None of us can be focused all the time. There are days when it seems that motivation has gone on a permanent vacation. You get ready, and go to work but end up just staring at the document or computer. You try to get your work done but your mind just keeps wandering off making it impossible for you to focus. If you have struggled with such an issue before or are currently going through it, you are at the right place. In this blog post, I will discuss a few tips on how to stay focused when you feel demotivated. Think of this as an opportunity to build resilience and growth. Before you get to the tips, get a notebook and pen so you can write down the tips you wish to employ in your life.
If you are struggling with a lack of motivation, having difficulty staying focused, feel constantly stressed, or find it hard to have a proper work-life balance, you should subscribe to Guilt Free Mind. The subscription option is present in the sidebar. Your subscription will allow me to notify you the moment a new blog post releases on the site. If you like watching videos, subscribe to the YouTube channel of Guilt Free Mind. Remember to click on the notification bell and set it to ALL. This will ensure that YouTube notifies you about the new video release.
Stay focused: why is it so difficult?
The most common cause behind difficulty in staying focused is the presence of demotivation. Before I start to discuss strategies you can use to stay focused, you need to understand the intricacies of demotivation. Demotivation is a monster that tends to creep up on you without you even realizing what’s going wrong. It is a sinking feeling that sucks out your enthusiasm, energy, and zeal to work on the tasks at hand. Normally, one of the two, conditions arises:
- You feel that you can finish the work at a later date. You keep putting it off till the last minute. When you have no choice but to finish the work you begrudgingly engage in the task.
- Your mind is not able to comprehend the importance of the task you have at hand. A part of your brain keeps telling you, “Why bother? How is this helping me at all?”. When you do not find a valid cause to finish the task immediately, you keep putting it on the back burner and delaying it.
Root causes behind demotivation
Most often, the cause of demotivation is within your mind. It can either arise from an absence of interest or a lack of passion for the task you have to finish. The root causes behind lack of passion are usually burnout, feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, fear of failure, or low self-confidence.
Demotivation can either arise from intrinsic factors (personal factors) or extrinsic factors (external reasons). The most common external factors contributing to demotivation are toxicity in your work environment, absence of support from colleagues or family members, or facing a challenging personal difficulty. Even if you have personal motivation, difficult environmental situations can make it pretty hard to maintain intrinsic motivation.
Recognizing the signs of demotivaiton
As I mentioned before, demotivation tends to creep up on you. However, certain red flags can be identified beforehand. Let’s look at some of the red flags:
You are constantly delaying your tasks and putting them off to do at a later time.
You notice that you are struggling to finish your tasks. Even simple tasks seem to be taking longer than they should.
Increase in feelings of negativity
Whenever you look in the mirror, you see something negative in yourself. Your outlook is on the pessimistic side and you feel as if you are not enough. Your self-confidence seems to be tanking and nothing you do is bringing it back up.
Motivation and focus: the link
There is an intrinsic connection between focus and motivation. If your motivation reduces, so does your focus, and vice versa. If your focus wanes, your ability to complete your tasks on time will reduce as well. On the other hand, the absence of focus will further hurt your motivation, thus creating a positive feedback loop. Therefore, the first step to getting back to your focus is to understand the relationship between motivation and focus.
Developing the motivation within to stay focused
If you have the drive deep within you to make something work, then nothing can take your focus down. Intrinsic motivation is the motivation that comes from within you. If you want something deep in your bones, the chances of you working towards it will be much higher. So try to develop that inner motivation instead of relying on external pressures or rewards. Tapping into your internal motivation will make it easier for you to stay focused on your goals even when you face challenges and hardships.
Find your “why”
Reflect on your goals
Why are you doing what you are doing? Why did you start on this journey in the first place? What was your inspiration? Remembering why you decided to go down this path can reignite the fire inside of you and bring back the missing determination.
Align your values
Figure out how the task at hand aligns with your principles and core values. When the work you do resonates with your principles, it gains importance and you feel more motivated to do the work.
Set goals that are meaningful and achievable to stay focused
S.M. A. R. T. goals
If you are looking for a way to stay focused, first ensure that your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and finally, time-bound (S.M.ART). When your goals are realistic and clear, you have a better sense of direction and purpose.
Break down the tasks
If you have watched any of my productivity videos on YouTube, you are aware of how much importance I give to breaking down your tasks into smaller chunks and spreading them across your timeline. This way you can do a little at a time and still make steady progress towards your goals.
