Focus is a word that is becoming a dying art. We need to develop techniques for preserving our attention in a world that swallows it whole. Before we start, close all the other browser tabs. We know you have a few open. This might be the most important 10 minutes of undivided attention you give to something all year. It’s time you learned how to focus better.


“Catching my attention is easy. Keeping my interest is harder.”


Team Vippi wants to tell you about a word that probably damages your ability to function in the modern world more than any other:


1. a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else.
2. extreme agitation of the mind or emotions.

We know you’ve felt the effects of points 1 and 2: The deep frustration, aimlessness, and hopelessness accompanying the loss of any day to distracting influences. Distraction is in essence the inability to focus.

And it doesn’t look like the battle against distractedness is going to slow down anytime soon.

Case in point: working from home (WFH). According to 2021 research, it had its benefits – but study participants reported that increased distractions reduced their mental well-being. Anyone trying to get work done with kids still living at home knows you don’t need a Ph.D. to prove that.

Lost productivity

Another study at a major U.S. manufacturer found that distraction alone was the direct cause of 93.6 percent of lost productivity – which is f*cking staggering compared to the 6.4 percent lost to absenteeism as the result of ill health.

Productivity has direct links to your purpose, success, and, ultimately, your happiness. If you don’t do, you don’t achieve. So whether the distractions physically eat your attention span (like phone notifications) or take the form of wandering thoughts and stress, they form a roadblock to contentment that needs addressing.

Distractions don’t just risk blocking your happiness – they can end your life, too. A recent study showed that texting while driving makes the risk of a traffic accident 2.41–2.77 times more likely. 

Team Vippi has developed a plan to pop the constant bubble of distractions around you and embrace a more purposeful life: The Distraction Diet.

Why midlifers need to focus on their focus

Modern society provides you with hundreds of “SQUIRREL!” moments every hour. Learn to defuse them.

Humans simply aren’t made to fulfill multiple objectives at once with 100 percent effectiveness. Millennials call it multitasking. Texting while watching Netflix while flitting in and out of WFH assignments is a lifestyle they’ve learned to navigate – and good for them. 

But midlifers don’t have it so easy. 

We’re eternal caregivers. One f*ck-up could be the difference between remembering to administer mom’s diabetes medication on time and facing a medical emergency. But it’s that very same responsibility that saps so much attention.

It’s a messed-up cycle. That’s why we have to make sure we cleanse ourselves of irrelevant distractions so we can focus on the life-or-death moments.

We were raised to focus on one task at a time. Our personal and professional lives force us to multitask in a way we didn’t get training for. Society is throwing wave upon wave of news, information, and communication at us constantly. And our brains aren’t used to it.

No wonder our moods are crashing. We live in a constant state of stress without feeling a sense of purpose or seeing the results of our productivity. We’re not as productive as we think, even though we feel busy). 

If you only give 10 percent of your attention, you only get 10 percent of the outcome you wanted. Of course it affects our mood. We can’t resist distractions, but nobody’s happier after indulging them.

After all, if we’re everywhere with everyone, we’re actually nowhere with nobody. That applies to either an insanely full social calendar or the very familiar bombardment of social media notifications. 

No one’s getting our full attention or focus – including ourselves. 

Distraction and lack of focus can lead to depression-like symptoms – fatigue, a loss of enjoyment in stuff we used to enjoy, and irritability (and don’t forget the sadness and hopelessness). It’s a byproduct of negative stress.

The underlying cause of many issues around maintaining our attention is that we are task-oriented rather than project-oriented. Projects involve purpose, strategy, planning, and a whole bunch of attention. Tasks are so menial that a hamster can complete them. Run on the wheel. Eat food. There’s no purpose.

Living by a bunch of tasks gets us a one-way ticket to Distraction Town. They’re easy to complete, they provide a sense of accomplishment without genuine progress, and we can finish a whole bunch of tasks without really knowing why we did them.

Why the heck are we so distracted?

“Would you like a little bit of everything, all of the time?” Bo Burnham, comedian

Being constantly connected to everything might’ve seemed like a good idea at one point. The world is more dynamic than it’s ever been, life is faster, and we face an absolute onslaught of information. 

