5 Surprising Reasons Why You Cannot Stay Focused

Tue Aug 15, 2017

As numerous things compete for our attention daily, it’s now more important than ever before to know how to stay focused on our highest priorities.

There is a saying, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing,” which really means that what matters most is our main priorities.

As we all have different responsibilities, what’s important to one person may not necessarily be another person’s priority. The challenge we face is to stay focused on what we’re doing because we can easily get distracted with so many things now.

Most adults can easily lose or waste up to fours hours daily because of distractions, which may include watching television, surfing the internet and being on various social media platforms. Over a course of a working week, that equates to 20 hours, and around 1,000 hours per year that’s wasted.

If the average adult works for 40 years, that’s equivalent to 40,000 hours wasted during their adult life because of distractions. This means about 4.5 years of an adult’s life, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is wasted as a result of distractions.

If we convert that into monetary terms, it’s not surprising to learn that distractions costs us more than just time. Imagine missing out on 4.5 years of income throughout our adult life. Once we consider the opportunity costs, or the things we could have been doing instead with that time, it adds up to more than just 4.5 years of income.

It’s time to take back control and be more focused.

How to avoid getting distracted

Why you cannot stay focused

During the launch of my book, Ignite Your Leadership, one of the main promotion strategies was to create a virtual online leadership summit, where various experts would be interviewed on leadership.

I had the responsibility of creating the website, editing and uploading the interviews, creating all the graphics, sending out emails, and monitoring activity during the summit. For two months, I had just one focus — the online summit. I did not focus on any other work during that period.

As a result of having a single focus, the required tasks were completed on time and the summit went through with no major problems. Any queries that came through were handled and addressed promptly. The success of the summit helped my book become an international best-seller.

When we’re truly focused on our highest priorities and what matters most, distractions are not an issue.

5 Reasons Why You Cannot Stay Focused

  1. No passion for what you’re doing. When we are just going through the motions and are not emotionally engaged in what we’re doing, it’s very easy to get distracted by an email with a link to a video or article, start surfing the internet, or pick up our phone. The solution is to do work that we’re passionate about or work that is meaningful to us.
  2. No clearly defined outcomes. If we’re doing things we think we should without fully knowing what we’re trying to accomplish, when things don’t go as expected, our focus will be affected. Everything we do should have a reason behind it and we should also know in advance the outcome we want to achieve.
  3. No agenda control. When we don’t have control of our agenda, it means we’re more in a reactive state rather than consciously planning out our day or week. This can easily lead to frustration and overwhelm, and also slow our progress towards our outcomes. Using our calendar better is vital if we want to avoid distractions.
  4. Not being aware that you’re distracted. This may appear strange, however as we are creatures of habit, we may not even be aware of how we allow ourselves to be distracted. Picking up our phones multiple times each working hour may appear to be harmless but that behaviour dilutes our focus and affects our ability to get things done efficiently. By becoming more aware of how we allow ourselves to get distracted, we’ll be in a better position to change things.
  5. No reward or payoff. As we all love novelty or new experiences, whenever we have to do something without a reward or payoff, it’s a lot harder to stay focused. If we have a big enough reward for getting something done, and it’s something we really want, we’ll be more inclined to do what it takes to finish the task to get our reward.

If we develop our ability to stay focused and concentrate better when we’re working, not only will we get things done faster, we’ll also do better work and create more free time for ourselves. If we continue to allow ourselves to get distracted, we’ll be reducing our ability to stay focused and pay the consequences for not doing our best work.

Action Step: Monitor how you work during the next week. Keep track of how long you work on a single task before switching to something else. Also keep track of how long you spend when you switch tasks. At the end of the week, collate how much time you spent on doing important work and on other unimportant things.

Question: What could be another reason why we cannot stay focused?


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