How to STAY Focused? (spoiler: you can’t) — a practical, no BS answer

Michael Ye
Sep 12, 2019 · 3 min read

You Can’t.

Yes, You read that correctly, You CANNOT just force yourself to stay focused, it’s not possible.

How many times have you read an article about “How to (really) Focus!”, and actually changed? How many times have self-improvement gurus told you cool tips and tricks they use, and your life improves instantly?

Probably never.

Forget meditation, envisioning the future, affirmations, etc… The simple answer is you physically cannot ‘force’ your mind to stay focused with willpower, because of one fact: Distractions.

I can even bet a million dollars, at least one person will get distracted in the next 2 minutes and never finish reading this article.

How can I be so sure? Because software companies that create these distractions literally spend billions on hacking your brain to keep you addicted. Your mind wanders not because you don’t have all the tips to make your mind strong; your mind wanders because those distractions are engineered to be out of your willpower’s control. Thinking that you can outsmart a billion-dollar AI is self-deluding.

So how can you stay focused if you cannot use willpower? I talked about this in my video ‘How to Stop Procrastination without Willpower’(linked at the bottom), the number one takeaway is you must stop the distractions from ever reaching your mind.

It’s not avoiding distractions, it’s stopping distractions.

In other words, instead of trying to change yourself, change your environment.

Here are two ways to do exactly that:

  1. COMPLETELY shutdown distractions when you work. This can be achieved using a web blocker. Personally, I get distracted every-time I research on YouTube — 10 minutes later, I’d be watching PewDiePie making a wedding for his minecraft dogs and totally forgetting what I meant to do. Nowadays, I use the DF Tube extension to block recommended videos and the YouTube home page.
    Also, because there aren’t any web blockers for my iPhone, I always keep my phone outside of my room when I work.
  2. OPTIMIZE your health! When you aren’t energized, your focus drops to 0. What helps me is I’d do 50–100 jumping jacks, that gets me pumped up for whatever task that comes next.

Last but not least, take some action RIGHT NOW! If you don’t apply what you learned, NOTHING will get better in your life. This is why all those other self-improvement articles never worked!

So here’s a task for you: Go read the book ‘Make Time’ by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky, it takes a practical approach to end distractions and that’s what inspired this article! But you will definitely get distracted and procrastinate on it.

Let me redo that sentence with a more realistic, practical tone…

So here’s a task for you: Go watch the video ‘How to Stop Procrastination without Willpower’, it summarizes the book “Make Time” and talks about what I wrote above more in-depth. It contains many hard truths, tactics you can apply today, and a call-to-action at the end to improve your life immediately!


👋 Hey! I’m a 16-year-old entrepreneur, speaker, & Machine Learning/Python/C++/Web developer located in Toronto.

If you have any suggestions, ideas for projects, or just want to connect, feel free to message me on LinkedIn(http://linkedin.com/in/realmichaelye) or email realmichaelye@gmail.com!

If you enjoyed reading this article, don’t forget to hit that Clap button below and share this with all your Medium friends! Also if you have any suggestions or any questions, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn!

Michael Ye

Written by

machine learning developer, entrepreneur, life long learner

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