Celebrate the wins
Acknowledge your progress
Whether it is a small or a big accomplishment, each of them must be celebrated. You do not have to reward yourself with something fancy every time. It can also be an extra 5 minutes of break time or eating a bag of chips. When you recognize and take note of your success, it keeps propelling you forward to do better and aim higher.
Maintain a journal.
Journal your accomplishments. In the haze of work, we sometimes forget how much we have done. Our vision gets clouded and we only see what we have not achieved. When you are having a hard day, you can look at your journal and remind yourself of how much you have already accomplished.
Bringing back the external motivation to stay focused
Even though intrinsic motivation is crucial, there may be times when some outside forces can provide you a little extra push while you work to develop your intrinsic motivation. In the following section, I will discuss some amazing external motivation methods.
Seeking motivation from others
Find people who inspire and motivate you to do better. Focus on those people who have achieved what you want to achieve for yourself. Understand their journeys, and find out how they strategized to gain success and overcome their obstacles.
Study their success stories. Listen to or read their struggles and successes and try to understand their state of mind. The stories of successful people also contain their hardships. This will help you feel motivated and keep working towards your goals no matter how difficult your situation gets. Their biographies will motivate you to keep going during impossible times.
Find an accountability partner
Accountability is a critical factor in productivity. You must have a record of how much you have done and how much you still have to do. For accountability, you can either join a support group or find an accountability partner with whom you can maintain and compare your accountability.
You can start by finding an accountability partner. Your accountability partner can either be your mentor, colleague, or friend who can help you stay focused and hold you accountable for your work progress. Sharing your difficulties and progress with your partner will provide you with plenty of motivation to help you stay focused and keep on track with your work.
Alternatively, you can join a support group of people who are working towards goals similar to yours. When you notice others working hard towards their goals, it motivates you, boosts your focus, and helps you stay focused on your task. You can also use the platform to exchange ideas, get help, receive encouragement, and finally learn from mistakes made by others.
Using incentives and rewards
Finding a community and accountability partner is all good. However, they are not available 24/7. Thus, you need something that will help you stay focused by yourself. Start by establishing a reward system for yourself. Set specific rewards before you start your work. Once you finish the task, you reward yourself The reward can be anything from a snack break, 10 miracles of game time, or even a short break. Establishing positive reinforcement will allow you to complete the task efficiently and stay focused on your goals.
Another option is to allow yourself to spend a certain sum of money once you reach a particular milestone. Once you have completed a specific task, you reward yourself with spending the money and buying something for yourself.
Vision boards and visualization to stay focused
Think about what you want. Picture the outcome in your head. You should have a vivid image of the outcome. Focus on the satisfaction and joy that you will feel once you achieve your goals. When you picture your outcomes in your head, it fills you with motivation and helps you stay focused.
If you are not much into visualization, opting for vision boards is your next best choice. Your vision board should contain symbols, quotes, images, and aspirations. Compile the board and place it in a place where you can see it all the time. This way, you can look at it wherever you feel low or feel like you are losing focus, and it will help you stay focused.
Create an environment suitable to stay focused
When you have the right environment, it helps boost your focus and keeps you on track. If you try to focus when in bed, you will feel sleepy because bed is generally associated with sleeping. When you optimize your workplace to be motivating, you feel like working when you are in that space. Optimizing your surroundings will also minimize your distractions and help you stay focused.
Organize your workspace
Start with decluttering your space. When your study/workplace is organized and tidy, you will feel calmer and more in control. A clean space will also boost your focus, reduce mental clutter, and finally make it easier to get into focus mode faster.
Make sure that the workspace is following ergonomics. You must ensure that the space has good lighting, a comfortable back-supporting chair, and a table of proper height. Such small factors can go a long way to help you prevent distractions.
As I mentioned before, make sure your table only has the bare minimum stuff. Remove any item that may make you lose focus while working. If you are studying, and have no use for your laptop, remove your laptop from the table. Only keep what you need in your workspace.
Minimize the distractions to stay focused
Start with removing any digital distractions. If you are keeping your phone on the table, put it on DO NOT DISTURB mode so that you are not disturbed by unnecessary notifications. If you need your laptop/phone for work, install apps or website blockers that will help reduce your access to websites that can interfere with your focus.
In case you are working in a noisy environment, use noise-cancelling headphones. Alternatively, you can put up white noise or background music to reduce the external sounds and boost your focus.
Start using productivity apps to keep track of your progress. You can also manually track your day by using the Pomodoro method (work for 25 minutes and take a break of 5 minutes). Such forms of structured approaches allow you to stay focused for longer periods.
