Get Focused in a Distracted World: 10 Ways to Make it Happen

by Alli Polin on February 28, 2017

There’s a stupid reason I’ve thought about no longer blogging – I just don’t have the time. Every time I open my computer and intend to write, something crazy happens. My fingers skim across the keyboard and quickly go to a rotating list of websites.


Washington Post


Sydney Morning Herald


Logically, I need to close these time and energy sucking sites and write a post or do some other work. Why can’t I stop myself?

I’m obsessed.

With the news.

With the new US President.

With the World response.

Multiple times a day, I scour each of these sites for updates and insights that will somehow magically transform my rising stress into an oasis of peace and calm.

News Flash: Not happening.

I’ll bet a lot of money that you’re doing the same thing (and if not you, someone with no more than two degrees of separation). Maybe it’s not your blog that’s suffering but your work, or your relationship, or your sleep, or your sanity.

Here’s the deal. The craziness is not about to stop. The division is not about to miraculously be bridged by next Thursday. We need to be engaged in the world AND focus on living our day-to-day lives.

Here’s the challenge: How do you moderate the obsession that eats your time and move into the next phase – engagement?

When you’re engaged, you’re focused on solutions.

When you’re obsessed, you’re focused on the problem.

When you’re engaged, you put your discretionary effort into action.

When you’re obsessed, you keep digging for more proof of your position.

When you’re engaged, you join others to create meaningful change.

When you’re obsessed, nothing else matters.

My obsession with “he who shall not be named” is hurting me. I know it.

Here are 10 ways to Ditch Obsession and Get Focused:

Time Block-It.

Let yourself go crazy and look at every site you can squeeze into the time you’ve allocated. Instead of the revolving door, open it and close it when you’re done. Don’t worry, you’ll have another break later. A suggestion? Don’t block hours, think minutes.

Know Where Your Time is Going.

There are great free apps out there that are eye openers with where you’re putting your online time. I use Rescue Time, and it’s a great reminder of much-needed time adjustment.

Use an App to Help.

If self-control is not your thing, there are apps out there for your computer to give you the willpower you may be lacking. If you’re ready to get focused, two that you may want to check out are Stay Focused and Self Control.

Put your phone in a drawer.

You’ll hear it ring but won’t be as tempted to “just look for a sec” every time you hear the buzz. If a drawer doesn’t work for you, find somewhere that does. The key is to not always have it at arm’s length.

Do Something to Distract You From Your Obsession.

Pick up a great book, watch a favorite TV show, go to the gym… find something that will help you release your brain from the constant painful churn. If you want to get focused, you’ve got to release the clutter to make room for what matters.

Take Action.

Do something besides passively watch the news and feel the pain. This is real-world; not a TV movie or the prequel to a Simpsons episode. There are a plethora of ways to be engaged and create change. It’s okay to start small. The most important thing is to find a way that resonates with you. Just stop freaking out and for goodness sake, stop complaining – that’s not what the world needs now.


Step Away From the Bash-Fest.

It’s easy to surround yourself with people who think just like you and spend hours going down into a very sad, dark, black hole. The thing with a black hole is that there is no end, no stopping point. You need to pull yourself away from the edge of that abyss if you want to stay on track with your personal and professional goals.

Ask for Help.

A surefire way to be alerted to your bad behaviors is to enlist someone else to call you out on them. Ouch. When your colleague, friend, family member sees you on the sites that are pulling your focus, ask them to tell you. “Are you on FB again?” “CNN. Really? They don’t update the site 100 times a day…”

Decide to Rise.

Focus is all about where you look and that’s up to you. My brilliant friend has decided that a daily effort to look for the good, and share it, is a way to not only get focused on positive outcomes, but also influence others to do the same. 

Choose to Get Unstuck.

When you’re stuck in a rut (like I am with the news), you’ve got to choose to change. All of the tips and sites above will help, but until you tap into your free will to make a better choice, you’ll be stuck too. Powerful change often starts with a choice. Step into your personal power.

Will you turn to the light or the dark?

Will you fuel yourself with anger or possibility?

Will you create change or wait it out?

Most importantly, will you get focused or live a distracted life?

The choice is yours.

As for me, this morning I did check in with a couple of sites but moved on because if I let the news stop me from doing what I love to do, that will be a sad, sad day.

How do you find your focus? I’d love to hear your tips and strategies.

PS. If you’re ready to make a change, check out my eCourse, Get Unstuck and Choose to Move

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Jon Mertz February 28, 2017 at 7:00 am


Some great ideas on how to re-gain our focus. I have been doing the time block approach. Each day, I will block out time and put a project on the calendar. It helps stay focused on the work I need to do. Also important is to take a break, going for a walk or taking a meditation moment. We need time to renew our focus.



