Distractions are high on the list of things that keep us from completing our writing projects. Many people cite the internet, email, phone, even mind-wandering as the number one thing that keeps them from writing. And I know we hear over and over again to turn off the internet, shut off our phones, etc., etc., etc. All these things seem obvious, but the pull is so strong that sometimes even shutting it off isn’t enough. How many times have you turned off the internet only to find your mind wandering to something you want to look up or something you forgot to do, so you turn it back on (only for a minute, or so you tell yourself anyway!), to find yourself lost down the rabbit hole, emerging an hour later?
Been there. Done that. It takes a lot of discipline, planning, and sometimes even accountability to be able to follow through. As a writing coach, distraction is one of the biggest roadblocks my clients face and is one of the first things we address together. If we don’t combat our distractions head on, then we’ll never get that book written or project completed. And without that book, we will never achieve our goal of becoming a successful author.
So first and foremost, we need to combat our distractions.
Start off by choosing a specific time of day to write. Whether it’s first thing in the morning or right before you go to bed, decide what time works best for you, your schedule, your family, and put that block of time on your calendar. Let your family and friends know that that is your writing time. If you don’t let your friends and family know when you write, then how will they know not to interrupt you (unless, of course, it’s an emergency!)? By simply sharing with them your writing time-block, you can limit unnecessary interruptions.
Choose a writing space that allows you to focus. This can be sitting up in bed, on your couch, a home office or, if distractions are too much at home, maybe a trip to the library or local coffee shop. Choose a place that’s comfortable with limited chance of distraction.
One of my favorite strategies for staying focused is to brain dump throughout the day and before I sit down to write. What is brain dumping, you ask? It’s offloading as much information as possible to the external world. You can do this by writing reminders and thoughts on notecards, in a notebook, in your Notes app, or your calendar. Writing things down conserves the mental energy used when worrying that you might forget something, which can lead to mind-wandering and the constant nagging of things undone. By writing things down, you will be better able to remain in the moment and focus on what is in front of you with no worries that you’ll forget to complete a future task or implement an idea. I think this one thing has made the biggest difference in my own writing life.
When you write tasks down, be sure to prioritize and categorize them. If something on your list will only take five minutes of your time, do it now. Just get it done and off your list, off your mind. If there is something urgent that needs to be addressed, get it done right away. By letting go of time-bound cares, you’ll find yourself better able to “be in the moment.” And being in the moment means better ability to focus on your writing.
Implementing the above strategies allows us to adopt the mindset that our writing is the most important thing we could be doing in that block of time, and in turn, we are rewarded with increased productivity and progress.