How to Focus Your Attention on What is Most Important in Your Life

What is most important to you?
Image by nattu (license).

“Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.”
Jose Ortega y Gasset

“Give whatever you are doing and whoever you are with the gift of your attention.”
Jim Rohn

Keeping your attention on what is most important in your life is one of the most essential ingredients if you want to be able to:

  • Stick with your goals.
  • Achieve what you want to achieve each day.
  • Appreciate what you have in your life.
  • Clearly see how you can use your time here in the best way.

Like with most things, this is something that is of course easier said than done. It’s easy to get distracted way too much and to feel overwhelmed, stressed out and spread out too thin.

But with some limits, with some barriers that keep much of the daily clutter out you can become sharp and focused once again. So let’s get started with that by establishing or reminding yourself of a few very helpful habits.

Write down your top 4 priorities. Post them where you see them every day.

To keep your attention in the right place it is essential to remind yourself every day of what is truly most important.

So what is most important for you this year? An important project at work? Your family? Improving your social life? Your blog, photography, soccer or debt?

Think about it and reduce what is important in your life to the top 4 most important priorities. Write those four things down and post them in your workspace or on your bathroom mirror or on your fridge.

Work in a no-distractions zone.

When you work then do not work in a place filled with unnecessary distractions. Instead take a few minutes and make a plan.

Ask yourself: what are the 3 most common distractions that keep me from doing my work in a focused way?

Figure out how you can prevent those things from distracting you. A few suggestions to help you limit your distractions are:

  • Shut the door to your office.
  • Shut down email, instant messaging programs and put your cell phone in silent mode for an hour or more at a time.
  • If your place of work is busy and noisy use headphones with music or just noise canceling headphones without anything playing in them.

Having trouble sticking with it in that zone and to not start procrastinating or distracting yourself? Try using a timer – on your cell phone or use an egg-timer – and set it for 45 minutes. Then put in a drawer or somewhere where you can’t see it. During those 45 minutes dive in and immerse yourself in the no-distraction zone and your work until the clock rings.

This one works very well for me because I know that I do not have to stay focused and un-distracted forever. I just have to make an effort for 45 minutes and then I can do something else. If 45 minutes is too much at first then try a shorter time-limit.

Work with you have and use what you can from this list to make work much more distraction free.

Limit your input.

Reduce the number of blogs, newsletters, magazines, book clubs, podcasts, twitterers etc. you are subscribed too. Just keep the ones you are really getting something out of.

Limit your time in your favorite places online.

Many of us have favorite places where we get stuck online. It might be Facebook, Twitter, your favorite forum or just checking the paper many times each day. A couple of things that have helped me to not get too distracted by such places is to:

  • Remove them from any favorites list in the browser. Easy availability makes it easy to go there when you want to escape. So make it a little harder to get there. I have noticed that if I have to type in the address to that site then I usually forget about it a lot more and I don’t jump in there whenever I am bored or feel like procrastinating. Instead, I tend to forget about the site for a day or several days. It is out of sight and out of mind.
  • Use it in short bursts. After you have spent time working in your no-distractions zone you can relax or reward yourself with 5 or 10 minutes on your favorite website. If you can’t seem to be able to keep that time-limit then use the egg-timer or the timer on your cell phone to keep yourself in check.

Take a media- and internet-free day (or weekend).

I usually take at least one day during my weekend off from using the internet, reading the paper, checking my email and so on. That break helps me to better focus my attention on the most important things, to set clear limits between the workhours and the homehours and it helps me to relax and recharge myself so that I am more focused during the upcoming week.

Let the helpful sources influence you.

What you surround yourself with will be a big influence on you. Negative voices, people and media will drag you down and can easily redirect your attention on to the negative aspects of life.

Positive people, music, books, movies, quotes and surroundings etc. will on the other hand help you not just to keep your focus on what is most important and what is positive in life. They will also help you to broaden your horizons and let you discover things and aspects of life you may not have found or paid much attention to before.

If you found this article helpful, then please share it with someone else by using the buttons below. Thank you! =)

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Henrik – this is great! I recently saw a TEDx site that talked about a guy’s grandfather dying and how that focused him on rules for living an exceptional life.

    “You’re Not That Great: A Motivational Speech”

    This life is SO short – gotta do it right the first time!

  • Henrik, I agree. It is important to give others your attention. When in a restaurant with a friend, it is terribly rude to answer your cell phone (unless it’s an emergency). Give the person you are with your attention. Great post.

  • great advice – this is exactly what I do in my day (well most of them ;)). Personally I can’t work to music but I know for some people it’s easier than background chatter – just work out what suits you!


  • Becoming free of unnecessary distractions is a great first step toward focusing on the most important areas of your life. Learning to be “present” is sometimes almost a lost art but can really give great results. Writing down your top priorities, as you mention, is one of the most effective things that you can do in moving toward your goals.
    Daniel Dreifus

  • Hi Henrik,

    It was by chance that I happened to arrive at your blog. And boy, I am glad I that I did. The ideas shared are thought provoking and inspiring. Being a trainer, I could use some of them with my students. Keep up the good work.

  • Great tips. The one that works for me the most is setting a timer; I am actually doing that now to limit my blog reading! And I just previously set, again, a timer for my studies.

    My main distraction is television. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have SKY and much of what is on isn’t that great so I need to distract from that.