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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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Really good post Henrik. I like your last bit about using helpful resources. Successful people always stand on the “shoulders of giants” that came before them.

    • Thank you! Yes, that is very true, the people that came before us are a huge help.

  • Hi Henrik,

    I limit the numbers of blogs I read each day – I just don’t have the time to do more :-) One of them is yours as I believe it is truly valuable.

    For this years I have only 2 goals:

    1) Keep my focus on what I love doing and only that.

    2) Share what I love in life with as many as people as possible.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Hi Marc! Thank you for the kind words, I’m glad you find the blog that helpful. And those sound like two great goals for 2012. :)

    • Angelique

      they are great goals, I’m going to take them on board! thanks!

    • I like it!

  • Thanks to the human mind’s leftover primitive wiring, focusing your attention is a lot easier said than done. We can intelligently decide what deserves our attention, but actually keeping our attention focused on what’s really important is another story.

    A clinical psychologist, author and inventor, I’ve spent the last 25 years developing and perfecting a simple way for people to do a better job of keeping their attention focused on whatever they choose. If you’d like to learn about it, visit

    • Yes, it is indeed something that is easier said than done. Thank you for the comment.

  • Hey
    That’s very nice…I was looking for such tips for such a long time…Thanks Keep it up

  • Hmmm….internet has influenced us big time and I guess it’s not the only world we have. A day without it is a good thing on focusing on the most important thing in life.

    • Yes, the internet is a great thing but it also very helpful to take a break from it from time to time. Especially if you spend a lot of time there when you work etc.

  • John

    I really appreciated this post, thank you!

  • Hi Henrik. I am going to say that this article is practical. I think I need to adjust myself and get some changes. I will go try your tips.

    Thanks so much to share this! Good luck!

  • Reza Mehr

    Thank you Henrik.
    I think – at least for me- the most important advise is to limit your input.
    By shaping the input we can shape ourselves.

    Thank you again Henrik.

  • Hi, Henrik. Thanks for great tips.
    I’ll also suggest never watch TV, and every morning ask yourself 5 simple questions:
    waht are most important things in my life?
    what makes me happy?
    what inspires me?
    what i’m thankful for in my life?
    who do i love? who loves me? why people love me?
    In long term this questions provide wonderful effect.

  • Zulfikar Haidar

    very helpful indeed!

    Anyway, ‘spending a media and internet free weekend’ sounds imperfect for journalists like me because we always need to get connected with news flows. but taking the essence, we can reduce the use to the least for the weekend, perhaps.

    What’s your opinion?

  • Emma

    I have to say that you are helping me in my new horizon. I took you as one of my tools to keep walking in the best path in my life. So thank you.
    PS> I love the design of your books and website. Simple. Clean. Refreshing. Is a source of peace and positivity.

  • I happened across your blog today and this one just hit home. It’s easy to be distracted with so much information, so many resources available to us now on the internet. Simplifying enable us to not be overwhelmed and allow us to focus on what matters to us. Thanks for the blog!

  • Angelique

    The timer is a brilliant idea, I need to get my hands on one of them!
    You’re inspirational, thank you!!

  • There comes a time when you have to decide what’s most important to you. I run a very positive and inspirational site and it’s great to see that it’s not the only one out there. Great site and fantastic job.

  • What you think you become. You are also who you hang around.

    You are who you try to be every single day after a while you eventually become that person.