10 Tips To Stay Focused And Avoid A Distraction Hangover

Job frustrationWhen cat videos are playing, 47 tabs are open, the TV is on, and you’re thinking about tomorrow, you’re in distraction paradise. But like a night of excess drinking, it’s only fun when you’re in it.

After bingeing on distractions, you’re bound to get a distraction hangover:

“Wait, what did I do today? How many cat videos did I just watch? Ugh, my head is pounding with guilt and thoughts of unfinished dreams.” – person with a distraction hangover

When you have a brief moment of clarity in the midst of chaos, you need to act fast before it’s too late to salvage your day. Here are 10 tips to help you strike quickly to regain your mind, destroy distractions, and focus happily ever after. 🙂

1. Set a tight, immediate deadline

Pressure in small doses is not only a very useful focus tool, it’s healthy. Deadlines make it easier to push yourself to your natural best. Otherwise, you might find yourself giving 40% effort.

Too many people leave deadlines alone in their personal life, labeling them as “a work thing.” But deadlines are used in the working world because they work very well!

Give yourself a little pressure with a deadline, and you’ll find distractions to be less appealing. The more difficult your deadline, the better. Easy deadlines like, “write a book by this time next year” will have the opposite effect and cause you to procrastinate because you’ll seem to have “too much time” on your hands!

2. Use a timer

Keeping track of time helps you focus by method of measurement. When you measure something, you pay more attention to it. Of course, this works brilliantly with a deadline!

I use timer-tab because my work is on the computer.

3. Get competitive

Who can write the most words in 2 hours? Who can do the most pull-ups? Compete with your personal bests or another person.

When you need to get yourself focused on something, you might not think to leverage competition, but it is a powerful motivator, because in order to be the best, you intuitively know that you’ll have to focus. Sports athletes are famous for being able to focus, and they do it to compete at the highest level.

4. Remove yourself from distractions

Going to a solitary place is an obvious way to cut out distractions. But do you ever do it? It works very well if your work is portable.

5. Remove distractions from your environment

I hear people all the time say that it’s easier for them to focus if a TV is on.

I think it’s because the TV gives them something to purposefully tune out. They’re so used to having so many distractions around them, that they’re also used to having to block them out. So when they remove the distractions, their mind goes nuts and doesn’t know what to do!

Through repetition, you’ll find comfort, even with unhealthy things.

If you’re one of those people who needs white noise, I bet you can train yourself back to normal. Do you think that people before TV were unable to focus without background noise? Or does it make more sense that people today have been conditioned to need it?

Modern society is full of noises and distractions, and we’re most comfortable with how things typically are. Consider training yourself by exposing yourself to silence. Or if silence is not an option, instrumental music is also a good choice for focusing.

6. Pay someone to slap you into focus

I once read about a guy who hired someone to watch him on the computer and slap his face whenever he got off task. It worked pretty well to train him to focus, and it was hilarious (he got it on video). My friend Vincent tried this slapping technique with success too.

Don’t laugh this one off either. Negative reinforcement can work, and there are tangent ideas you could try. You could make a pact with yourself to face a certain punishment if you commit a “focus crime.” Get creative!

7. Designate a safe haven

We are creatures of habit, and it can be a challenge to always go out somewhere silent. Why not make an area of your house a focus zone? Whenever you enter this zone, you MUST focus on whatever you choose with everything else silent.

They say not to do anything else in your bed but sleep so that your body will intuitively know to release melatonin when you get in bed. Your body is smart, and associating locations with different activities is an effective way to take advantage of that.

8. Take several deep breaths and relax


Breathing deeply is a fascinating thing. When you take a slow, drawn out, big breath, stress seems to leave you. And stress is detrimental to focus. You can also meditate if that’s your preferred relaxation/focus technique.

The point is that a relaxed mind is ideal for focusing.

9. Pick one thing

I’m willing to bet that, most the time, the reason you can’t focus is because you haven’t decided what to focus on. Pick one thing and be willing to let everything else wait. It doesn’t have to be the greatest choice available – that puts too much pressure on you to choose perfectly. Let good be good enough.

10. Use your imagination

People have no idea how staggeringly powerful their imagination is. A recent study found that it is so powerful, that it can alter what you see and hear in the physical world.

