Staying Focused and Avoiding Distractions

Three Ways to Keep on Track

Christmas in night city park, empty public garden with decorated fir-trees, bench and lighting garlands. Winter cityview landscape, Urban place for walking and recreation Cartoon vector illustration | Credit: Courtesy

If you’ve walked down State Street recently, you’ll notice how hard it is not to be distracted by the sparkling lights and shiny Christmas ornaments everywhere.

For many of us, this kind of distraction actually happens year-round.

You start a project, get halfway through it, get distracted, and start something else. You might even kick things off with the best of intentions, intending to stay super focused, but somehow, out of nowhere, you get off track, and suddenly you’re moving in an entirely different direction.

In fact, there’s plenty of research that shows getting distracted makes us take longer to finish a project and that interruptions don’t just take up more of our time, they significantly reduce the overall quality of our work.

When I’m helping my clients to increase productivity, they’ll often mention how easy it is to get derailed from their work (and home) lives. There’s always some task that looks brighter and shinier. But you have to ask yourself: Will changing course on a new task help me move forward with the main goal at hand?

What we’re really talking about here is focus. Finding, using, and maintaining focus are three critical skills to getting and staying productive. This is true not only for individuals, but also for teams, employees, and entire companies.

If you are an entrepreneur, coach, author, speaker, writer, or other, then you know the extreme importance of maintaining focus to achieve the desired results. With that in mind, here are three suggestions for achieving focus — and resisting those bright, shiny distractions. 

1. Know what’s important.  How do you know where you’re going if you haven’t mapped it out? Take the time to set goals and align your vision with your values. That will make reaching those goals that much easier. Do this on a personal and professional level. Don’t forget to do it with your team at least once a year, even if that team is just you and one other person.

2. Set yourself up for success.  Create automated systems, eliminate the noise around you (if you can), and set up your environment to help keep you focused. On your computer, keep open only the programs and icons that you need. Shut down everything else. 

Doing this will force you to focus only on what’s right in front of you, rather than draining your energy (and focus) toggling back and forth. 

Set up times to engage in super-focusing. By which, I mean choose an hour a day when you turn off all distractions, dig down, and get that project you’re avoiding done. 

3. Learn to get back on track quickly.  Learn to become aware of when your attention is getting pulled away to some new, bright, and shiny task. Develop methods to help you get back on track quickly. 

Some ideas include stopping and taking a deep breath, immediately shutting down any computer programs that are not relevant to the task at hand, or reviewing your to-do list for the day. (To-do lists should have your top five most important tasks for the day, so you can pick one to get refocused around).

Our brains can only concentrate at high levels for about 45 minutes at a time, so be sure to build some breaks into your day. If possible, fill your lungs with fresh air. Along with consistent breaks, don’t forget the power of a good snack or a drink of water to wake up both body and mind and get you back on track. 


Sara Caputo transforms how individuals, teams, and small businesses navigate workflow and increase productivity. Her work has been featured in Working Women, Success, and Forbes, as well as other national and regional publications. She can be reached at sara@saracaputoconsulting.com.

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