to work on the platform, so being distracted is part of my job description. I do what I can to schedule my distraction so I can focus on my more important and focussed work in other times

Mike provencher

Hmmm…focus? Yeah, I’ve got that down. I just got up a while ago to get my wallet and came back to my desk with oatmeal…no wallet.

Nine billion directions that you can go, lots of noise and shiny objects drawing attention away. There must be a way to control it. Probably turning off socials and stopping with the clicking of links in email would do the trick, but then there is the fear of missing out…ugh. Oh hey, cameras are on sale…

I have been having issues focusing as well. Which is why I’ve been reading books on the topic and is the major focus of my work for Cubefulness.com I am sure it’s the concern for a lot of other people as well. I am looking forward to what you have to say on the topic Ramit.

Wilson l

Used to be really distracted by things really easy. Movies, games, youtube, facebook, whatever. Now to deal with it I’ve gone totally minimalist and sold my game console, cancelled my netflix, and I’ve removed the shortcut to my facebook app on my phone so I can’t see how many notifications there are unless I go through the app list.

When I had these things I actually felt guilty about not making use of these things, I paid for them after all. Selling these things was tough, but it needed to be done.

Also, I have a tendency to read a lot of non-fiction books and not finish them so instead of making an impulse decision to buy the book, I’d put it on my wish list on Amazon, limit myself to 1 book per month, and if only I would be able to apply the concepts in the book right away, I wouldn’t buy it.

So far things have been much better!

Facebook, Instagram, whatsapp…..and the list goes on. All providing small snippets of information which my brain has become so accustomed to that anything demanding my attention for more than 2 minutes is deemed a waste of time. As a result, I sometimes find it hard to read an article to the very end and I usually draw a conclusion based on the first two paragraphs. In an attempt to rediscover my inner self i’ve had to limit my mobile use and once I am in the company of those close to me I feel comfortable enough to go as far as turning off my device.

Mimi Ghosh

I’m a pretty introspective person and I value self-awareness more than almost anything else (okay, more than anything else, period). So, for me it’s nearly impossible to get out of my head and do the actual series of tasks that I have to do to get something done. My mind is perpetually in a state of self-improvement/personal development, especially when it comes to the things that I want but feel I can’t have or do because of internal obstacles. For example, I’m looking for a full-time day job in the field that I want to work in and have little direct experience in. This is seemingly impossible for me to do, from my perspective. — I’m struggling financially, struggling emotionally, I’m worried about my future, and my worrying+inaction is taking a toll on my relationship.

I’m supposed to be applying to jobs, but instead I’m always stuck trying to solve the inner obstacles that make me feel unqualified and undeserving of a job that I want. It’s a vicious cycle and something that I can’t stop doing. Long story short, my main distraction is my own mind. I have this constant need to resolve all of my fears and doubts, which have me researching and watching and reading, when in fact I should actually be doing the task of applying for jobs.

I have always had a side hustle. Ever since I was 17. Not many ever panned out to be super lucrative. Over the last three years, I have been able to make some extra money dropshipping on ebay. Lately, I don’t find myself interested anymore. I want to make a bigger impact. I want my 6PM -9PM to be more worthwhile to others. So I am beta testing platforms for a job interview practice community. Finding interested people has been slow. I think I’ll have to advertise but I was hoping not to spend money to do a test.
Your question was about distractions. I have many. It seems I’m constantly fighting entertainment vs personal goals. There is so much free entertainment available and for a small cost I can get high quality entertainment. My Netflix queue is filling up with amazing stand up comedy specials. While I binge-watch season after season of TV show on my DVR I am simultaneously playing Hearthstone, Pool, Scrabble, and Risk on my cell phone. Even for the really good shows I have trouble putting the phone down. It’s the new test for great television. If the show is so good that I must put my phone down or risk missing something, then I know it’s some of the best TV.
Lately, this thought has been on my mind, repeatedly. It’s a trolling comment on IMGUR but it stays with me. “Play dumb games, Win dumb prizes”. I look at the fake coins I accumulate in those phone games and think, well isn’t this dumb feedback. If I had a real dollar for every game I played I wouldn’t be working anymore, or my retirement account would be larger, or I’d eat out every night.
My wife and I are very comfortable. We have great income. I always wanted to build something of my own. A side hustle. When I look at my “dumb prizes” I think, “Not much Hustle in that side hustle huh?”
It takes about 25 min to list one item on Ebay. If I was consistently listing one item per day I’m fairly certain it would be worth $10 per day. Yet I don’t do it. I’m distracted. I may even want to quit that business and focus my time more of the Job interview Practice Community. Because then I’m at least helping someone else. Night after night, I end up just playing another game on my phone until it’s bed time.

