How to focus for a long period and fight mental distractions

Amir Diafi
4 min readFeb 14, 2024
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How to focus for a longer period and fight mental distraction — according to neuroscience.

Let’s get started by talking about one of the most important reasons for weak focusing which is Mental Distraction, Mental Distraction is related to multi-tasking, where you do a lot of things at the same time, there are a lot of people who believe that multi-tasking is a good thing and we must work on it, is this true?

A meta-analysis study in 2016, reviewed about 49 studies about multi-tasking, and they found there is a big impact of multitasking on the focusing so on productivity.

If you do many tasks at the same time comparison by doing them after each task, it will decrease productivity by ~50%.

Each time we start a new task, our focus starts increasing over time, but if we change to another task over time, our focus will start from the start.


A study shows that when you get distracted by another task, it will take about 25 minutes to get your previous focusing level.

This is one of the reasons that led me to not like the Pomodoro Technique.

I prefer to stay make a duration of 60 to 90 minutes of work session, and this is async with the Ultradian rhythm of the brain.

Most of us don’t recognize that we are in a distraction mode, and this is because there is a Meta-awareness, which is self-awareness or a purposeful focus (at a conscious level) on how you are developing and maintaining your situational awareness.

This brings us to one of the strategies to increase our focus which is enhancing our ability to our Meta-awareness, this happens by doing Mindfulness, in which we must first focus on our breaths, then our feelings then our thoughts that come to our mind, but without trying to change it, this things may be included in the meditation, but you can do this in any situations, not just to be in fully separated meditation mode.

Another important thing is the Working Memory.

Working memory is one of the brain’s executive functions. It’s a skill that allows us to work with information without losing track of what we’re doing. Think of working memory as a temporary sticky note in the brain.

Working memory has a limited stock, for example, most people can’t remember more than 7 numbers at the same time.

Stay focused is related directly to Working Memory by our ability to filter and hold the data or information that we want to use in the next few minutes, and the ability to not give attention to the things that have no relation to our current topic.

Now let’s test our Working Memory to understand it more.

I want you to remember the 5 following things:

  • Car, Mars, Hospital, Window, and electricity cord.
  • Now Calculate 14*7, Done!
  • Now start discounting starting from 20 by decreasing 2 each time for example: (20–>18->16).

Now start remembering the five first things we mentioned, most of us will only remember about 3 things.

This is the Working Memory.

Now we’ll talk about another thing related to focus, which is Impulsivity, most of the people who have less focus have a high impulse.

Impulsivity is disability to hold the information in Working Memory for a long time. So impulsivity is a reason for distraction.

Now we’ll mention 5 steps to enhance our Working Memory due to Peter Doolittle:

  1. Real-time analysis: This is when we are in case of receiving information, like a lecture, discussion, or even a YouTube video, don’t be just a listener, but try to think about it and analyze it critically, here you will be training your brain to use the information you are receiving to working memory.
  2. Repetition: Which all about repeating the information in different ways, for example by thinking about it differently in our mind, then taking notes about it, or making it visual or illustrating it.
  3. Binding it with our previous knowledge: Bind this new information with your previous information and experiences.
  4. Use imagery thinking: try to prompt images related to things you are learning, and if you are reading about characters picture them.
  5. Ask questions, and support what you learn: If you want to learn about anything, you need to immerse yourself in the subject. Reading one article isn’t enough, keep asking questions.

Finally, there is a task to improve your focus which is dual n-back:


Dual n-back is a cognitive training task that exercises your working memory in a way that has been shown, in numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies, to have a significant positive effect on intelligence. The task is quite challenging, and it may take a little while for you to get the hang of it.

If you want to try it, you do that by going to this website:

Voila 🥳!

Amir Diafi

That’s it, I hope you enjoy reading, and I hope you subscribe to more articles about productivity, cognitive, and technology.