Personal Productivity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people wanting to improve their personal productivity. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

This question already has an answer here:

I have what I used to call a "butterfly brain": if something doesn't interest me, I find it almost impossible to stay focussed on the subject for more than a few minutes at once.

Back in my student days this wasn't a problem because most of the things I did and studied interested me a great deal. The same was true of my years in the junior workplace because things were novel and curious and that was enough to keep me going.

However, as I've got older and taken on more responsibility and things in my working life aren't so fresh and new any more this is increasingly becoming a problem for me. I feel I really need to learn how to focus for longer periods, almost like it's a life skill that I'm missing. I really have no idea how to do it.

A related issue is that I run out of patience when planning things, because I get bored and just want to get stuck in to the task at hand. And that's problematic at work, too.

I'm aware of the basic precepts, but they're just not terribly helpful. The "pomodoro technique" might help me focus for 20 minutes, but I need to focus for much longer tha that! And creating a distraction free space is almost impossible when you've got a smartphone in your pocket and a landline phone on your desk.

Are there any techniques or methods I can use to actually learn the ability to focus, like any other workplace skill?

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by Raystafarian, Rory Alsop May 21 '14 at 21:36

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Possible duplicates:… and…. How is this question different from those? – Dennis S. May 21 '14 at 14:59
I did look at some related questions and found them to be different. It's a popular topic and I didn't go through them all. However, the second of your examples is very similar so go ahead and close this as a duplicate. – Matt Thrower May 21 '14 at 15:05

I feel with you. I pine for the days when I could sit down and read a book for two hours straight.

I would suggest that you don't aim for concentrating for longer periods right away. Try concentrating for a shorter period first. (Learn to walk before you try to run.) Pomodoro should be wonderful for exactly this. Once you have mastered the skill of concentrating for 20 minutes through Pomodoro, simply crank up the Pomodoro period to 25 minutes... 30 minutes... and so on.

But don't forget to reward yourself even for an uninterrupted 20 minutes. Reward (i.e., reinforcement) is important!

Whatever length of time you aim for, make sure you are not interrupted. It will be hard enough to keep yourself from interrupting yourself, so the least you can do is stop outside interruptions.

  • Turn off your mobile and disconnect your landline. If this could cause problems with people who count on your being available, discuss this with them beforehand - maybe put blocker appointments in your calendar to communicate your "concentration time".
  • Kill your email application while you concentrate. Check emails outside your "concentration time". Think about checking your emails only during specified times in the day. At the very least turn off the desktop notification for new emails.
  • Turn off your browser during your "concentration time", or install one of the many blocker add-ins to keep you from surfing to your favorite concentration killing site.
share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.