Establish a daily routine to stay focused
Start with blocking your time beforehand. This way when the day starts, you know exactly what you will be doing at what time of the day. This simple act will reduce decision fatigue and allow you to stay focused.
The next thing to do is to establish a routine and daily rituals to start and end your work. These rituals may not hold much meaning for you but they will help your mind make the transition from a non-focus to focus mode. Also at the end of the work day, these rituals can help you unwind and move your focus away from work and towards your home life.
Finally, the last straw to add to your focus routine is to communicate your work hours to your roommates or family members so that they know when to not disturb you unless it’s an emergency.
Stress management and mindfulness
Most often stress is a huge contributor towards demotivation. Therefore, to stay focused, you should focus on managing your stress first. When you add meditation, mindfulness, and proper stress management procedures to your everyday routine, they can go a long way in helping you stay focused, even when you are experiencing stress.
Practice mindful meditation
Start with mindful breathing. Keep a few minutes from your daily routine to focus on mindful breathing exercises. Focus on your breath, count your inhales and exhales, and try to slow it down. Whenever your mind wanders to other things, gently bring your focus back to your body and breath.
Focus on every part of your body. Find out the areas of your body that are tight and riddled with tension. Focus on relaxing each of those parts, releasing the physical stress from your body.
If you are unable to practice meditation by yourself, get help from the many apps available on every device. You can go with Headspace, Calm, or any other app to help you get started on your meditation journey.
Practice stress reduction techniques to stay focused
Try to spend a few minutes engaging in medium-level exercise
everyday. Regular exercise produces endorphins. Endorphins can reduce stress and boost your mood. It is also the perfect way to clear your mind.
When you start to feel overwhelmed, focus on practicing deep breaths for 5 mins. This will help you calm down your nervous system.
Another thing that you can do to reduce stress is engage in progressive muscle relaxation. In progressive muscle relaxation technique focuses on tensing and relaxing different muscle sections of the body. This promotes mental and physical relaxation.
Learn to balance your personal and work life
Start with setting proper boundaries. When it’s work time, only focus on work. when work time is over, then only focus on family and social life. Do not overextend the work time into your home life. Allot specific time for hobbies, leisure, and quality time.
Take a break from your devices. Digital detox is crucial for proper work-life balance. Spending excessive time on digital devices increases your stress and reduces your focus. When you engage in digital detox, focus on the world around you.
Finally, last but not least, keep some time for self-care. You are the most important. Do not take self-care as a luxury, it is a necessity. Focus on activities that make you feel energized like reading, jogging, or engaging in hobbies you like.
Engage in mindful practices
Stay away from multitasking. Multitasking is known to boost stress and reduce the focus on the task at hand. When you have a series of tasks, focus on only one task at a time.
Start practicing gratitude every day. Reflect on every positive thing that happened to you during the day. When you practice gratitude, your brain focuses on the good things and reduces stress levels.
Accept that you are doing everything in your power to get to your goals. Many times, demotivation arises from difficult situations or emotions. Acknowledge your feelings without judgment and move forward.
Final words on how to stay focused when times are hard
Life is difficult. Nothing is easy. There will never be a straight path to success. If you want success, you will have to walk through stones and difficulties to get there. Thus, focus on cultivating intrinsic motivation instead of relying on extrinsic ones. Start implementing the above-mentioned strategies to stay focused and keep taking the right steps towards your goal.
If you found this blog post useful and would like to know more about how to be more productive, subscribe to Guilt Free Mind. The subscription option is present in the sidebar. If you like watching videos, subscribe to the YouTube channel of Guilt Free Mind. Remember to ring the notification bell so that YouTube notifies you the moment a new video releases from the channel.
If you have any other options to stay focused that have not been covered in this article, feel free to put them down in the comment section. In case you have any queries, feel free to put them in the comment section as well. I will be happy to help.
See you in my next blog post.
Frequently Asked Questions
Staying motivated can be difficult when the times get tough. However, here are some strategies to help you stay motivated when life becomes difficult:
-Remember your mission
-Visualize your outcome
-Regularly take breaks
-Break down large tasks
-Celebrate every victory
-Ask for support
-Find inspiration within
Here are some methods to keep yourself motivated when you are working from home:
Create an official work environment
Dress for your work
Organize your day as if you are in the office
Reward yourself for every win
Laziness and lack of motivation are two very different concepts. The absence of motivation can cause you to feel lazy. You can still complete your task if you are feeling lazy. However, if you are feeling unmotivated, procrastination tendencies will increase as well.