Alli Polin March 1, 2017 at 11:33 pm

Time blocking works well! … but it does take discipline. Love your approach to not only block time for work but know that the breaks are built in too. Critical!

Thanks for sharing your experience, Jon.



Joy Guthrie February 28, 2017 at 9:56 am

Great suggestions Alli. I also use a time block on some tasks. I can’t put my phone away because I do try to respond to business related posts as soon as possible. When it comes to the craziness of politics, I decided not to post anything about politics. It’s very difficult not to post viewpoints on politics, especially when I see people making such harsh assessments on every side (and find myself agreeing in some respects). We always debated politics live in our family. It’s very strange to see that even our family political debates have quieted when the world is going nuts about it.


Alli Polin March 1, 2017 at 11:36 pm

I’ve been very reluctant to post anything about politics too. We talk about it at home but on social sites, there is so much divisiveness. Still, just because I’m not posting, it doesn’t mean I’m not actively reading and nodding along and making myself crazy.

Also – totally hear you on the phone. It’s a tough balance with responsiveness and time-sink for so many. Sounds like you’ve got it mastered.

Thanks, Joy!



Terri Klass February 28, 2017 at 11:23 am

Fantastic strategies to keep in our flow and not allow outside forces to get hold of us! I try to allot timeframes to accomplish certain goals and then reward myself when I have accomplished them. If I find that I keep getting distracted it is often a red flag that I might need to go back to that task later.

I too am finding it so hard to stay free of all the politics here in the U.S. I just try to turn a deaf ear to it.

Thanks Alli and will share with everyone!


Alli Polin March 1, 2017 at 11:38 pm

Another fan of time blocking! I try to do it but don’t always do it well. When I look at my Rescue Team time at the end of the week, there are often surprises. The good news is that the sites and apps that are high-value for me, get most of my time.

Turning a deaf ear. I hear you. 😉 Sometimes the noise is so loud, it gets through no matter what.



LaRae Quy February 28, 2017 at 11:29 am

Thanks so much for the tips on practical apps that I can check out to help make myself more productive. Like you, I check news feeds, emails, etc. and find myself wasting so much time! Love this post….


Alli Polin March 1, 2017 at 11:39 pm

The two apps that I mention that block other sites and force us to focus when we’re unable to force ourselves are high on my list to try. What makes me nervous is that even if you turn them off, or reboot, you can’t over-ride it. Then again, maybe that’s just what I need.

Thanks, LaRae!


John Bennett February 28, 2017 at 11:59 am

As the cliche goes: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem!” Even though you might be a ‘small fish in a large ocean,’ you’ll feel as if your time is better used; and who knows, you might be the keystone for progress… As you wrote: “The choice is yours!”

Like your suggestions as well as your contrasting on ‘engaged’ with ‘obsessed’.


Alli Polin March 1, 2017 at 11:41 pm

Thanks, John. Obsessed feels, well, yucky. Engaged lights my fire – making the move.

Also, it is up to us how we use our time or let it slip away. Why not be intentional and make a strong choice? (I know that you and I are in alignment on the power of choice too.)



John Bennett February 28, 2017 at 12:09 pm

It’s amazing to me: Three of the many people whose posts are very important to me are you, Alli, Seth Gogin, and Josh Ellison. In the past thirty minutes or so, I’ve Considered and commented on all three of these individuals’ posts – AND, to me, they all mesh /align very nicely. I tried to capture that alignment in my Medium comments on Jonas’ post – written BEFORE finding Seth’s and your posts BUT still aligned with all three.

I know it’s my efforts I’m ‘self-promoting’ sort of… But I believe strongly that it’s a key part of lifelong Effective Learning that’s so important!!!


Alli Polin March 1, 2017 at 11:42 pm

Interesting! Now I’m reading both of them! Love when the messages out there seem to be magically aligned by the universe. I truly am grateful for your support and the insights that you always add to the conversation here.



Chuck Bartok February 28, 2017 at 3:15 pm

Well said!
I have no problems with phones.
Don’t use a cell phone other than to call those wishing contact.
Our land line is answered if it is during allocated phone time, otherwise most leave a message and if they don’t it is not important. ~~smile.
I also have learned over the past 60 years in business to use Time as a Tool and it always stays in MY control.


Alli Polin March 1, 2017 at 11:44 pm

Thanks for your comment, Chuck!

