Minimize Distractions to Improve your Writing Productivity
Writing is one of the most exciting, invigorating and creatively satisfying jobs there is, though not the easiest. In fact, if you have ever tried to fill a blank document with meaningful words, you’ll agree that writing is anything but easy.
Transforming ideas, thoughts and opinions into words requires clear thinking, creative flair and an unwavering focus. And it is focus that most of us writers struggle with, especially when there is a deadline to meet.
What is Focus?
Simply put, focus is the ability to concentrate on the task at hand, wholly and completely, without giving in to any form of distraction, diversion or deterrent.
When I’m focussed on my writing from the get-go, I think better, write faster and accomplish more in a couple of hours than if I had worked all day in a distracted state. My thoughts flow freely and smoothly, and my fingers move in perfect coordination.
Focus gives me the power to shush the songs playing in my head, and resist the urge to do seemingly important yet totally unnecessary tasks in the middle of writing. It helps to quieten my mind and gives me control over my wandering thoughts so I can pour all my energies into writing my next best piece.
Goes without saying – focus is AWESOME!
So What Makes Writing Focus Difficult to Achieve?
Whether or not you’re focussed while writing depends on how well you’re able to work around numerous distractions that work overtime to interfere with your ability to concentrate.
According to Oxford Dictionary, a distraction is ‘a thing that prevents someone from concentrating on something else’.
Think about it.
- What stops you from meeting writing deadlines?
- Why aren’t you getting all your tasks done?
Is it your noisy work environment, your chatty WhatsApp friends group or your tendency to procrastinate?
Working as a full-time freelance writer, I’m always looking for ways to improve my writing productivity so I can achieve an ideal work-life balance. From my personal experience, I have been able to identify and remove several small and big irritants that were holding me back from giving my 100%, each time I sat down to write. You can too!
Eliminating Distractions to Write Better & Faster
Distractions are everywhere, and it is natural to get distracted. Add to it patches of low productivity, procrastination and those cheat-moments, hours or days when we simply can’t focus and prefer to do anything else but write. After all, we are human!
Finding ways to recognize and curb this inclination will make you a focused writer.
To gain unwavering focus while writing, you need DISCIPLINE, PRACTICE and HABIT.
- A disciplined writer knows how to prioritize tasks based on deadlines and always works around a schedule.
- With a little self-discipline, you can avoid distractions that interfere with your ability to write with concentration.
- When discipline and focus become a habit, you will have no trouble meeting deadlines.
Why postpone your goals to the next day when you strike-off tasks on your to-do list today?
As you sit down to write, free your mind and your writing environment of every possible distraction.
Sounds easy enough but how does one recognize these distractions and how to minimize or remove them?
Let’s take an example.
Imagine you’re at the supermarket. You are holding on to your shopping list and you know exactly where all the items are stocked. All you need to do is follow the list, fill your shopping cart with items you need and proceed to the billing counter.
Easy enough, right? As you make your way through the colourfully stacked aisles, your attention wavers and you are now looking at the enticing ‘Buy 1 Get 1’ Offers that seem too good to be true. Soon, you are stocking up on items not on your list and brands that you don’t even use!
By the time you finish picking up items on your actual shopping list, you are awfully late for an important appointment. As you retrace your steps in your mind, you realize you have not only spent way more than your budget but also wasted a lot of precious time on binge shopping.
You vow that you are not going to get distracted by the offers on display at the supermarket ever again.
Now replace the supermarket with your writing desk and your shopping list with your to-do list for the day. See how easy it is to skip items that deserve your undivided attention in favour of ‘things’ that catch your attention and divert your focus?
Whether you are out shopping or sitting at your desk working, you will face distractions everywhere you turn. Though it’s practically impossible to remove distractions entirely, it is possible to train your mind to move past them and gently remind yourself to concentrate on the job at hand.
When you make a conscious effort to stay focused, you’ll notice that focussing becomes easy.
How to Boost Your Focus While Writing?
Here are 6 simple techniques to boost your focus and concentration while writing –
1. Go Offline
My number one recommendation is to turn off your internet connection while writing. Of course, you will need the internet for research, etc. Once that’s done, start working offline.
This technique always works for me and I find it to be one of the easiest and simplest ways to tackle web-based distractions.
