How to Find Focus in a World Full of Distractions


“Focus is often a matter of deciding what things you’re not going to do.” —John Carmack

Distractions are everywhere. Our world is a constant feed of information and entertainment. We carry our phones with us everywhere we go, connect to the internet from just about anywhere, and are bombarded by advertisements on nearly every flat surface we see. And that doesn’t even mention the 24-hour news cycle or ever-populated streaming services constantly vying for our attention.

We are besieged with distraction.

And every bit of information that enters our mind has one goal: to gain control of our attention and resources.

With so much information battling for space in our minds, it’s no wonder our attention spans have been steadily shrinking. According to some studies, our attention span is now less than a goldfish.

The information age is literally rewiring our brains.

These distractions are something we can all relate to and recognize as a problem in our world.

But perhaps even more destructive to us in the long run are the larger distractions that drive us away from accomplishing our most significant goals. The trivial-information-overload distractions may pull our attention from the work right in front of us, but the larger distractions in life keep us from realizing the life our souls call us to live, focused on greater goals of significance and meaning.

For example, the distraction of a high-paying and powerful career or business opportunity can distract us from using our talents to benefit our immediate community. The distraction of maintaining a large and perfect home may pull us from caring for the people living in it. The urge to check up on our social media feeds steals more of our time than the friends right in front of us. And the opportunity to spend money on newer and trendier possessions often keeps us from using it to accomplish a greater good in this world. In each case, these lifestyle distractions keep us from accomplishing a greater significance with our lives.

These are the distractions that cause irreversible harm in our lives. Unfortunately, too often, they go unnoticed. It’s easy to notice that I stayed up too late scrolling Tik-Tok videos, it’s much more difficult to notice when I’ve sacrificed my child’s well-being for that new promotion at work.

Often, our lives go unevaluated. As a result, we are lured away from true significance in our lives. And our greatest goals go unmet.

The unexamined life is not worth living,” as Socrates so famously pointed out.

How then, do we recognize these large—yet subtle—distractions in our lives? How do we regularly assess the path of our lives to ensure that we are seeking and investing in the most significant?

It may not be as hard as we imagine. It only requires a little intentionality and effort. And often, realizing the need is the first step.

Consider committing time and effort to these helpful keys to identify the presence of significant distractions in our lives:

1. Be mindful of the culture we’re swimming in.

All around us, nearly every moment of the day, messages are battling for space in our minds. They promote products, messages, and worldviews. Often, the urgent voices will be far louder than the significant ones.

Identify both the messages and their sources. Make intentional decisions because of it. And remember that just because others have decided to define success in terms of financial goals, popularity, or influence, you don’t have to.

2. Pause and reflect.

Next time you desire to make a purchase, check social media, work late, or engage in a habit that controls you, pause. Consider the urge and reflect upon it. Is it really the most effective use of your time or money? Or is there something more significant you can accomplish with your limited resources?

3. Set Clear Daily Goals

Start each day by setting clear, achievable goals. Write down the top three tasks you want to accomplish and focus on them throughout the day. Having a clear plan helps you stay on track and reduces the likelihood of getting sidetracked by less important tasks.

Reflect on your progress at the end of the day to adjust your approach and stay motivated.

4. Review and record.

Journal your time and spending over the course of one week. Each evening, spend 5-10 minutes to make some rough notes on your day.

How much time did you spend working? How much energy did you put towards your family, your friends, or your faith? Where did you spend your financial resources this week? What did you intentionally focus on getting better at today?

The hard evidence of your life’s focus will become easy to diagnose and difficult to argue with when you see it on paper.

5. Get some outside perspective.

Ask a trusted friend, a spouse, or a family member to speak into your life. Consider asking this simple question, “Hey, I’ve been doing some life evaluation lately. Have you noticed any unhealthy habits in my life?” When they answer, don’t get defensive. Instead, search deeply for the truth in their response.

6. Find time alone.

Begin to practice moments of solitude away from the distractions of this world. This can be hard at first, but the more you implement the practice, the more comfortable you’ll become with it. And the more comfortable you become with it, the more you’ll allow the silence to reveal your true heart, desires, and intentions.

7. Seek some inspiration.

Surround yourself with people who are living out your goals. Surround yourself with people who are accomplishing meaningful and significant things with their lives. You’ll find numerous people online who can encourage you from a distance, but they’ll never replace the interpersonal interaction with a friend right in front of you. Seek them out.

8. Establish Digital Boundaries

One of the most significant sources of distraction is our digital devices. Set specific times during the day when you disconnect from your phone, computer, and other digital distractions. Use these moments to engage in activities that foster personal growth and connection with others.

9. Live with fewer possessions.

Often, the things we own become far more of a distraction to our lives than we realize. We spend time and money researching them, purchasing them, organizing them, cleaning them, fixing them, discarding them, and replacing them. Our possessions often add more burden to our life than benefit. And you’ll never fully realize the benefits of living with less until you actually choose to pursue it.

There is little doubt our world is filled with distractions—it always has been. And there is little doubt that those who achieve the greatest significance in life learn to manage them effectively.

It is certainly worth the investment to recognize them in our lives and make the necessary life adjustments… after all, we only get one shot at it.

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