Distracted from study job young biracial man lost in thoughts
ATD Blog

Failure to Focus: Distractions Are Killing Our Ability to Focus at Work and at Home

Friday, October 14, 2022

If you’ve been finding it harder than ever to focus lately, you’re not alone. In an August 2022 poll of 1,600 people conducted by Crucial Learning, two out of three respondents said they struggled to fully focus on a single task or person. More people find it difficult to focus at work (68 percent), but some (62 percent) also have a hard time focusing at home.

Even when we can concentrate, it’s usually not for long. Nearly one in three survey respondents admitted they can only focus on a task for 10 minutes or less before getting distracted.

The effects of unfocused behavior are severe and far-reaching—starting with a decrease in mental and physical health. Respondents listed how their inability to focus affected them:

  • 73.2 percent feel overwhelmed: “I have too much to do.”
  • 73 percent lack energy: “I feel drained.”
  • 72.6 percent experience stress: “I feel worried about all I have to do.”
  • 71.7 percent report decreased efficiency: “I work much slower.”

A lack of focus also hurts our relationships. Most of us (61.2 percent) regularly think about unrelated things or people when we spend time with friends and family. Another two out of five people allow themselves to get distracted by emails, texts, and social media while having important conversations with people they care about.

The consequences of being unfocused don’t just affect our personal lives; they also hinder an organization’s bottom line. Most of the workforce (60.6 percent) rarely to never completes an hour or two of deep, focused work each day without distraction.

Distractions are disastrous, but they’re not going away. With long to-do lists and numberless notifications and interruptions, it’s harder than ever to stay focused on our priorities. If we—and our teams—don’t learn a few key strategies to manage workload, we’ll continue to see high levels of burnout and tanking productivity.


To help teams and individuals stay focused, here are a few tips from Getting Things Done, a Crucial Learning course, which was recently updated with new videos, exercises, and skills to teach the principles found in the New York Times bestselling book by David Allen:

5 Tips to Stay Focused

Minimize distractions. When it’s time to do meaningful work, close your email and other team collaboration apps. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you’ll be able to ignore those dings and notifications—your brain is built to respond to those cues in search of dopamine hits that come from responding.


Plan time for work. You need to set aside time each day for focused work, email, and surprises. And don’t say that you don’t have the time; you’re already working in these modes, but you’re likely doing so all at once, which is incredibly inefficient. For example, spend 45 minutes only processing your email inbox. That way, you’ll get through more emails and can populate your calendar and to-do lists, setting yourself up to accomplish your highest priorities that day.

Prime your eyes. Take two to three minutes each morning to review your calendar and task lists before diving into email or work. When we begin the day by looking at email, we put a lens of latest and loudest over our productivity eyes. No more busy and unproductive days; instead, you’ll find yourself working on the most important tasks more often.

Ditch your phone. If you don’t need your phone for the activity you are doing or the conversation you are having, put it elsewhere.

Say no. Get in the habit of saying no to things that are not aligned with your larger goals. The best way to say no is by sharing your good intent and explaining why. Try this: “My goal is to be a solid contributor and help the team where I can, but I also don’t want to overcommit myself. If I agree to this, I’ll be at a high risk of dropping something, which wouldn’t be fair to you, me, or the team. I think it’s best for me to not commit to this right now.”

About the Author

Justin is a speaker and training designer for Crucial Learning with expertise in organizational communication, conflict management, and personal effectiveness.

Be the first to comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.