Eliminate These 3 Things If You Can’t Focus


One of today’s biggest challenges is maintaining the ability to focus.

Many of us ask ourselves the question constantly, “why can’t I focus?” But maybe what we should be asking is, “how can I make it easier to focus?”

We already know we should probably put our phones away and that the loud sitcom playing in the background should probably be off. But is that really all it takes to focus in a distraction-driven world? How do you focus when you live under a constant pile of emails, notifications, Zoom calls, and meetings that require our attention?

The truth is, staying focused for long periods of time is getting harder. However, there are plenty of science-backed ways to nurture focus and make it a fundamental component of our day rather than being an idea that seems out of reach.

Setting the stage by reframing balance

When we think of balance, it’s easy to picture a perfectly scheduled day where we finish every single thing on our to-do list right on time and then have enough energy to enjoy our personal life.

The problem is that in practice, balance looks nothing like that. At best, we manage to get most of the tasks on our to-do list done but tend to need to leave a few tasks for another day. Getting closer in proximity to balance (because no one will ever achieve perfection) starts with reframing how we think about the resources we use to get through the day.

And one of those resources is our ability to focus. When aiming for balance, it’s key to remember that overworking makes focusing harder. Additionally, the lack of boundaries within our day-to-day only adds to our inability to focus. Once we learn to approach each day with a better idea of what balance means, our focus can improve without a stress response triggered by overwork getting in the way.

1. Anxiety triggers

Some of the biggest enemies of focus are “anxiety triggers.” In other words, anything that triggers feelings of nervousness, unease, or compulsivity. These include habits like:

Skipping meals and going hungry. It’s no surprise that diet affects how well the neurons in our brain function. Our nourishment habits ultimately affect our cognitive ability and mental fitness. Starving our neural networks of the nutrient-dense foods necessary to brain health leads to a decreased ability to sustain focus for longer periods of time. Going hungry at the time you’re trying to focus is also a huge distraction.

Not maintaining a sleep routine. Continuing with the effects of our everyday habits on our brain’s neural makeup, a lack of sleep leads to overworked neurons. In fact, the short-term effects of poor sleep are similar to being drunk. Your reaction times are slower and it takes you longer to think.

Too much uncontrolled noise in your environment. Our visual and auditory focus as well as our mental workload capacity goes down with the addition of noise above a certain threshold. Some people enjoy some background while attempting to focus. Others prefer absolute silence. But the mistake is leaving your work environment to the whims of too much uncontrolled noise.

2. Digital clutter

Our brains don’t like clutter and disorganization. For instance, too much visual stimuli in the form of clutter competing at the same time for neural representation as our brain takes it all in leads to cognitive overload.

Overloading our ability to process things in real-time makes it that much harder to focus on the task at hand—whether that disorganization is physical or digital.

The interesting part? Our lives are becoming increasingly digital by the day. It isn’t unusual to spend most of the eight-hour workday online. Especially if you’re a remote worker.

The average internet user from ages 16 - 64, across all tech, spends just under seven hours online each day according to a recent 2022 report. This comes with a few implications when it comes to focus. You now have to be careful to manage digital clutter rather than your traditional disorganized piles of notes, books, and everything else.

It can start with both centralizing and choosing a tool designed to manage your day with simplicity. There is no shortage of productivity tools at our disposal. The problem is, they often add more disorganization and clutter to your digital life with too many inessential features, making it harder to focus.

What if you could pull emails, Trello cards, ClickUp tasks, or even Notion notes onto one simple, centralized dashboard to get a clear overview of what tasks need to get done and when? With Sunsama, you eliminate the need to toggle between apps. As a productivity tool built with focus in mind, it’s one of the most effective ways to reduce digital clutter and create an environment with less distractions.

Drag and drop your tasks from tools like Trello into Sunsama

3. The classic distractions

Anyone’s strategy toward increasing focus and eliminating distractions isn’t complete without managing the classic distractions that form a big part of our day.


By now, we all know how enormously detrimental to our focus having a cell phone within reach can be. Cell phones, apps, and the notifications that come with it are all designed to effectively capture our attention.

Yet the problem isn’t necessarily the notifications themselves. It’s the process of refocusing once you’ve been interrupted that counts. Once you’ve been interrupted from a task, older studies suggest it takes about 23 minutes to refocus.

With enough notifications grabbing at our attention throughout the day, it’s not hard to see how this creates a habit of poor focus. The amount of time it takes to refocus adds up, and refocusing gets increasingly harder.


Chances are, you have first-hand experience the effects a morning cup of coffee (or three) have on your nervous system. Within minutes the caffeine props you awake. You’re more alert. As a result, you’re ready to start your day.

Except that’s not all stimulants—or the excessive use of them—do to the body. As one of the world's most consumed stimulants, it can quickly be a detriment to your focus if it’s over consumed. Consider the overuse of stimulants when refining your ability to focus. One too many cups of coffee can be enough to throw off your day with a few hours of jittery energy.


Multitasking is a myth. Our brains can only focus on one thing at a time. In Stolen Focus by Johann Hari, he explains—

“The average office worker now spends 40 percent of their work time wrongly believing they are "multitasking"--which means they are incurring all these costs for their attention and focus. In fact, uninterrupted time is becoming rare. One study found that most of us working in offices never get a whole hour uninterrupted in a normal day.”

Additionally, studies have found our brain isn’t built with the cognitive and neural capacity to manage more than one task at a time. Yet thanks to The Dunning–Kruger effect, which states humans have a bias to overestimate their capabilities, our tendency to multitask is hard to overcome.

However, once we take a step back and realize multitasking only works to hurt our ability to focus, it’s easy to internalize just how detrimental working on more than one task at a time can be. The next time you need to focus on a certain task, consider remembering your tendency to multitask and only commit to one task before moving on to the next one.

Productive focus is still possible

Less time spent idling, gliding through your daily to-do list, and doing deep work with ease. That’s the dream on the other side of our growing inability to focus. However, it doesn’t have to be a pipe dream.

Start by eliminating distractions that increase your anxiety and therefore lower your ability to focus. Cultivate a better relationship with your cell phone, and limit stimulants. Take care of the very basics of what keeps you healthy—namely sleep, nutrition, and hydration.

A productivity system like Sunsama has features that can help you stay focused and avoid the pitfalls of digital clutter. Start taking back your focus by eliminating digital clutter. Get started with Sunsama here.

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