In the quest for improved productivity and academic success, the ability to maintain focus is paramount. But building focus isn’t just about creating an optimal external environment; it also involves developing internal cognitive skills. In this article, we explore how a combination of external and internal coaching approaches can help individuals cultivate the concentration needed for deep, focused work.

External Coaching Approaches

1. Minimizing Distractions

External coaching begins with setting up a conducive work environment by minimizing distractions. This involves decluttering the workspace, removing unnecessary items, and creating a clean, organized area dedicated to work. By eliminating visual and auditory disruptions, individuals can better direct their attention toward the task at hand.

2. Consistent Workspace

Consistency is key to building focus. Establishing a designated workspace for work or study helps signal to the brain that it’s time to focus. Whether it’s a quiet corner of the room, a library cubicle, or a coffee shop table, having a consistent environment primes the mind for deep, uninterrupted work sessions.

3. Routine and Time Management

Implementing structured routines and time management techniques can further enhance focus. By establishing daily schedules, prioritizing tasks, and allocating specific time slots for focused work, individuals create a framework that promotes productivity and minimizes procrastination.

4. Deep Work Sessions

Deep work, as coined by author Cal Newport, refers to periods of intense concentration on cognitively demanding tasks without distractions. External coaching involves carving out dedicated time slots for deep work sessions, during which individuals commit to focusing solely on the task at hand, free from interruptions.

Internal Coaching Approaches

1. Visualization

One of the main strategies employed in the integrated executive functioning (EF) coaching model, developed by Mary Miele, is visualization. This internal coaching technique requires individuals to mentally visualize the completion of a task from start to finish, including the process of turning in an assignment or project. Visualization helps individuals clarify goals, maintain motivation, and mentally prepare for success.

2. Timer Technique

Another internal coaching strategy for building focus is the use of a timer to monitor deep work periods. Starting with short intervals, such as two minutes of sustained work, individuals gradually increase the duration as their brains build stamina for focused work. This approach, often referred to as the Pomodoro Technique, promotes time management, task prioritization, and sustained attention.

Finding Balance

Effective focus-building requires a balance between external and internal coaching approaches. While optimizing the external environment sets the stage for concentration, internal cognitive skills are equally crucial for sustaining focus over extended periods. By combining strategies such as minimizing distractions, establishing routines, visualizing success, and using timers, individuals can cultivate the mental resilience needed to tackle tasks with clarity and efficiency.

In the pursuit of enhanced focus and productivity, it’s essential to leverage both external and internal coaching approaches. For more information about the Integrated Executive Function Coaching Program and work of Mary Miele, our founder and creator of the Integrated Executive Function Coaching Model, please email Mary Miele at To get set up with an Integrated EF Coach, please email Amy Nathan at 

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