This post may contain affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase something, I will receive a commission with no extra cost to you. For more information, please read my disclaimer.
It’s 3 PM, you’re on your third cup of coffee, and instead of concentrating on the task at hand, your attention keeps bouncing off to the latest viral videos. Sound familiar? Even the most dedicated and goal-oriented people often find themselves struggling with how to become more focused in their work and personal lives.
As a goal success coach passionate about productivity, I’ve spent countless hours exploring this challenge. I looked into the science of focus and motivation, experimented with multiple productivity techniques, tested a bunch of focus apps, and distilled the essence of what truly works.
My journey led me to realize that the key to improving focus is a combination of 4 things:
- Keeping your attention away from distractions
- Understanding how your mind works and leveraging it
- Utilizing the right tools that help you concentrate
- Organizing your workplace (both physical and digital) for better focus
In this article, I’ve compiled a list of ten powerful strategies to help you maintain focus and boost your motivation. These techniques will allow you to regain control over your concentration, regardless of the distractions that may come your way.
Why do I lack focus?
Lack of focus isn’t an inherent personality trait or a sign of a weak will. It’s a complex issue affected by a variety of factors, most of which have nothing to do with your current task.
Understanding that your capacity to concentrate isn’t driven purely by your willpower or determination helps to shed light on why you struggle to maintain focus.
Top factors that affect your focus, according to science:
Lack of sleep
Your cognitive functions, including attention and focus, are deeply influenced by your sleep quality. According to research, sleep deprivation negatively affects your performance in many ways, such as reducing attention span, reaction time, working speed, and accuracy, as well as impacting decision-making and long-term memory.
An unhealthy lifestyle, characterized by poor nutrition and lack of exercise, can significantly impair your ability to focus. Various studies show that exercising consistently improves cognitive functions, including concentration and attention span.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a medical condition that makes it hard for both kids and adults to pay attention and stay organized. People with ADHD typically experience chronic problems with sustained attention and find themselves easily distracted.
Stress and anxiety
Chronic stress and anxiety can also substantially affect your ability to focus. According to BetterUp‘s research, the inability to concentrate is a common challenge among people experiencing anxiety.
In a 2020 study on stress and performance, the participants experiencing chronic stress demonstrated a noticeable decrease in task response speed and accuracy. Their responses were slower, and their ability to perform the task accurately was lower compared to the non-stressed group.
Saying yes to too many things
Overcommitting yourself can lead to a scatterbrained state where it’s hard to maintain focus on one task. According to American Psychological Association, multitasking can cause a 40% drop in productivity.
Saying no to everything that dilutes your focus is one of the best productivity hacks for achieving your goals faster.
Lack of organization skills
Without clear priorities or a systematic approach to your tasks, you may find it difficult to maintain focus. Setting goals serves as a catalyst for adopting new behaviors, directing your focus, and maintaining momentum in life.
Knowing the basic factors that affect concentration, let’s now look at the practical steps that help improve your motivation and ability to focus.
10 ways to become more focused and motivated
Concentrating on tasks may seem impossible at times, especially when you feel lazy or unmotivated. This state has a tendency to sometimes wash over you when you least expect it, leaving you in a slump of inactivity.
However, overcoming these moments of lethargy is entirely possible, and it all comes down to intentionally creating a routine that fosters focus.
Here are 10 steps you can take to become more focused and motivated:
1. Create a focused environment
Your surroundings shape your ability to focus. A chaotic workspace will generate constant distractions, while an organized one promotes calm and concentration.
Personalizing your work environment with elements that resonate with your interests adds a layer of comfort and motivation. Be it your favorite books, a piece of art, or a soothing indoor plant, make your space a reflection of you!
Having a dedicated place for work at home is one of the main productivity factors. Ensure your workspace combines functionality with comfort. For example, ergonomic furniture aids in maintaining a proper posture and reduces fatigue from prolonged sitting, good lighting helps avoid eye strain, and having a source of natural light adds a soothing ambiance.
To engage more senses during your focused work, you can also burn scented candles designed specifically for home office productivity and listen to background music that increases concentration. Small changes in your work environment often result in substantial improvements in focus and motivation.
2. Define your ‘why’
Knowing your ‘why’ serves as a strong source of motivation. When you have a core purpose or the compelling reason behind your efforts, it changes the way you view ordinary tasks.
With a strong ‘why,’ even trivial daily tasks transform into meaningful work that contributes to your big goal, and challenges become stepping stones you are more excited to tackle.
Take time to reflect on your aspirations, understand your values, and align your tasks with these values. A deep emotional connection to your ‘why’ often makes maintaining focus much more effortless.
3. Write down your goals
Numerous studies have shown that setting clear goals has a significant positive impact on focus and productivity. One 35-year study found that goal setting leads to higher levels of task performance across various domains. When people set specific, challenging goals, they tend to produce greater effort, maintain higher levels of focus, and demonstrate increased task persistence.
Another study also demonstrated that formulating specific plans for achieving goals helps direct attention and filter out distractions. By clarifying intentions, you can prioritize tasks and allocate your cognitive resources more effectively, improving focus and motivation.
Having a physical or digital list of your goals encourages accountability and motivation. Every glance at your list serves as a reminder of your commitments, while crossing off each completed task instills a sense of achievement, further fueling your focus.
4. Eliminate distractions completely
Distractions are a common culprit behind a lack of focus. From endless social media notifications to human interactions, constant interruptions at work shatter concentration and induce stress. Recognizing and removing these distractions is pivotal for a focused state of mind.
According to surveys, almost all employees (99%) face a decline in productivity due to unexpected interruptions during work. And if you work remotely, there is an additional set of distractions at home that you have to keep under control.