Every morsel of knowledge we could ever hope to consume and everyone we could ever want to talk to is just a click away, free of charge. We’re hooked. It’s insanely enticing.

But nothing comes without a price. We exchanged our attention spans for a hyperconnected society – and we didn’t even question it. 

Think of society as an infant’s growing brain. Synapses are the pathways through which electric signals travel to power everything you think and experience. And when we’re less than 2 years old, we grow 40,000 synapses every second as we gain awareness of the world. That’s the explosion of the Internet in a nutshell.


However, researchers have also suggested that this is why we don’t remember our childhoods. All that exploding awareness, and we don’t get to keep any of it for a meaningful amount of time. Our brains are just communicating and expanding too damn much.

The world is much the same now. We have so many connections but a dwindling number of ways to lock our attention into one place for any period. We just can’t seem to hold on to the good stuff.

Even in a solely professional environment, we have to learn more systems and processes than ever before. Plus, businesses constantly change to keep up with this rapidly evolving world, and we have to learn at breakneck speed just to keep up.

Our problem is that we think we can keep pace with this expanded connectivity by doing everything at once. Success is not about knowing more, but about doing more with less – and that takes concentration.

It’s becoming an almost impossible task to filter out useless information and decipher which of our human connections add value to our lives.

Diversifying the devastation of distraction

There are four main ways in which distraction demonstrates its hold on our lives.


Instead of nourishing our minds, we feed our narcissistic sides, tuning out information that fails to re-establish our worldview. It means we reject any information we disagree with and fail to expand our understanding of the world.

It’s impossible to develop ourselves mentally if our brains operate in several varying, distracting environments, all day, every day. 

Midlifers need to engage in daily attention practice. Otherwise, brain fog, general sluggishness, and mood crashes will start to set in.


We fuel the negative side of our emotions – the stress of bouncing between demands, the constant outrage perpetuated by news cycles, and the vanity of requiring neverending validation from other people. 

All of this can make us miserable. Plus, it leaves no time for positive, mood-boosting lifestyle choices.

Constant distraction is just not a sustainable, purposeful way of moving through life. 

This is also evident in our social circles. Positive influences do not always surround us, and the noise of negative friends and family members can influence our judgment. The need to fill our social calendar and be constantly engaged for fear of spending time with ourselves seems healthy, but it’s a form of distraction.

The more distracted we are, the more task-oriented our worldview becomes. 

The less we work on purposeful projects, the less we develop and achieve.

The less we achieve, the more happiness we see slip away.

Physically and nutritionally

When we’re distracted, we often bounce from task to task without a thought for our well-being. Absent-mindedly opening a pack of potato chips while doing a work assignment means that unhealthy decisions can occur on an almost unconscious basis.

We feed our inner couch potato and our nutritionally destructive side because being distracted chips away at our willpower. If you’re frustrated and distracted during the day, you won’t sleep as well at night, as all the little things you didn’t manage to do (and the emotional distractions as well) will run through your head.

This messes with your sleep pattern, giving you less energy to draw from the next day. You’ll be more distracted the next day, which prolongs the cycle of distractedness and self-destructiveness. Plus, if we feel sh*tty, it’s more likely we’ll eat poorly and make excuses not to exercise.


We remember the Middle Ages for the plague. The early 21st century will be notorious for digital distractions in the same way. 

Constant notifications on your phone. The urge to respond to every text message. We feed our digital distractions, and they insert their tendrils into every aspect of our daily lives. Every idea we have or objective we need to meet gets cut off by that dreaded ping sound.

It’s like a condom on your personal development. Digital distractions prevent the conception of new ideas and block you from focusing on existing ones. 

Try this straightforward exercise: Take a look at your computer screen. How many windows do you have floating around? And how many tabs are open on each window? It’s a perfect representation of the level of distraction in your day-to-day life.

How to focus better: A 4-pronged approach to The Distraction Diet

So you’ve finally decided to focus better on focusing better. And Team Vippi’s Distraction Diet will be your ticket to a clearer mind.

