Why Can’t I Focus? 8 Reasons Why & What to Do About It

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Highlights: Are you constantly asking yourself, “Why can’t I focus?” Uncover the underlying reasons for poor concentration and how you can overcome them.

“Why can’t I focus?”

“If only I could stay on task.”

“Why am I so easily distracted?”

“I have the attention span of a goldfish!”

Sounds familiar? Don’t worry, as you’re not the only one. 

Staying focused these days seems more problematic than ever with a million distractions running around you. Whether it be digital billboard ads on the way to work or ads interrupting your binge-watching sessions of cat videos online, there are just too many things vying for your attention.

What can you do about it? Here’s where Nir Eyal, the habit-forming expert and the trainer of Mindvalley’s Becoming Focused and Indistractable Quest, can help

With all this said, there are many reasons why you can’t concentrate, and the culprits may surprise you. But with Nir’s expert tips and tricks, you can become a real attention ninja. 

What Causes a Lack of Concentration?

The million-dollar question is, why are you having trouble focusing? Here are a number of common distractions many of us face.

1. Sleep deprivation

You may be suffering from this common health conundrum without even realizing it. Studies show that many people are chronically sleep-deprived, and sadly, we’ve come to believe that functioning on less rest is the norm.

News flash: it’s not.

Your brain, just like your body, needs time to rest and reset after a long day of work. Here are some quick tips on getting a better night’s sleep:

  • Blackout curtains. Invest in blackout curtains that filter light pollution from the room, you won’t regret it.
  • Get a sleep app. Many good sleep apps out there that help track your circadian rhythms. They also recommend the best sleep cycles to achieve REM sleep.
  • Develop a routine. Your body can learn to unwind and relax every night If you practice good sleep hygiene and follow a nightly bedtime routine.
  • Practice breathing meditation. Mindful breathing helps ease yourself to sleep, and it can only take three minutes.

Deep sleep is crucial to functioning at your maximum potential. So to have greater focus, you should try to prioritize the quality of your sleep.

2. Anxiety

Being overstimulated often leads to a perpetuated state of anxiety that can be difficult to shake. If you suffer from chronic anxiety or frequent bouts of debilitating stress, this will definitely affect your ability to stay on task.

If you often ask yourself, “Why can’t I focus anymore?” The answer may lie in your everyday responsibilities that contribute to a chronic state of stress and anxiety.

  • Work to scale back the to-do list items for the day. 
  • Take five minutes to practice deep breathing. 
  • Do a little yoga in your pajamas before the day begins. 

It’s surprising how much mindful-focus time with yourself before starting your day can contribute positively to your mental health. 

3. Too many electronic devices

Notifications, notifications, notifications… Your phone is full of junk that’s trying to get your attention, and it’s a problem you can easily take control of. This one is a biggie, and it’s one we all struggle with. 

There is a lot of pressure for us to be plugged into the online world on a daily basis. It means you can’t leave your house without your cell phone, tablet, laptop, wireless headphones—the list goes on. And on. And on. 

Numerous studies have documented the ways in which smartphones have the potential to totally kill our productivity. If you’re having trouble focusing, your smartphone could be one of the underlying culprits.

Even though [technologies] are fantastic, I believe that we can find a way to get the best out of them without letting them get the best of us.

— Nir Eyal, trainer of Mindvalley’s Becoming Focused and Indistractable Quest

4. Disorganization

Think about it like this: your brain acts like a computer. When you’ve got too many tabs open, it may slow down and lose efficiency. 

The same happens with your work environment. When there’s too much clutter around you, your brain can’t effectively process all the information it needs to absorb. 

The pile of papers on your desk seems never-ending, the random Post-It notes cry for your attention, and the unopened emails in your inbox create a sense of overwhelming dread. It’s hard to focus on the task at hand when you’re surrounded by chaos.

5. You don’t like what you’re doing

You’ve probably been there before. You’ve got a task to complete, but the thought of just starting it makes you want to do anything else. Suddenly, you remember those emails you were supposed to send weeks ago, not to mention the sock drawer that urgently needs reorganizing.

