Trouble focusing is one of the top reasons for slow work and missed deadlines. In a multi-tasking obsessed world that is constantly inundated with notifications, it can be hard to sit down and grind away at your WIP. But don’t despair! Whether you’re brainstorming, spilling out your first draft, or slogging through edits, the following are my tried and true methods for boosting focus on the task at hand.
1. Create a Ritual
Create a ritual you perform at the start of each writing session. This can be as simple as getting out a specific pen, making a cup of coffee/tea in your favorite mug (this is my habit!), or turning on your Book Playlist (re: next tip). Perhaps you’d like to organize everything on your desk to precise right angles. Or you simply need to go to your designated writing space.
Pick an action you will associate with focus and perform this each time you write. With repetition, your brain will recognize this “writing time” trigger and easily transition into a focused mindset.
2. Play Your Book Playlist
Use music as a way to build a natural link between hearing a specific genre, soundtrack, or song and your time to focus. Curate a playlist for your novel as a whole, by individual setting, or even per main character. Alternatively, pick one genre to write to, no matter the book.
Save and play this exclusively when you write. When the music starts, your brain will form a natural spark, “Hey! It’s writing time!”
3. Change Your Scenery
If your usual workspace is losing that productive vibe, change your scenery. If you can physically leave your location, the library is one of my favorite (and peaceful!) places to work. If you prefer ambient noise, coffee shops are excellent places to both churn out words while consuming vast amounts of caffeine and observing people for inspiration.
If you can’t physically leave (children, puppies, lack of car, you don’t like other humans), consider changing your setting in some small way. Turn your desk around. Sit in a comfy chair instead of at your desk. Switch to an entirely room.
Hint: This is also helpful when switching assignments (re: brainstorming, 1stdraft writing, editing). A physical or setting change allows your brain to switch focus to the new task at hand.
4. Change Your Method
Changing the method by which you write reboot’s your brain’s focus. If you typically type on a computer, consider writing by hand, using an actual typewriter, or scribbling on index cards or a whiteboard.
If you prefer to continue on a computer, change the application within which you’re writing. If you write in Scrivener, switch to a Notes app, Word doc, or Google doc.
Something as simple as changing the screen application (or even your font choice! Comic Sans is oddly effective for editing) adds just enough variation for your brain to reengage with your process in a slightly different format.
5. Silence Notifications
This is an obvious but VERY effective one. Most of us have reached a point where notifications from phones, emails, etc. cause a compulsive need to check this latest update. With little to no impulse control, it is nearly impossible to stop yourself from picking up your phone the moment the screen lights up.
If you can relate, set your phone and anything else it’s connected to (computers, watches, Fitbits, etc.) to Do Not Disturb. Allow urgent calls through, but turn off updates from texts, social media, and the news so you can buckle down and focus.
6. Close Everything Else (Digitally and Physically)
Close every single application on your computer except Word (or at minimum hide them if you REALLY need to save those 57 tabs on pirate ship terminology). Expand your Word doc to fill the entire screen so you can’t even see the available apps on your computer.
If writing by hand, stash away any other paper on your desk so all your focus is on the single pad in front of you.
It is easy to become distracted by the possibility of doing something else. If all you can see is a word document staring at you, it is much easier to focus on just the thoughts pertaining to your WIP.
7. Create Mini-Goals
“Write a book” is a Big Goal. And Big Goals can become overwhelming. Overwhelm leads directly to a lack of focus and ability to handle the task at hand (more on overwhelm in an upcoming post!).
Rather than a goal to “write 50 pages this week”, create mini-goals for this moment in time. Write 1 scene. Write the dialogue for Jan and Bradley’s confrontation. Write for one 30-minute block.
Smaller, actionable steps allow you to focus on just the task at hand without becoming overwhelmed by your Big Goal.
8. Change the Background on Your Phone / Computer
Pick an inspirational quote that speaks to your emotions at whatever point you are in your writing process. Do you need a friendly reminder? A kick in the butt? An affirmation like “I am a best-selling author”?
Make this text the background of your phone and/or computer (I use PicMonkey, but you can even create it in Word and screenshot your art!). Every time you pick up your phone or turn on the computer, you will read something that reminds you why you want to focus on the task at hand.
9. Sleep (Don’t Spiral)
If all else fails, it is more likely than not that you’re tired. Take a nap! Or better yet, stop for the day and go to sleep. Don’t spiral; stressing about the fact that you’re not writing will only tighten the chokehold on your ability to focus.
Start fresh tomorrow, and allow yourself the time to replenish your willpower, creativity, and motivation.
These tips can be used individually or in tandem to reach that peak focus “flow”. You may find that one works well one day, but is completely ineffective the next. Mix and match as each day requires for optimal results!
What are your favorite focus tips? Do you do anything specific that helps supercharge your writing focus? Let’s chat in the comments below!