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Mindful Living

How to focus and eliminate distractions from daily life

J Malacoff Headshot
Julia Malacoff March, 05, 2020

Writer, trainer, nail art aficionado

Between a phone that won't stop buzzing with notifications, a work inbox that constantly demands attention and the other interruptions we're faced with on an average day, it's easy to understand why so many people feel like they've forgotten how to focus. The rhythms of everyday life — taking care of children, making moves at work, keeping up with friends and family, finding time for self-care — have plenty of us looking for ways to eliminate distractions.

Here are five creative strategies for decluttering your life mentally, physically and emotionally so you can make the most of every day.

1. Swear off multitasking

Yep, it's time to go cold turkey on doing a million things at once. This is one of the first strategies psychologists recommend for those trying to learn how to focus more effectively. The reason is simple: No matter how good you are at multitasking, you can never give your complete attention to anything if you're doing something else at the same time. Your brain actually gets overwhelmed when you try to do two things at once.

Want a clearer head? Consider eating a meal without watching TV. Only have the tab you're working in open on your work computer. Go headphone-free on your next run. Whatever you're doing, really experience doing it.

2. Create boundaries around technology
Focused young African female entrepreneur deep in thought while working at a table in a modern office building lobby

There's no doubt that technology has benefits, but for many people it's also one of the biggest obstacles to maintaining focus. How can you eliminate distractions in the face of a constantly refreshing news feed and a queued-up Netflix playlist? So, try setting some ground rules for yourself when it comes to where, how and when you use technology.

Maybe replace that huge TV in your living room with a piece of art you love, or designate screen-free hours at home. Consider taking 30 minutes a day at work to brainstorm or work on a project that doesn't involve your computer or phone. You could even try taking a screen-free weekend to spend a whole 48 hours focusing on yourself and bonding IRL with your family and friends.

3. Find peace in rituals

Being able to go into autopilot mode gives your brain a rest and allows you to take comfort in a familiar set of actions, especially if you're preparing for (or recovering from) an otherwise hectic day. Think about which routines you already have (or are interested in starting) that could become habitual. Choose an activity that also benefits your well-being, such as completing a consistent skincare routine at your desk or vanity, having a quiet cup of coffee alone on the porch each morning or taking your dog on a walk at the same time every day.

4. Do a gut check before agreeing to social plans

Spending time with the people you care about is a crucial part of your well-being. At the same time, overcommitting socially can distract you from the other important things in your life. Whenever you're invited to do something social, ask yourself: Am I up to attending this book club, brunch or dinner party? Do I really want to go? If the answer is anything other than a resounding "yes," consider taking a pass in favor of some personal time.

5. Spend more time in nature

Maybe you've heard of forest bathing. This practice is used primarily in Japan as a form of preventative health care. Forest bathing essentially boils down to going for a leisurely walk in the forest, and it carries some serious perks. Not only can it boost your cardiovascular health and immune system, but it may also help you achieve you that peaceful, focused state of mind you're after.

How can you soak in the nature around you? Eliminate distractions by taking time to hike, plan a day trip to a nearby forest or park or even make a small change to your daily habits. For instance, you might change your walk home from work to a more foliage-dense area to take advantage of all nature has to offer. It doesn't take much to start to get your focus back — and the benefits are real.

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