With the internet out of reach, there’s not much left to do but write!
2. Stop Checking Your Emails
If you are like me, you probably read and reply to each and every relevant email. That’s great, as long as you don’t do it in the middle of writing. Email notifications are distracting, to say the least.
The moment you stop writing and start responding to an email, you are voluntarily interrupting your chain of thoughts and drifting away from the task at hand.
A better approach is to assign an hour or two each day to catch up on your correspondence so you are not tempted to respond to emails while you’re writing.
3. Stay Away from your Phone
Smart phones may be smart, but they’re making us dumber by the minute! Why else would we allow a gadget to control our lives?
In this day and age, when adults are texting while driving and children are suffering from sleep disorders due to excessive phone use, I highly recommend that you become mindful of your phone usage ASAP, especially when you sit down to write.
Buzzing with notifications from FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, Skype, WhatsApp, etc, your hand phone is like a merry-go-round that promises wonderful experiences, turning you into a fun-seeking child who can’t wait to join the joyride. Don’t do it!
Try not to keep your phone directly next to you when you write. If you can’t put your phone on silent, lest you miss an emergency call from family or friends, atleast keep it face down so you don’t check the screen for notifications!
Better still, leave your phone in your bag or put it some distance away from your desk if you work from home. You will be surprised how such a small step can boost your writing focus.
4. Write Where you Feel Inspired
You may not realize it, but your writing space and work environment have a huge bearing on your productivity. Distractions are everywhere, so pay attention to your surroundings to ensure your creative juices are flowing uninterrupted.
- If you work from home, make sure to place your writing desk in a quiet part of the house that receives plenty of natural light and minimum sound.
- If possible, close the door when you’re writing so that you are not distracted by the activities of other members at home.
- Even though you have the flexibility to move around, try to avoid those sections of the house that are too comfortable. A reasonably formal environment can keep your laziness and wandering mind in check.
However, if you are in a shared work environment, you may need additional help.
- Music Headphones are a good buy if you work better with music. Personally, I find music distracting when I’m writing but if it helps you concentrate, play it on!
These days, Noise Cancelling Headphones are quite a rage. The Wireless Headphones from ‘Bose’ stand out for their high-quality and great looks.
According to their website, “the wireless QuietComfort® headphones come with Bluetooth technology and our world-class noise cancellation that makes quiet sound quieter and music sound better.”
- Ear plugs are great for blocking out all kinds of sounds. They come in handy when you’re working in a space that is surrounded by people. The moment you stick the earplugs in your ears, you will find yourself transported to your own little haven of thoughts, free from all worldly distractions.
You might want to check out Amazon to pick out that perfect ear plug.
5. Recognize the ‘Writer’ in You
Every writer is different. Every writer is unique. It’s when you recognize the ‘writer’ in you, magic happens! So take time out to connect with your inner voice and find out –
- What time of the day do you feel most inspired to write?
- What is it that motivates you to write?
- What helps you to express yourself best?
- What kind of environment do you work best in?
- What is it that interferes with your thoughts?
Once you identify what helps you to give your absolute best, you can try to bring more of it in your work day and environment to push your productivity.
If you work best in the morning, wake up earlier than usual to get your best writing done, early in the day. If, however, your concentration is better in the evenings, schedule your writing tasks towards the latter part of the day.
6. Practice the Pause
When you are at peace with yourself, you will find it easier to focus. If something other than work is on your mind, take some time to pause and work through it. If it’s not something that can be resolved at this present moment, tell yourself that you will come back to it later.
Take a few deep breaths, stretch your hands and feet, and repeat some of your favourite and most inspiring affirmations. Now that you are completely relaxed, sit down to write and get your best work done.
Another great way to boost your concentration and avoid getting overwhelmed is to divide your tasks in a systematic manner throughout the day.
When your time is accounted for, you’ll find it easier to concentrate.
Breaks are great too. I usually write for about 45 minutes, followed by a 15 minute break. You must try it! Get up, stretch, drink some water, binge on some healthy nuts and seeds, and get back to your desk with renewed energy.
These six simple tips have helped me drastically improve my writing focus.
Sure, I do get distracted every now and then, but with practice, I’m able to find my way back much faster than before.
What about you? How do you boost your focus while writing?
Feel free to share your tips in the comment section below.