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How To Get Things Done When You Can’t Focus

I sometimes have a hard time focusing, especially if the task is repetitive or something I’ve done plenty of times. Even sitting down to write can often be challenging as my mind wanders. Luckily, I’ve discovered a few tips that help me to focus and I thought they might be helpful to you!

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Top 3 Tips

  • List everything
  • Set small goals
  • Start with something easy

Know What Needs Done

If you have trouble focusing, you probably struggle with remembering everything that needs done. That’s why it’s a good idea to write a to-do list before you begin accomplishing tasks. And, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy—just write out each task that needs done. For me, it helps to write everything, even small daily tasks like cleaning off my desk or making the bed.

Sometimes small tasks can slip your mind, especially if you struggle to focus. I try to run through my say in my mind and write down everything that I have to do so I don’t forget. You may even want to write down tasks like ‘eat lunch’ if you tend to get wrapped up in activities.

Once you have your to-do list, it’s time to get started!

Start With Something Easy

Actually sitting down and beginning a task is usually the hardest part—at least for me. That’s why I enjoy starting with something that doesn’t require much effort. I can more easily get it accomplished if I’m struggling to focus, and it helps my brain get into ‘work mode’. Plus, getting to cross something off the to-do list is super satisfying.

You may be familiar with the expression ‘eat the frog’, which means doing the hardest task first so it’s out of the way. That can work for some people, but I’ve found for me when I try to do a more difficult task while my brain isn’t focused, I just usually end up staring at my computer screen, unable to concentrate.

If this sounds familiar to you, try starting with easier tasks instead to help you slowly become more focused.

Remove Distractions, Add Ambiance

If you already struggle to focus, having distractions around is probably not the best idea. But, having absolutely nothing but your work can be an equal hindrance. So, it’s good to remove things that can easily steal your focus like clutter, phones, etc.

Instead, add background ambiance like focus music, a podcast, or something similar. I always find it easier to focus when I have something going in the background. Personally, I like listening to focus music on Spotify or turning on a tv show I’ve seen a hundred times.

This may differ for you, though. You don’t want to add something that will distract you—just something to help keep your focus.

Section Your Day

Time blocking is a great way to stay focused by dedicating certain tasks to different blocks of time. This can help you stay on track if you are someone who tends to jump from task to task. With time blocking, you can focus on the task at hand while knowing you have time to dedicate to everything else that needs done.

If you prefer, you can schedule out your entire day, or set general blocks of time.


8:00 amcheck emails
8:30 amput dishes away
8:45 amwork on Project A
12:00 pmlunch
1:00 pmbrainstorm ideas
1:30 pmwork on Project B
MorningProject A
Project B

Set Small Intervals

Instead of sitting down to work on one task for hours at a time, use the Pomodoro method and work in shorter intervals with small breaks in between. You can try experimenting with different intervals like 20-minutes working with a 5-minute break or 40-minutes working with a 10-minute break.

Reward System

Using a reward system can be a great motivator to stay focused. You may think of rewards being a method for getting children to do their chores or homework, but many adults can also benefit from similar systems. You can try something easy, yet rewarding, like tracking your progress. Or, you can use more concrete rewards like getting another cup of coffee after finishing a project.

Sometimes just having something to look forward to can help you to stay present and focused.

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