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6 Things That Are Killing Your Ability to Focus

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Need to focus but just can’t make it happen? See if these things are standing in your way.

1. Smartphone – According to Deloitte, the average person checks his/her phone 46 times per day. Assuming you sleep for six hours a night that averages out to checking your phone 2.5 times an hour. That’s a lot of interruptions. Most people are looking at the phone out of habit not necessity. Knock it off.

2. Computer – Whether it dings every time you get an email (you should turn that off) or just sits there tempting you, there’s no end to the distractions a computer offers. Email to read or clean out, files to re-organize, web searches to be done. If this work you need to do is on the computer then shut everything else down except the task at hand. There’s even an app you can download that will prevent you from accessing the internet entirely or at least certain websites when you should be doing something else. It’s called StayFocusd (and that’s not a typo). Check it out.

3. People – Stopping by your office to chat, instant messaging, calling every half hour to get an answer they need to keep their project moving forward. If you really need to focus you need to let people know you’re not available for a short time. Shut your door, turn the ringer down on your phone, block focus time on your calendar so it’s clear you’re busy or schedule quick morning and afternoon check-ins so you can answer questions in batches.

4. Overwhelm – Too many tasks, too many projects, too many commitments, too many deadlines, too many ideas. I’ve long said that it’s vital to develop the ability to choose. Until you can choose and be comfortable with your choice, you’ll always have too many things vying for your attention.

5. Disorganization – Maybe your desk, or your To Do list or a lack of systems is what is disorganized. Maybe all three. Physical disorganization creates mental disorganization. If you need to focus right now you might do well to just move everything off of your desk into a nice neat stack. Ignore everything else on your messy To Do list and get down to focusing on the one thing demanding your attention right now.

6. You – Being tired, hungry, thirsty, too full, overly caffeinated or hepped up on sugar make a dramatic difference in your ability to focus. Be mindful of how you are managing your own energy and food/beverages choices. Make small changes and see what happens. Once you know what your ideal physical state is you’ll be better able to make sure you’re in that state when you need to be.

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