I’ve been thinking about how best to concentrate this month, really focus during my writing sessions, since I’ve been noticing that I can be easily distracted at times.
Why am I more distracted than usual? Maybe it’s because of the intermittent nature of connecting with people through social media throughout the day. (I love connecting with my online network, really, but I also need writing time.) Or maybe it’s the bite-sized way we now consume online information, through 500-word blog posts and three-minute videos. (How often do I favour that three-minute video over the 20-minute one? Has my brain been reprogrammed to consume in small batches?)
So I began my personal mission for better concentration.
Step 1: Control my Use of Social Media
I’m a writer with discipline, so I don’t need an app that banishes me from Facebook or Twitter. But I maybe I don’t need to check in every 30 minutes? Or watch that cat video. Or that one. Or … you get the idea. (Maybe I still need some help with step 1.)
Step 2: Get More Comfortable
I know many writers like treadmill desks. (Right Arthur Slade and Mahtab Narsimhan?) Call me lazy, but I prefer to sit while writing. The problem is that the cold gets to me, so my latest writing tool is writing gloves. I love, love, love my cozy new gloves. Warmth matters. Who can write well without warmth?
Step 3: Seek Sounds for Better Productivity
With noisy teenagers in my home and construction workers often outside it, I’ve been trying productivity sounds to help me focus. The free websites Rainy Mood as well as Noisli have helped me block unwanted sound. But I hit the motherload of sound productivity when this blog post introduced me to Brain FM. Wow! I’m a huge fan!
What is Brain FM? It’s a website-delivered audio brainwave program designed to help us focus, relax, or sleep, depending on what we’re trying to do. I was a skeptic, until I tried it once. Four hours later, I was still writing and that tug to check Facebook and Twitter was a distant memory.
Step 4: Seek Goal Buddies
I love writing in solitude. But I’ve also been seeking out like-minded writing friends to help with productivity. Sometimes, I flee my lonely writer’s garret to meet friends at a library or coffee shop to write. I love the looks of quiet concentration on their faces and the conversations about our goals for our works-in-progress.
Step 5: Just Say No
As Steve Jobs famously said in this video, “Focusing is saying, ‘No.'” Life is busy, and it can be hard to chisel out writing time. Recently, I’ve been learning the power of saying “no.” I want to be tugged in fewer directions. I want to spend less time multi-tasking. I want to to focus on one writing task at a time, and do it well. Really well. So well, that when a child or teenager picks up one of my books and starts to read, my writing will be compelling enough that he or she won’t be tempted to check Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Tumblr or anything else. At least until the book is done.