Visualize yourself as a hero that has to complete this task to save the entire world. Don’t just read those words. Fire up your imagination and make it reality for a moment. Feel the importance of the task and the cost of failure. This puts pressure on you, but your subconscious won’t let you freak out too much because it knows that you’re just playing around with your imagination.

Try visualizing a loved one in need. They need you to complete this task, which is (somehow) the antidote to their snake bite.

Imagine yourself giving a non-nervous thank you speech at your award ceremony for the job you did on this – only, you’ll lose that award if you don’t focus on it now.

This gives you the rush of something immediately critical, without the fear that often comes with it. Essentially, your imagination can give you REAL superpowers by creating the perfect mental environment. You can get yourself in any mood or any state of mind with your imagination (with practice).

Why is imagination discouraged in favor of realistic thinking in schools? They must not realize that children are better than adults in some ways. Imagination is power.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
~ Albert Einstein

About the Author

I'm lazy, but you can call me Stephen. When you're as lazy as I am, you need superior strategies to live well. My strategies are so effective that I'm productive every single day. As the world tries to figure out how to always stay motivated, I create strategies that don't require it.


I hate distraction hangovers, makes it so hard to truly relax. I actually tend to do the slapping myself when I get unfocused. Not very hard though, maybe that’s my problem! The deep breaths definitely help. I need to spend less time in bed, start setting deadlines, time myself and start competing!

Cool idea about using your imagination. I will definitely try that. Up until now I’ve only tried visualizing lying on a perfect beach, lounging around completely free as the result. But giving it some back story and including loved ones sounds interesting.

Music can help eliminate auditory distractions, as well as others. I waver less when I have music, it’s a strange thing.

Hope you have a good Monday man.

PS. Thanks for recommending emancipator, I ended up crediting you in my new post for that.

PPS. on the first line of tip 10 there is a typo.

Stephen Guise

When someone else slaps you, it’s unexpected and a “jolt” to the system. 🙂 If you set deadlines, time yourself, and get competitive, you should be able to focus well.

The imagination is really underrated as a personal development tool. The beach visualization is a good idea. But the backstory makes it more real in your mind (thus, more effective).

I split my focus time evenly between music and silence. They’re both pretty good. The TV is a visual/audio distraction though, which is why I think it’s a bad idea.

Yeah, sure! I figured you’d like them based on the other music we talked about. Ah, thanks. I found and eliminated the typo.

I will. You have a good Monday too, Ragnar. Cheers.

Harrison Li

Great ways to help get rid of distractions! But if it’s about getting back to that specific optimal point the day right after a hangover-like event, then I think sleep is the most important thing.

By the way, can you link me to that slapping video? 🙂

Linda Morgan

Sometimes when I lose my enthusiasm for making dinner or cleaning, I pretend that I am doing it for someone famous! That little trick seems to help make the task less tedious and more enjoyable!

Stephen Guise

I love that – it’s very creative. 🙂

My preferred time to use imagination is also when I need a spark.

Harrison Li

Thanks for sharing, he’s actually gotten a lot of press from this.

Vincent Nguyen

Thanks for mentioning my experiment, Stephen! It definitely worked. The next time I’m in a long productivity slump I’m doing it again. I already have several volunteers who are lined up and waiting for round 2. 🙂

Stephen Guise

I bet it worked! Volunteers are already lined up? Awesome. Let me know if you do it again. 🙂


These are great tips. Distractions can be sooo hard to avoid. They just seem to multiply as if being distracted once just makes it more likely for another distraction to happen. Then before you know it, you’ve wasted away an entire afternoon or day.

For online distractions, I like to use Leechblock which I added to my Firefox browser. You just tell it what site you want to block and how much time you’re willing to spend there. Once you’ve reached your allotted time, it blocks it so you can’t use it anymore until the next day. It’s a good way to get off those sites you spend way too much time on.

Stephen Guise

Thanks Steve. Distraction is tough, and I’ve also had the “chain reaction of distraction” that you mentioned.

Leechblock sounds good. There’s one for Chrome called strict workflow that blocks distracting websites for 25 minutes and then gives you a break for 5 minutes. And I’m also using RescueTime now, which monitors your activity to give you an idea of how productive you are. RescueTime Pro comes with a feature to block distracting websites called Focused Time.

Thanks for the tip! It’s nice to have technology to keep us from distractions, since it’s primarily responsible for distracting us in the first place.

Dalolâ Åâ

I really need this thank u i hope this helps

Stephen Guise

Thank you!

Comments are closed