How to Avoid Distractions and Focus on What Matters

Too many of us can’t remember the last time we were truly able to focus on a task without getting distracted. There is always something clamoring for our attention: the phone, notifications, emails, texts, people dropping in, on and on.

If we give in to distraction, the harm goes beyond the immediate effects. Left unchecked, distraction can actually destroy our ability to focus. So how do we get back to a reality where we can reserve our attention for the things that will help us meet our goals?

Here are some effective ways to overcome distraction and focus on the things that matter:

Identify what’s important. Before you can stop being distracted you have to understand your priorities. When you have clarity about the things that matter, you have clarity about the things that don’t.

Start your day off right. Create a morning routine to give yourself structure and a sense of what you want to accomplish that day. A morning ritual not only starts your day off right but enables you finish the day off right.

Create a day plan. Write yourself a timeline of tasks and events you want to accomplish for the day, laying out everything you need to immediately get to work on. I usually advise my clients to put these plans on an index card and to include five tasks or events that need to do that that day.

Prioritize your list. Look at what is important and what is urgent. Use the Eisenhower box. Developed by Dwight Eisenhower—who was not only a two-term US president but also a five-star general and president of Columbia University—it divides tasks into four simple categories.

In the top left corner, headed Important and Urgent, you might put things like crises, deadlines, and problems.

The top right corner, Important and Not Urgent, could consist of things like relationships, planning for long-term projects, and recreation.

The bottom left corner, Not Important and Urgent, might consist of interruptions, meetings, and activities.

The bottom right corner, Not Important and Not Urgent, might consist of time wasters, pleasant activities, and trivial tasks.

The Eisenhower box helps prevent a common misstep in daily planning. Most of us default to doing urgent tasks first, but we should instead keep our focus on important tasks.

 Urgent tasks always come up, and there will always be more urgent tasks than you have time to accomplish no matter how hard you try. The only way to turn an important task into an urgent task is to give it a deadline.

Establish boundaries. An effective way to avoid distractions is to let people know you are going to be offline, or you are not going to be answering emails, or your door will be closed and you won’t be accessible. Establishing these boundaries allows you to manage your time to focus, and it helps others manage their time by knowing when you are and aren’t available for routine concerns.

Pace yourself. Learn to give each task your full attention: don’t rush or think you have to do it quickly because you have so much to get done. Every time you switch your attention from one task to another and then back again, there’s a cost.

Stop overcommitting. The best way to make sure you have time for what matters is to stop saying yes to everything. The best leaders have perfected the art of saying no so they can say yes to what is important.

Most people don’t know why they have no time to do the things that matter to them. Most of us are simply reacting to life, instead of responding to our priorities, and we become so accustomed to it that we don’t realize we are creating a reality we don’t even want.

 Lead from within: The way to concentrate on what matters is to get rid of the distractions that keep us away.


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The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR,, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.


    29. Aug, 2019

    Your version of the Eisenhower Box is one of the best I’ve seen — a perfect marriage of Eisenhower, Covey and Allen. Thanks for this article…

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