It’s going to be such a breath of fresh air. But it’s tough to tackle “distraction” as one entity when the entire world is currently built on it (sapping your attention is Facebook’s entire business model).

And like any diet, doing too much too quickly will have you burning out and returning to your attention-drained ways in no time. Take this approach in stages, ease yourself in, and don’t punish yourself for lapses.

It’s better to break the diet down into the four categories above and dedicate a short amount of time to each one, every day. That way, The Distraction Diet becomes a lifestyle, not a fad.

Focus on your mind

The brain is a muscle. You can reshape it and tone it as you would your biceps. Likewise, you can train it to focus better and reduce its hunger for constant stimulation. 

You need to nourish your mind – so no more lazy entertainment and passive consumption, and more sitting with yourself.

Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness:

In a 2020 study, yoga and mindfulness exercises helped healthcare workers reduce stress, improve their work performance, and enhance their focus. The techniques in the study included breathing techniques, basic yoga poses, and repeating a mantra.

These techniques help you find a sense of place where you are and just be, rather than needing to do constantly. Practicing them means that your brain won’t go hunting for short-term distractions.


There are apps specifically designed to strengthen your mind and give it more flexibility to achieve all its daily objectives.

Great options include: 

  • Lumosity. The benchmark of brain-training apps. (You get a free month’s trial, and then $15 per month afterward)
  • Cognifit Brain Fitness. Neuroscientists helped develop these games to fortify your memory and concentration. Crank up the difficulty as you go. (The first four games are free, then it’s $13 a month afterward.)
  • Clockwork Brain. This is a free brain-boosting app that can be super fun and helpful.
  • Fit Brains Trainer Free. This app contains ten games that can help you retain focus. 

It’s important not to rely entirely on apps for your attention training – many of them (especially Fit Brains Trainer) will still ping you with notifications. (“You’ve not practiced today! Give us more attention!” – Don’t worry, you can turn these notifications off.) 

The games and exercises within each of these apps can help you preserve your focus. You can also try apps like Headspace to support your meditation technique and Daily Yoga for those of us who aren’t experienced yogis.


Whether non-fiction or fiction, books or long-form articles, reading is pure brain food that gives leftovers to the soul, too. Our attention has been reduced to the length of a tweet and the emotional depth of a flea. This needs expanding – and fast.

Read something that challenges you and requires at least half an hour of dedicated focus. Set yourself a target like “I’m not getting out of this chair or picking up my phone until I’ve finished this chapter/article.” Then, stick to it.

Every time you feel your attention drift, move back up a paragraph. It’s the “Go To Jail” square in monopoly. Force yourself to reabsorb the information you missed during the distraction.

USA Today offers a pretty comprehensive overview of the best books around at the moment. Alternatively, you can sign up for publications that focus on your industry or line of work – anything constructive that builds your know-how and provides info you can put into practice.

Recalibrate your emotions. Focus requires balance.

So you’re tending to your mental distractions by finding peace, consuming longer content with purpose, and exercising your brain. But, now, you need to give your heart some room to breathe. Otherwise, negative emotions will fill the space you’ve freed up with meditation.

Here’s how to act as your own emotional gatekeeper:

  • Learn to say no. You don’t have to say yes to every dinner invitation, party, meetup, and social engagement that comes your way. If you don’t get nourishment from the company of these people, why are you spending time with them? After you get the invite, take stock of how you feel. Do you want to go because you want to go, or because you feel obliged? If it’s the latter, say no.
  • Avoid negative self-talk. If you find that you lay awake at night plagued with self-doubt, it’s probably because you were so distracted during the day that you didn’t hit all your marks. So while you’re working on your ability to hold attention, you have to show yourself some kindness. It’s okay if you’re not getting everything right. You’re a work in progress. 
  • Swerve any media designed to outrage you. This is so important for both our mental and emotional states. Suppose you can see in the headline that the editor wants you to react with strong emotions (for example, PASSIONATE LANGUAGE in ALL CAPS). In that case, their motives are not to provide you with precise information that enriches your perspective on a topic. They want your clicks. Don’t let them steal your attention.