I find that when I do experience a lack of focus it is because I do not know what I want to start first. I get overexcited I suppose seeing my end goals as so close I just want to do it all at once. I combat this by prioritizing and planning out time for each task and setting firm limits. For example an hour for each task or something. The time constraint can be helpful in further focusing on the task as you know you will not get a chance to work or it for longer or again later.

Funny as I was literally thinking about how distracted I have been this morning. I think my particular lack of focus comes from the overwhelming amount of information out there. There is always an opportunity to learn new skills from self-help to marketing, to health, etc…and I am drawn to all of them. I listen to podcasts while reading a newsletter I got in my inbox, literally not really paying attention to either. I am working towards professional credentials and i’ll listen/read the course material, but at the same time have this strong urge to check my email, or social media bc the subject material is dry. I graduated college in 2000 from UCSB so we didn’t have any online distractions except maybe the beach. So I really didn’t have this distraction luxury we have now.

Creating filters for my constant barrage of emails has helped some. I also use Unroll.me to filter all my retail sites so I am not tempted to shop. In terms of my goals, it would be putting in the real work on developing the little side business I want to do to go along with my current position. I am too overwhelmed with the information out there. I am also married with two young children who require much of my after work time, therefore, limiting my evenings to develop something new. However, I have been bringing career minded books that have been on my shelf with me to their sports practices and it does give me a solid hour of focus. Every little bit helps.

I have not usually had trouble focusing. However, what I do have trouble is by effectively doing stuff.
It’s easy for me to focus when I start doing something, but now I’ve found something which is very interesting that might be very helpful to everyone.

I read a book “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod, which I recommend to anyone who needs a good kickstart on their day, which I must say is the most productive time of the day regardless of you thinking you are an early bird or not. Trust me, it works.

However, it won’t be productive unless you are able to focus correctly. I’m currently reading another book called “Deep Work” by Cal Newport which shows you the difference between working dispersely and actually focusing, and why this is so important (and rare), as well as teaching you how to achieve this.

I recommend those two books to anyone who feels like nothing is working and needs a fresh start.

As a Forbes contributor covering financial technology (fintech) I get 100-plus PR emails a day. I am getting better a mass deleting and labeling many as junk, but will look at Ramit’s post today on controlling email so I can build a business around photography for stock and for office decoration, not to mention creating time for more of my own choices of topics to write about. Fortunately in the rural area where we live, mobile phone reception was crap until we got a booster, so I am not in the cell phone habit — often leave it in my car and find it discharged…Missed one addiction by pure luck.

A big project I’ve been working on for a long time was about to get started and I was incredibly busy (combine that with having a newborn and two year old at home) and life has been pretty intense. That said, I was able to stay pretty focused and get A LOT done. However, we ran into a glitch with the project and are now delayed a few months. Since then I have had the hardest time trying to focus and work on those “nice to haves” that I could not do when everything was crazy. It’s really frustrating and I wish I could figure out a way to be ultra productive when the pressure is not there.

It’s strange- I’ve always said that I’m a voracious reader, and have been able to read fantasy books of 500+ pages in a week or two at most. Maybe it’s because of the book itself at this point, but I’m finding less time to read those books, and instead… well, I’m on facebook or watching netflix instead, and yet I’ve heard that books are supposed to be the better choice.

Caroline

I like the YouTube channel ‘What I’ve Learned’ where I found out (somewhat hilariously) that YouTube and WhatsApp are my go to distractions when I’m procrastinating (and that the Internet is designed to make me less focused and always wanting more).

I find that the more overwhelmed I feel, the more easily I’m distracted, it seems, except when I have a hard deadline. I’ve cut sugar (and most grains and dairy) and that’s helped me feel more in control and focused (genuinely). I have so many small and big projects, in my personal life and work, and I can’t seem to prioritize any well enough. Trying to work on everything at once is horribly slow… Sometimes I give up and just pick something to work on and just do it. It’s something but I don’t systematically accomplish much because more and more is dumped on my plate (at work, not personally). I think I need to do one thing at a time and be ruthless. Actually, venting this right now has helped a bit.

Caroline

I’d like to add that I helped myself tremendously by banning Facebook, Linkedin, and any other social media (wasn’t too active on Twitter and didn’t touch Instaspam). I also quit Netflix and binge watching TV shows. This freed up a ton of time and I am able to read books and enjoy time outside. One major time-eater I still have is email and reading articles and newsletters.

I find it hard to focus because I am bored with my business. It is a constant struggle to not leave the work site and do something else.

Dominic Teoh

I’ve tried sectioning off time to work on the course (2 hours on Sunday & Monday each week), but about 80% of the time something comes up which takes priority.
There are other times when there isn’t anything else begging for attention, but I just don’t want to work on it then and there.

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Cheers

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I feel the constant stimulation by smart phones, computers and other digital devices really interferes with my ability to focus.

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