The truth is, when you hate what you’re doing, it’s difficult to stay focused and be productive. Your mind will find the smartest ways to put things off and keep you staring at the walls.

6. Lack of healthy lifestyle choices

Science has said it: the choices you make in your day-to-day life can impact your brain power. So if you’re looking to maximize your potential, it’s essential to consider the foundation of your health, such as diet, movement, sleep, and emotional well-being.

Think of it like building a house. You need a strong foundation to support the rest of your structure. 

The same principle applies to your brain. It requires healthy, sustainable habits to support optimal functioning.

7. Multitasking

Have you ever tried doing three things all at once and ended up not doing anything at all? Your brain can get overloaded with too much information and not know what to process first. 

It’s like trying to juggle a bunch of balls at the same time. You may have beginner’s luck and keep them all up in the air for a few seconds, but at some point, one will drop. Or all of them.

While multitasking might seem like an incredible way to be more productive, it can actually make you lose focus and procrastinate.

8. Mental health

It’s no secret that mental health plays a huge role in how efficient, present, and focused you are in your daily life.

When you’re overwhelmed with feeling anxious or depressed, it’s natural to find it hard to focus on what tasks need to be done. It’s also very likely that you’d look for distractions to avoid dealing with intense feelings.

According to Nir, the root cause of all distractions is the desire to find relief from feeling bad

As creatures of habit, we’ve learned that distraction can help us avoid pain or discomfort. And because we prefer staying safe in our comfort zone, we’re more likely to repeat the pattern over and over again. 

“If you care about your work, your family, and your physical and mental well-being, you must learn how to become indistractable,” says Nir. And it implies rewiring the habits that keep you stuck in negative emotions and harmful thought patterns.

A woman holding a phone while window shopping

What to Do When You Can’t Focus?

We’ve already mentioned some of the things that can lead to a lack of focus and concentration. But how do you fight them? What can you do to stay focused even when it is hard to keep your mind on only one thing at a time?

Getting your mind focused may feel hard, but there are some ways to maximize your concentration that Nir recommends implementing.

The essential skill of our century is how to become indistractable.

— Nir Eyal, trainer of Mindvalley’s Becoming Focused and Indistractable Quest

1. Identify and prevent distractions with pacts

Before you sit down to work, look around yourself and find the things that might be distracting. For example, if you feel the urge to take your phone and check all social networks, do so. But remove your phone from your room when you start working. 

After you’ve cleared your workspace, you can also make some pacts with yourself to stay on track.

Nir recommends these three types of agreements that you can have with yourself:

  • Price pact. Bet money on yourself that you will achieve a deadline by the end of the month.
  • Effort pact. Schedule some time with a coworker to do some “deep work” together. This way you’ll have someone to keep you accountable.
  • Identity pact. What labels do you hold as your identity and how do they empower you? For example, a convinced vegetarian wouldn’t struggle to not eat bacon. So it’s important to align your behaviors with who you truly are.

Take the time to try out which one works best for you. The magic formula for living an indistractable life is unique to you.

2. Master your internal triggers

Did you know that the opposite of distraction isn’t actually focus? It’s something called “traction,” and it’s what leads you closer to achieving your goals. 

Nir has some great advice for mastering those internal cues. Instead of fighting against the urge to check your phone in the middle of a work task, try reconditioning your mind. Maybe set a time limit to focus on your task and then give yourself a 10-minute phone break.

It’s all about seeking relief from those triggers in a reflective way, rather than reacting impulsively. By challenging your mindset about your internal triggers, you get one step closer to removing the blocks to your success.

3. One thing at a time

As mentioned before, multitasking is a productivity killer.

When you are working on a lot of things at the same time (or, better said, trying), you naturally and quickly start to feel tired. This is due to the amount of energy needed to switch between tasks and focus. The quality of your work also begins to drop, as well as your focus. 

The same can happen if the tasks that you are about to do are too large. 

What Nir recommends doing is trying out time-blocking. This means blocking out a set amount of time in your calendar for one specific activity. And that’s the only thing you have to do during that hour or so. 

So when you have a lot of things to do, try to organize your time and stay focused on one task at a time. Split them into smaller chunks that will lead to the final product. 

