Originally published in 2013, this is a message I felt bears repeating.
Recently, a dear student expressed her dismay at her lack of progress in completing her assignments in a course she is taking, due to a habit of being easily distracted. This is not just her problem, but is shared by many if not most people. The response that was sent to her is presented here in case it is found to be useful.
As you know, there will always be distractions. Actually, the situation is similar to learning to meditate. In meditation, one chooses to keep his/her attention on a chosen focus (often a mantra) and to not let the mind wander. But one distraction after another comes into the field of awareness and the mind tends to chase them.
So the work of a meditator is to strengthen the ability to keep the mind on the focus. This strengthening occurs over time through practice. We commit to keep the mind on the focus, and we bring the mind back to the focus if it gets distracted. With time and sincere effort, our ability to keep the mind concentrated strengthens.
Now, the process is the same whether we are wanting to stay focused on a mantra or on a project. Both require keeping the mind on a focus and drawing it back when it becomes distracted.
If our mind's habit is to be distracted easily, in addition to concentration practice, we may need more help. This further help was described by Swami Rama as follows (paraphrasing): Decide what you'll do and say to yourself, “I can do it, I will do it, I must do it,” and let nothing stop you from accomplishing what you've decided. Doing this will build within you the power of determination, which will greatly help you accomplish your goals.