Why is it So Hard to Focus on One Thing at a Time?

Alex Cueto
4 min readDec 19, 2022

--

There’s a difference between a lack of focus and the inability (or unwillingness) to do one task at a time.

Let’s focus on unwillingness for a second.

I constantly need to listen to financial podcasts like Bloomberg Technology or The Economist while working, otherwise, I can’t get anything done. This is the action of listening to something while producing meaningful work. It’s pretty common, isn’t it?

Well, I’m unwilling to sit down in front of my laptop and just write this article. It’s not that I can’t, it’s just that I don’t want to…or can’t?

What about writing an email while setting up the product roadmap for the following months?

I’ve noticed that if two different tasks are intertwined, it makes a lot of sense to get them both out of the way at the same time.

For example, if after finishing the roadmap you need to send an email to the team members involved, why not craft the email while working on it?

On the other hand, there’s Brain Fog, a term used to describe certain symptoms that affect your ability to think. This includes feeling confused and finding it hard to think straight.

People can experience brain fog if they haven’t had enough sleep, are hungry, hangry, or suffer from other conditions like depression, anxiety, and ADHD.

Luckily, there are solutions to brain fog, but what about those who can’t feel productive unless their minds are occupied with several things?

Are we screwed? Well, it depends on the eye of the beholder. Otherwise, it depends on how each individual approaches the situation.

Having the ability to produce several meaningful things at a time can be both a blessing and a curse.

So, can you tell me why is it so hard to focus on one thing at a time?

You might have probably skimmed through the article to find out why you clicked on it.

Well, I intentionally included an arguably long intro, as people who enjoy multitasking are usually quite anxious, and anxiety comes with impatience, and impatience comes with moving fast (mentally or physically). What better way to move fast than to complete a few things simultaneously?

Anxious people don’t experience Brain Fog, we are just capable of doing several things at a time, and feeling good about it.

Let’s compare anxiety to being a night owl. 🌛

Our circadian cycle, a system that regulates sleep–wake cycles, is diurnal. This means people function better during the day.

But what happens when your creativity explodes after 7 pm? It’s certainly a challenge, as our world functions during the daytime. Therefore, night owls are bound to be productive during the day.

Well, fuck that!

Night owls shouldn’t feel obligated to be productive during the day. Who knows how many incredible things we’re missing out on when night owls go to sleep at 9 pm.

The same can be said about multitasking.

The truth is that anxious people can multitask more easily than other people. This is because our brains constantly need to solve problems and finish tasks.

People with anxiety might find it hard to single-task because, well, there’s no need to. In fact, if you always meet deadlines, love planning, and worry a lot, you might be experiencing High-Functioning Anxiety.

High-functioning anxiety and productivity

Anxiety can help you avoid dangerous situations and stay motivated to complete tasks. But, people with high-functioning anxiety usually appear calm on the surface, but struggle underneath.

You probably experience high-functioning anxiety if:

  • You are a high achiever
  • You can multitask
  • You love planning
  • You always meet deadlines
  • You worry a lot
  • You’re irritable and snappy when things don’t go as planned
  • You struggle with sleep patterns
  • You don’t like to delegate and prefer to take full ownership
  • You have unrealistic standards

This might sound great on a surface level, as high-functioning anxiety almost always leads to success, but success driven by anxiety is not sustainable. Prolonged periods of busyness might result in fatigue, burnout, and even depression.

So, learn to leverage your source of chemical motivation by:

  • Having regular sleep patterns: Waking up and going to bed at the same time every day.
  • Disconnect from work: Take one or two days completely off.
  • 10-minute meditation: Practice at least 10 minutes of meditation every day. Meditating doesn’t mean sitting still and emptying your mind while breathing…That’s certainly the idea, but meditation is a relaxation practice. I personally find it more helpful to listen to meditation music while reading a book or doing yoga… 🤦‍♀️

The secret is finding whatever works for you and reaching a balance between productivity and sanity….I mean well-being.

Send me a message if you want to discuss more productivity and anxiety: hello@alexcueto.co

--

--

Alex Cueto

Content & Growth Marketer. Making knowledge a bit more feasible.