It’s easier to write well when you’re fully absorbed in the task at hand. Devoid of extraneous thoughts, the words flow out of your brain, through your arms and onto the screen in front of you via the keyboard. At least, that’s how it feels when I’m doing my best work.
It takes concentration to write efficiently and effectively. And – arguably – concentration’s now harder to come by than ever before.
For starters, there are the online distractions. Frequently checking your email is the classic, but Twitter can be even worse. It’s easy to access and there’s always something new to read, even if it’s only a couple of minutes since you last looked.
Then there’s the other stuff. Phone calls. Shopping. Staring out of the window. Cleaning the bathroom. It all adds up.
How I’m going to become more focused
Like most people, when it comes to being productive I have good days and bad ones (it was a really, really bad one when I chose cleaning the bathroom over writing).
As it goes, today was a good ‘un. But I’m convinced I can do better. I want to achieve that state of absorption more often, because as well as allowing me to get more done, it’s only by being focused that I can become a better writer.
In the spirit of making a few slightly late new year’s resolutions, I’ve decided to make a more conscious effort to get focused and stay there.
- I‘ll install RescueTime to monitor what I spend my time on. It keeps an eye on the programs you’re using and reports exactly how long you spend using them. Not a solution in itself, but it should help me understand what my major time sinks are.
- I’m going to break my day up into 30-minute chunks. With help from my alarm clock, I’ll force myself to do a single task for 30 minutes before a break. That’s long enough to get into something, but short enough to avoid problems. Nothing can’t wait 30 minutes.
- I’m going fullscreen in Word. I might even try out a hardcore, distraction-free text editor like Dark Room. I’m also considering creating a separate, minimalist user area on my computer, just for when I want to get my head down and crack on.
- I’ll change surroundings more often. Getting out and about really works for me, particularly in the morning, because working from a new spot lets me mark the start of the working day. It’s not exactly hard to find free wireless these days either.
- I’ll make time for the non-writing. Administration. Filing. Chasing clients. Doing my tax. It’s easy to let small tasks like these creep into writing time until there’s barely any writing time left. Those 30 minute chunks I mentioned? I’ll designate some of them for this stuff.
- I’ll acknowledge if things aren’t working. We all get bad days sometimes. It’s no good perservering with your head all over the place – instead, switch to something else, walk the dog, do some gardening, go see a friend … whatever. You can come back to it later.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’m hoping to see some improvements in what RescueTime reports. And if all goes well, I should have a bit more time to write new posts here too. Whatever the outcome, I’ll report back on how it’s going in a week or two. In the meantime, if you’d like to share what’s worked for you, go right ahead…