Easy does it

Take things gradually. Don’t just blanket refuse to go to every social event – if there’s one that you don’t feel energized by, it should be that event you turn down. Trust your gut, and don’t feel bad about declining invitations you don’t feel great about.

Take the same approach with negative self-talk – you won’t catch every moment of self-doubt, but you can catch the one “I truly suck” line in your head and change it to, “actually, I’m pretty much okay, you know? I’m only human.”

A little self-respect and permission to love yourself can turn into more over time.

Reduce your digital overexposure

Clean up your social media friends list. 

Have a scroll through your Facebook or Twitter account right now. Go to your list of friends (or on Twitter, the accounts you follow) and take a cursory glance over the first few names your eyes land on. Ask yourself:

Is this person adding value to my life? 

Then, look at the groups and news pages you follow. Ask an even deeper question:

Does this page/person help me grow or amplify my fears?

Team Vippi would be willing to bet good money on the answer being “no” on both counts – even after a quick glimpse at your friends list.

Thumbing through our Twitter feeds while we mindlessly absorb menial opinions, photos we don’t care about, and minor life updates is one of the saddest, most pathetic time drains we can apply to ourselves.

Think about it: Would you watch a TV series of a random Facebook friend eating an avocado? No. It’s the same with your feed. An algorithm puts it together based on what it’s seen you “like” or spend the most time consuming. Watch The Social Dilemma (if you have a Netflix account) for a truly terrifying glimpse into how social media giants monopolize your attention.

You don’t have to take a whole day to unfollow and unfriend people – but you can spend 10 minutes a day getting rid of twenty meaningless follows. Keep only the people who add measurable value to your life or about whom you care deeply.

What if someone sees that I’ve unfriended them?

If you’re worried about creating conflict, you can “unfollow” someone on Facebook without unfriending them – they’ll never know, and you don’t see their information drip-fed into your life if you no longer care. Be unrelenting.

On Twitter, people will barely notice if you unfollow them. So stop making excuses, and devote some time to making your social media experience less noisy and more relevant.

Turn off your notifications

Every time a Messenger, WhatsApp, Facebook, email, or news notification lights up your phone, a funeral bell rings for your attention span.

Putting a stop to all of your distractions will only yield results if you stop allowing your phone to interrupt you constantly. It’s with you 24/7. That’s an infinite window for being drawn away from tasks, having productive thought patterns disrupted, and disappearing down wormholes of distraction.


Go into your phone menu and remove the permission of all apps to give you notifications. You can do this in the following ways: 

  • iPhone, go into Settings → Notifications → Notifications
  • Android, go into Settings → Apps and notifications → Notifications
  • On either, turn on “Do Not Disturb” mode in your phone settings to pause notifications for a certain period.

We recommend a complete purge. If there’s an emergency happening to someone you care about, they have your number, and they’ll call you.

(Also, delete your social media apps from your phone. It doesn’t delete your account. It just reduces your ability to spend your entire scrolling through absolute nonsense. If you need to wean off notifications without going for a complete purge, target your social media apps first.)

H4. Website blockers

So the phone is notification-free, and your thumbs are finally happy and free after years of servitude. But then you start your work shift. You open one of your many tabs and compulsively begin to type something. 

F… a… c… e… b… o… o…

No, no, no. 


This is your job. What the heck is wrong with you? (Don’t worry, we’re not judging. We know the temptation is unbearable.)

But there’s hope. For the easily tempted among us, there are browser extensions that can block your problem sites. 

Team Vippi’s favorite blocking tool is StayFocusd. You can set your browser to block certain sites at specific times (say, your workday). And there’s even a “Nuclear Option,” which completely shuts out your distraction sites for a defined period and removes any way to unblock them.

Retain your focus with healthy life choices

Anyone who’s ever tried to go on a crash diet will tell you that even those who make it through without caving in tend to rebound pretty quickly – and science agrees with them

You needn’t become an Adonis overnight. It’s just about making one healthy choice at a time and making it stick. One member of Team Vippi, for example, gave up potato chips and replaced them with seeds and nuts – a small change, but an attainable one that stuck for good and kicked some salt and saturated fat out of their life. And they still get to eat candy.