4. Try meditation

At first, meditation may seem hard for someone who already has problems focusing. But once you commit, regardless of the outcome, you may just see the benefits that come from it.

Find a quiet place, breathe deeply, clear your head of all thoughts, and feel the present moment. It is all about feeling comfortable and relaxed.

When you are meditating, there is nothing more around you—no tasks that need to be finished quickly, no struggles with prioritizing the to-do list. Just you and your breathing.

5. Use visual reminders

You can use visual reminders to help yourself stay on track when you are doing a task that needs complete focus. For example, sprinkle notes to yourself around the office when you’re doing a complicated task.

Having this practice will bring you back to what’s actually important to be done when you unconsciously start wandering around looking for distractions. When you reconnect with your awareness of the present, it’s like training your mind to prioritize and keep you concentrated.

As Nir likes to remind us, “The real reason we’re not living the kind of life that we know we deserve is that we keep getting in our own way. We keep getting distracted.” So what if you had prompts around you to remind yourself of the importance of directing your attention to what truly matters to you?

When to Look for Professional Help

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just seem unable to concentrate. And maybe you’ve tried all the tips and tricks out there but still find yourself constantly asking, “Why can’t I focus on anything?”

If you’ve made attempts but still can’t seem to find a solution, it may be more sensible to seek help from a professional. The underlying cause might be deeper and more difficult to tackle on your own. 

Sometimes, reaching out to a professional is necessary in cases of attention deficit disorder (ADD).

Here are some signs that you may need to see a specialist:

  • Sudden memory loss
  • Complete lack of focus and concentration
  • Constant hyperactivity
  • Constant brain fog
  • Much lower performance at school or work
  • Severe lack of sleep
  • Intense headaches that keep repeating
  • Zoning out
  • Physical symptoms of anxiety

But always keep in mind that seeking help doesn’t mean you’re weak or incapable. In fact, it takes an infinite amount of strength and courage to admit when you need assistance and take action to go get it. 

It’s like athletes hiring a coach to perform at their best, professional help might be just the care and drive you need to unlock your full potential. A few options to consider are therapists, counselors, or healthcare practitioners that specialize in attention and focus issues.

Taking the step to ask for the proper help you need only shows how much you value your personal growth and well-being.

Unlock Your Indistractable Self

Answering “Why can’t I focus?” can lead you to the path of unlocking your unlimited potential.

Because, as the famous saying goes, energy flows where attention goes. So if you could direct all of your energy toward one big dream of yours, it’d come true in no time. 

The beauty of it all is that you can absolutely become indistractable. Here is where Mindvalley comes into play. With guidance and expertise from Nir Eyal in the Becoming Focused and Indistractable Quest, you learn how to master the power of your attention.

By claiming your free access, you get to try classes from this insightful program and many others. Additionally, you’ll browse through a library of free guided meditations that can help you recenter and reconnect when distractions feel at their peak.

So don’t be afraid to unlock your indistractable potential. You deserve to use all of it.

Recommended Free Masterclass For You

Become Immune to Overwhelm and Develop Powerful Focus With Nir Eyal, One of the World’s Leading Experts in Habit Formation

In this free masterclass, discover how to rise above distractions, own your time, and regain your peak focus and performance, no matter what’s going on inside you or around youReserve My Free Spot Now

Alexandra Tudor

Alexandra Tudor

Alexandra Tudor is a former content writer for Mindvalley and a psychology enthusiast. From clinical experience working with both children and adults, she's now in the process of becoming a licensed psychotherapist, specializing in the IFS method and family constellation therapy.
Written by

Alexandra Tudor

Alexandra Tudor is a former content writer for Mindvalley and a psychology enthusiast. From clinical experience working with both children and adults, she's now in the process of becoming a licensed psychotherapist, specializing in the IFS method and family constellation therapy.
Nir Eyal - Trainer
Expertise by

Nir Eyal is the trainer of Mindvalley’s Becoming Focused and Indistractable Quest. He is also the bestselling author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.

How we reviewed this article:
Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.

Fact-Checking: Our Process

Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. 

We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. 

The Mindvalley fact-checking guidelines are based on:

To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.