You feel it every time you pull up a chair, sit up straight, and put your hands on the keyboard to begin writing—that sinking feeling of panic that you aren’t quite sure where you should begin, so your mind wanders and you bring up your social media page instead. Or you may be the type of person who has a burst of ideas that all come out at once, and then just as quickly as it came, you lose your momentum with a headful of jumbled ideas and don’t have a clue where to go next.
These dilemmas are directly related to a lack of focus during the writing process when you stop and start because your brain becomes muddled with other ideas, activities, and responsibilities very quickly. Avoiding these types of distractions is simple if you consider utilizing these ten easy tips.
Remove Technology from Your Space
Several recent studies show that the majority of students with the best intentions cannot focus for more than two minutes on their writing tasks without the need to check their phone, peruse social media websites instead of resources, or pick up a tablet and start playing a video game instead of writing.
Making a conscious effort to sit down to write and removing all technology from arm’s length or even from the room will alleviate the temptation to easily reach over and use it while in the midst of your writing task.
If you do need technology for writing, however, you can get a portable smart typewriter, one that doesn’t have the standard navigation keys. This means you’ll really have to think hard and well about what you’re going to write, thereby harnessing your focus. This typewriter has Wi-Fi connectivity features, so you won’t have to worry about saving your work.
Impose the Thirty-Minute Rule
Just like when you do physical activity, your mind needs to rejuvenate itself after being used continuously for an extended period. That is why many people will say they feel as tired, if not more so, when they have tried to write nonstop or do some other type of mental activity without taking a break.
Literally set a timer for thirty-minute intervals when you write, and when it rings, you need to stop what you doing and remove yourself to another place for fifteen minutes and just sit and relax your brain to reestablish your focus.
Instead of sitting down to write with the idea of finishing it all at once, give yourself chunks of writing content to do in a short span of time of no more than twenty to thirty minutes. Once that is completed, finish for the day or a few hours, and then return to start another chunk of writing. You will find that your focus is easily maintained and your writing sounds fresh.
Always Have a Plan of Ideas
To write without even the slightest idea of what you need or want to write immediately sets you up to have little or no focus. Just like with any activity, having even a rough template, outline, or agenda of ideas to guide you through the process will give you a visual master plan that helps to keep you on track and avoid a lack of focus.
Create a Writing Checklist
There is an actual process to writing from the prewriting stages, where you develop the main idea, through the outline, the revisions, and finally, the dedicated proofreading stage, leading to a comprehensive final draft. In order to stay on task, make yourself an actual checklist that you place somewhere on your workstation. As you work through each step of the writing process, check it off the list and take a break before you focus your energy on the next one.
Use Resources You Can Count On
Nothing is worse than beginning a research writing project and wandering aimlessly around in a library database or a multitude of websites, looking for that source that is “just right” to begin your writing. You will probably do this for about fifteen to twenty minutes and start to turn your focus to other sites you are stumbling upon that seem much more fun than what you are doing. Have a dedicated list of five resources that you can rely on to quickly give you what you need before your focus is taken elsewhere.
As great as a study group can be, writing with a group of people tends to turn into one big distraction very quickly. Not only are other people asking you for help with what they are writing, but most groups like this with a few people trying to accomplish the same task will turn into a bunch of people who are looking for a way to distract themselves, and writing will turn into talking for hours without much writing getting accomplished.
Writing in solitude allows you to process your thoughts and feelings and to really dig deep into them. You get to follow your creative impulses, without fear of other people’s opinions and oppositions.
Find Your Own Dedicated Space
You may think that sitting at the local coffee shop is the way to go to be most productive with your writing, but think about all the distractions that this environment will bring with people coming and going, side conversations, and windows showing traffic going by. All that stimulation is too much for someone who wants to maintain a focus on their writing.
Find a space at home or in a public library, and make that your area to create focused, writing content.
Sometimes, just the feeling of knowing something is open-ended and you have all the time in the world to do it tends to make you less focused on the task at hand. Writing is definitely no exception to this. Many people actually find a renewed focus when they set a deadline to complete a project. So either ask for a deadline or give yourself one.
Getting up late and then dragging your feet to begin writing already says you are not ready to focus on doing anything. So make a concerted effort to begin as early as possible and motivate yourself to focus by utilizing one or all the techniques discussed already, then set as your goal a time limit for the day. When you are done, reward yourself with a picnic with a friend or a walk to your favorite place.