How to Focus in a Noisy World

Have you noticed how noisy it is around you?

I’ll speak a bit louder. Can you hear me now?

Now I’ve got your attention, I want you to reflect on whether you have a clear focus on your most important work.

Getting your most important projects completed has to be a key priority.

You have to block out the noise. 

If you don’t control the noise, it will control you.


Do you love watching emails cascade into your inbox and reading them instantly?

Or do you have an audio ‘ping’ announcing each email’s arrival?

Well stop it.

Turn off email and only open it to check between blocks of focused work. If you want to, treat it as a reward for a solid block of 60-90 minutes of uninterrupted focus.

Another winning tactic is to set an autoresponder email that advises people you’ll only be checking your email mid-morning, after lunch and late-afternoon.

Then simply schedule 15 minute blocks in those three windows to check and respond.

But don’t cheat.


Do you love getting lost surfing the web? Does click bait turn you on?

Endless hours are lost each week to this.

So stop it.

Turn off your browser and only use internet for focused tasks related to your activity.

If this is particularly hard for you, schedule times at lunch or after hours to satisfy your web addiction.

But don’t rob your most important work by entering this vortex. It is a thief of time and productivity.

Social Media

Social media can be the Achilles heel to focus. There is endless content being spewed out on so many channels.

Of course I agree social media has a place. I use it.

Posting content on social media is best when connected to your focused activity.

A blog link, a helpful resource or insightful comment on twitter is okay when linked in context.

Just manage your access.

Set up a social media calendar with activity scheduled strategically on given days.

If you are a social media junky, allocate unrestricted access outside of windows of time dedicated to your most important work.

Next time you think that twitter post is so important, make the post and then open the stopwatch on your iphone. Hit refresh on twitter and time the number of seconds it takes your post to be buried down the line. 

Mobile Devices

Turn off notifications, beeps and vibrations on all mobile devices that interrupt focus.

As the saying goes – Silence is golden.

Internal Meetings

Those of you that know me, know I bang on about how critical internal meetings are.

However, they must have a standard agenda, run times, rules, a Chair to facilitate, a Scribe to note agreed actions and follow up actions distributed.

A regime of recurring meetings should be non-negotiable and inserted in all attendees’ diaries.

Beyond these non-negotiable internal meetings, there should be ample capacity for focused activity.

Open-Plan offices

I never understood the US-led popularization of open-plan offices with the CEO sitting within the team.

How can they be expected to function optimally as CEO?

No clarity to think. No confidentiality. How can they focus on their critical work as leader and have private conversations or review confidential documents?

If you don’t have an office, try and create a sacred space for focused activity. Perhaps a meeting room. Or the Boardroom. Your home study. Or hold walking-meetings like Steve Jobs famously did in the park. Even a quiet café or park bench.

Escape the noise and create a mindset and an environment where focused activity is paramount.

How else can you create your best work with the constant noise and distraction of our crazy world?

Commit to the discipline of eliminating the noise. Change things up.

The world needs your most important work. And it’s your job to deliver it before leaving the planet.

If you want to talk about focus and working on your most important projects, please email me at 

Darren Bourke

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Cheers, Darren K Bourke