If your pantry doesn’t have any potato chips in it, you can’t reach for them out of instinct. And you don’t need science to tell you that. You won’t always keep your distractions at arm’s length – but you can insulate your lifestyle against them. 


It’s similar with exercise: There’s always one person on your socials who posts a picture of themselves on every. Single. Run. They’ll follow it with a humble brag about their marathon training. But you don’t need to go that far at all. 

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that you get 150 minutes of moderate-to-intense physical activity every week to stay heart healthy. That’s half an hour on 5 weekdays, with a couple of days off as a reward. 

And the AHA maintains that class gardening, slow biking, brisk walking, and dancing all qualify. 

We guarantee you spend more than half an hour on social media every day. So just go on a walk instead. We lose our focus because we try to do too much as an excuse to make it a “phase” and not a permanent change. 

The same member of Team Vippi who gave up chips tried to do a 4-day juice cleanse a few months back – they had an absolute meltdown on the third day and gave up. By the end of the week, they were eating worse than before the cleanse.

Slowly introduce your healthy choices so that they become second nature to you.

When distractions are good for you

The same way we can’t (and shouldn’t) sprint forever or fast from eating until we pass out, we also can’t retain focus forever. We’re not made for it. You have to allow your brain some downtime.

Many eating plans and regimens allow for a “cheat day,” right? Well, allow yourself a “Distraction Schedule” – it resembles a bunch of mini “cheat days” for the Distraction Diet scattered throughout your day. 

  1. Only check your emails four times. Your first check is at the start of your workday to have a look at any upcoming tasks. Check again just before lunch. Have another peek during mid-afternoon, and once right at the end, to wrap up anything you might’ve missed. Email takes priority at these times so that you can focus on any urgent responses with your full attention.
  2. Allow yourself three social media breaks. Give yourself one partway through the morning, one during the midafternoon, and a final one during your evening. Make sure it happens as close to the same three times every day to turn it into a scheduled break rather than another distracted social media adventure. 
  3. Give yourself three personal communication breaks. Your WhatsApp, personal emails, and text messages can have three brief slots, too. Make them different from your social media breaks if you like.
  4. Use limited periods or specific days for consuming entertainment. Maybe you’ll watch no TV during the week but can feel free to indulge yourself with a whole series on a Saturday. Or, you watch one short episode of a show after dinner every night, but never more. 
  5. Don’t bring your phone into the bedroom. Your bedroom is for reading, sleeping, or having sex. That’s it. Leave your phone charging in the kitchen overnight. You’ll survive without it, and your nighttime is sacred.


Distractions aren’t all bad. While being constantly distracted can f*ck with your mood and energy, a little targeted distraction can help interrupt long, depressive trains of thought and relieve depression and anxiety in some people.

And distractions might help folks who are quitting smoking, according to one study. 

Scheduling in some distractions means you can be gentler on yourself – and more likely to keep these changes up in the long term.

Making this plan f*cking happen

Plans are great – until you fail to act on them. Then they become an unfulfilled promise to yourself. The Distraction Diet only works if you put it into practice. But how can you cement these new habits to become more focused?

It’s essential, as with any long-term change, to start small and level up. Focusing for vast blocks of time right away won’t help you train your attention long-term.

Scheduling software

You can schedule both distractions and obligations on a timetabling/priority management program like Asana or Trello. These can help you create Distraction Schedules throughout your day and stick to them. You’ll also be able to prioritize your urgent tasks and hold your day together more productively.

This way, the individual things you need to do in your day become less like tasks and more like the tiny building blocks of a larger purpose – and a purpose-driven schedule is a huge step toward getting rid of your distractions.


“Wait, writing in a journal *every* day? Sounds to me like another distraction…”

Okay, sure. But do other distractions allow you to track your feelings throughout your day? A journal will enable you to keep track of the days where you struggle with frustration, missed goals, and lost moments. They’ll also help you monitor the periods where you’re actually on top of everything and seeing progress. 