A cell phone to call people? A rarity! 😉

Last night my work line was ringing in the middle of the night. Well, closer to 5:00 AM. They called twice in a row. I did not pick up either time. When we let our boundaries get trampled on, they ultimately disappear.

I’m with you on Time as a Tool!

Thanks so much!



Chuck Bartok March 1, 2017 at 11:49 pm

I appreciate your response.
and keep Time (which we know is finite)in line!


Susan March 1, 2017 at 8:27 am

I can very much relate to this Alli! One thing I started doing just this week is no news or FB before I start my day. I even moved those apps off my main screen and turned the notifications off.

For years I stayed away from watching the news, too. Time to stop again because there is just too much rehashing and opining. It’s a waste of time.

The struggle is real! Glad to know I am in good company 🙂


Alli Polin March 1, 2017 at 11:46 pm

Hey there, Susan!

I like it! I admit, I’m one of those people who grabs my phone when I’m just waking up and still in bed and I pull up CNN or WaPo. On the one hand, it catches me up on world events. On the other… well, I think you know that one.

Grateful to know I’m not alone too! Working to get things back into alignment in my life even if the World Stage remains out of whack for a long time to come.



gary gruber March 1, 2017 at 9:05 am

Interesting that many of us have these “gimmicks” that work for us. I often look at the clock and then make a commitment to stop what I’m doing so I can either stop “wasting” time on social media or move on to something more important and productive. What helps me to refocus and review priorities and my use of time, since most of my time is mine to own and decide how I want to use it, are occasional retreats of being totally unplugged. Just finished Tom Friedman’s “Thank For Being Late” which he calls “an optimist’s guide to thriving in an age of acceleration.” And, as somewhat of an antidote, am now reading “The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere” by Pico Iyer. His quote, “In an age of acceleration there is nothing as exhilarating as going slow” is one of my favorites. Because I don’t have to work for an income I have the luxury of lots of reading, reflecting, leisure time activities and I am enormously grateful to not being engaged if I so choose. And, here’s the best part. I don’t feel guilty for opting out although I used to struggle with thinking I had to be engaged in issues and in the community in order to live a meaningful life. It just ain’t so. For those of you who might be interested in a “retreat” with no more than 8-10 people, stay tuned. I’m designing one which will be for 3 full days in northern NM or southern CO this Spring a bit later.


Alli Polin March 1, 2017 at 11:50 pm

Sounds like your self-control serves you well. Sometimes it does for me, other times, not so much.

My life here in Australia has much more flexibility than my corporate life did in the USA. If I choose to waste the day, I can but on the flip side, if I let myself waste the day, I will. I’m much more a fan of living with intention.

Also, thanks for mentioning those books. Adding them to my reading list.

Lastly, your retreat sounds exciting! Can’t wait to hear more about it when you’re ready to share the scoop.

Thanks so much for your comments, Gary. Greatly appreciated.



gary gruber March 2, 2017 at 9:23 am

Thanks, Alli. Depending on what you want to add to your reading list, I have several to recommend. We enjoyed “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman and it’s also a movie. Like many, I thought the book much better than the movie. I was reading “How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci” by Michael Gelb and put it down but going back to it today. I find that most people really appreciate flexibility and being able to craft their own schedules. It is truly a luxury in this day and age. Will let you know later about the “retreat” as it evolves. Take care, be well, enjoy!


Alli Polin March 2, 2017 at 6:47 pm

Thanks! Just got A Man Called Ove yesterday. Heard it’s great and I’m always looking for new books. The list is growing!



Ingrid March 11, 2017 at 10:46 pm

Hi Alli, Great post. Ignoring the distractions in today’s world is getting harder and harder. Here is a link to a piece about the news which might help with your addiction:

I stopped watching the news a few years ago. Turned off the TV breakfast show, and avoided watching the news at night. The constant negativity was not constructive. The media thrive on fear, and I found the news was contributing to my own nervousness in the world. Stupid to say the least when I am a keen traveller, and love to learn about the world we live in. If something really important happens, someone will tell you about it.

I can only say “Turn it off”. And you’ll feel much better about the world. Cheers, Ingrid


Alli Polin March 12, 2017 at 7:49 am

Thanks for sharing the link to that article, Ingrid! I stopped watching the news ages ago. It would stress me out that I was always tempted to turn it off every time my children walked in the room. Says something.

It can be really hard to let go of the constant stream of information but at some point, it becomes an unhealthy obsession. Like anything, part of breaking the (bad) habit is more than knowing you can step away – it’s doing it.

Thanks so much!



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