Strive for a tidy, quiet workspace to minimize distractions. Consider putting your phone in Do Not Disturb mode and designating specific times for checking emails or social media.
Every effort towards eliminating distractions contributes to improved focus and efficiency, whether you are working, studying, or pursuing personal goals.
5. Use a focus timer
One of the most popular methods for improving focus is called the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a time management method that means working in focused sprints of 25 or 50 minutes where you only concentrate on one task. After each session like that, you’ll have a 5 or 10-minute break before you focus on the next activity.
Breaking work into manageable chunks maintains a high level of energy and concentration, and there are all kinds of Pomodoro timers out there designed to assist you with this technique.
6. Batch your tasks
Incorporating task batching (a productivity technique where similar tasks are grouped together and completed in one go) into your routine is a really good step to take if you struggle with focus.
By reducing the mental energy lost in switching tasks, you allow your mind to remain in a consistent frame of thought, and do more in less time.
Batching similar tasks, such as managing emails or scheduling meetings, allows your brain to concentrate on one type of task at a time. This streamlined workflow results in a surge in productivity and helps you focus on just one type of work instead of multitasking.
7. Review your goals regularly
Setting goals is important, but just setting and forgetting them will not keep you focused. In fact, research shows that 92% of people never achieve their New Year’s resolutions.
One of the main problems contributing to this shocking number is not checking in with your goals. Regularly reviewing your goals helps you stay on track, maintain focus, and remind yourself of your aspirations. Ignoring this part often leads to forgetting your goals, getting sidetracked with unimportant things, and following the wrong path.
At least once every month, sit with your inspiring planner to review your goals, evaluate your progress, identify any roadblocks, and adjust your strategies if necessary. Doing this will ensure you’re moving in the right direction and staying aligned with your objectives.
8. Create a support circle
Surrounding yourself with positive, like-minded people who inspire you with their actions and attitudes is a good way to boost your focus and motivation long term.
Aim to build a circle of friends who can offer support and constructive feedback whenever you feel stuck or start doubting yourself. Another proven method is to find an accountability partner who will motivate you during challenging times and celebrate your successes with you.
Nurture relationships with those who positively influence your life. Being around people who inspire and support you helps keep your focus sharp and your motivation high.
9. Strengthen your brain
Regular mental workouts improve your cognitive abilities, including memory, attention, and cognitive flexibility. You can utilize apps that offer brain exercises, such as BrainApps, to enhance mental sharpness and focus.
Consider these cognitive exercises as a gym for your mind! Regular engagement in these exercises will improve your ability to focus and make faster decisions.
10. Reward focused work
Scientific research consistently supports the idea that rewarding yourself for focused work is a powerful approach to staying motivated. The concept of reward-based stimulation and the resulting performance boost is rooted in behavioral psychology and neuroscience.
Studies have shown that the anticipation of rewards triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and motivation, in the brain’s reward system. When you set specific goals and reward yourself upon completion, it creates a positive association between the task and the reward, reinforcing the behavior and increasing motivation for more focused work in the future.
To take this a step further, I suggest you reward yourself not just for achievements but for productive behavior itself. For example, listen to your favorite feel-good song on a break after you have done four successful Pomorodos.
Rewards foster a more positive outlook towards work, encouraging better focus and productivity. If you tend to forget your accomplishments quickly and always feel like you aren’t productive, try rewarding the focused work and see where it takes you.
Natural ways to increase focus and motivation
To implement a holistic approach to enhancing focus and motivation, you should pay more attention to your health, both mental and physical.
It’s about reconnecting with your natural rhythms and providing yourself with the essential nourishment that’s often overlooked in our busy and productivity-obsessed lives.
Here is a handful of natural ways that can help you boost your focus:
If you often feel distracted and unfocused during the day, you might be underestimating the importance of a good night’s sleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, adults need at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep every day for optimal health and concentration.
Prioritize sleep hygiene by creating a restful environment, sticking to a regular sleep schedule, and avoiding screens before bed. You can use some kind of sleep tracker to learn more about your sleeping patterns (I use Fitbit Inspire 2).
Mindfulness meditation has been scientifically shown to increase focus and reduce mind-wandering. It works by training your brain to focus on the present moment and reduce the rush of jumbled thoughts that can crowd your mind.
Start by meditating for just a few minutes each day, and if you stay consistent, the practice will become easier, and you’ll be able to build it up (talking from experience here – I also used to say that meditation is “not for me”).
Do a digital detox
Our digital devices constantly pull at our attention and overstimulate our brains, making it harder to concentrate on important tasks.
You can give your brain a much-needed rest by periodically unplugging and taking technology-free breaks. This will help you reconnect with your thoughts and goals, realign with your purpose, and discover a fresh source of motivation.
Spend time in nature
Exposure to nature not only reduces stress but also rejuvenates your mind and enhances cognitive function. Some find nature-related hobbies like hiking or gardening beneficial for reducing brain fog and improving the ability to focus.
Make it a habit to at least take regular short walks in a park, garden, or any natural environment.
Maintain proper diet
What you eat and drink has a profound effect on your mental clarity. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats provides the nutrients necessary for optimal brain function.
Additionally, research shows that even the slightest level (2%) of dehydration is enough to impair your cognitive performance, affecting short-term memory, attention, and decision-making, so be sure to drink enough water throughout the day.
To sum up, achieving a higher level of focus and concentration involves a multi-faceted approach. From your workspace and your daily habits to the tools you use and your work routine, every aspect plays a part.
Remember that the journey to becoming more focused isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon, and every step you take makes a difference.