This will motivate you in the more challenging parts of the Distraction Diet – you can read how you felt on the days you were nailing it and build back some determination for yourself.

Use apps, schedules, and journals if they help, but give your emotional and mental resilience some work too.

You should always have at least one ongoing decision you make that serves as a “Discipline Hook” – a reference point you can reflect on and think, “well, if I did that, I can do this other thing I need to do, too.”

For example, a member of Team Vippi stopped drinking Coca-Cola 6 years ago. If they want to focus on another goal or purpose, they have a Discipline Hook as an example. They’re doing this ‘no-coke’ Discipline Hook that tests their willpower and they are successful at it.

They use this ‘no-coke’ Discipline Hook to give them self-confidence in being able to overcome the self-doubt that might arise from achieving the next challenge. 

We build up units of discipline through active decision-making that we practice. It’s the simple things we decide to do that create the most impactful moments of change. This is why a Discipline Hook works.

Practice self-consciousness before starting any work or project

Knowing why you’re engaging with a project will help you avoid distractions while getting it done. So know yourself, what you want, and how the project will serve those ends. If you can see the beneficial outcome of a project in your life, you’ll be more driven to focus on it.

You also need to ask yourself:

  • Why you’re doing the project
  • What the result will be
  • When it’s due
  • What level of concentration it needs

This will help you build determination around the project and work out ways to get it done uninterrupted.

The Roundup: Making it stick and escaping the Narcissism Black Hole

“The Distraction Diet” is not, in fact, a diet – it’s a way of living that filters out all of the unnecessary crap to keep you laser-focused on your objectives. It could help you get through everything you need on a day-to-day basis.

But to make these changes permanent, a mindset shift is required. Our need for attention from others is what keeps our own attention constantly drained. 

That narcissism and insecurity lives in anyone constantly checking to see whether someone ‘likes’ their post or has replied to a text message.

If you’re having problems shifting that mindset, it might help you to know this:

You never really had their attention. 

They likely scrolled past, clicked “like,” and moved on without a second thought. 

Your quest for other people’s attention took up a lot more of your attention than theirs. So who is this constant distractedness really serving? Mark f*cking Zuckerberg. Jack f*cking Dorsey. 

The Distraction Diet is not a temporary regimen. Fad diets never work long-term. It’s their temporary nature we’re attracted to, as permanent sacrifice can be intimidating.  .

So make sure that these changes aren’t just a phase because you’ll bounce back onto social media twice as hard. 

Team Vippi knows that you can beat back your distractions with exceptional results if you do little things every day that preserve your mental, emotional, physical, and digital focus. The art of how to focus is simply explained above. The hard part is you committing to it. But trust the process. Being able to focus is one of the secrets to succeed in any avenue of life.

Article resources

Bialowolski, P., et al. (2020). Ill health and distraction at work: Costs and drivers for productivity loss. 

Facebook business model in action. (2019).

Flaherty, M. R., et al. (2020). Distracted driving laws and motor vehicle crash fatalities. 

Fu, R., et al. (2020). A comparative study of accident risk related to speech-based and handheld texting during a sudden braking event in urban road environments. 

Hall, K. D., et al. (2019). Maintenance of lost weight and long-term management of obesity. 

La Torre, G., et al. (2020). Yoga and mindfulness as a tool for influencing affectivity, anxiety, mental health, and stress among healthcare workers: Results of a single-arm clinical trial. 

Manson, M. (n.d.). The Attention Diet. 

Renton, C. (2020). Bullet journaling — aka how to get your life together. 

Roelofs, J., et al. (2009). The influence of rumination and distraction on depressed and anxious mood: A prospective examination of the Response Styles Theory in children and adolescents. 

Santos, E., et al. (n.d.). Synaptic pruning. 

Xiao, Y., et al. (2021). Impacts of working from home during COVID-19 pandemic on physical and mental well-being of office workstation users. 

What is depression? (2020). 

Why you can’t remember being a baby. (n.d.).