Writing needs focus if you're to produce anything meaningful. But the reality is most writers, even the successful full-time ones don't have the luxury of concentrating on writing alone. Distractions - internal and external - abound. There always seem to be more 'important things' to focus the mind on than writing. Some come uninvited, most are self-induced, generally speaking.
If distractions have been keeping you from writing productively, here are some ways to wriggle out of the problem.
Set a Goal in Advance
Alright, if you don't make goals when writing, you had better get down to doing it. If you have a target to hit and you regard it as something important to accomplish, then you'll have more willpower to fight distractions.
It's also important when you set the goal. If you set the goal just after showing up at the page, then it will not be effective. You want to program your mind to hit the goal much in advance.
So, set the goal at least a day before you sit down to write. If you'll be writing in the morning, then you could do well to go through the goal the night before and see yourself actually doing it.
Whether it's hitting a certain number of words, completing a section or a whole blog post or a first draft of an ebook chapter, it must be firmly fixed in your mind. You must psyche yourself up to meet the goal.
Start psyching yourself up for work as early as possible. Make it a habit lest your monkey mind gets distracted and lose sight of it.
Not everyone has the luxury of working on a single project the whole day. Do you have to handle more than three projects on any single day?
If you do, work out a plan on how to get work done on them. Otherwise, believe me, you'll just end up wasting your time without accomplishing much.
Do this at least a day in advance:
- list the tasks you're supposed to work on
- what part of the task you're supposed to finish
- at what particular time you'll be working on each and for how long.
- Start on Chapter 2 of Benefits of Walking - Scheduling Time to Walk- and finish a first draft - from 9am to 10am.
- Outline article on walking for health - 500 words - 10 am to 10.30am.
At this stage, pause for a few minutes and see yourself doing the first task. You should also focus on the type of distractions you will fall prey to. When you identify the distraction(s), see yourself escaping from it.
Visualize external distractions, for example, family members interrupting you for a chat, thinking you're just having some fun with writing.
So, what you do is schedule your writing time in such a way the distraction is removed, For example, you'll want to shift your writing time to the early hours of the morning when everyone else is still in bed. Or at night when everyone has gone to bed.
Alternatively, you can remove yourself to a place where you'll not be disturbed. You may need to work in a cafe or at the library.
Internal distractions are trickier to handle. You just can't reschedule your time or move locations. Even if you do, they'll still be around.
What you do is list the internal distractions:
- Checking email/Facebook/ Twitter etc...
- Reading a book
- Watching YouTube
- Surfing for information
If your mind is distracted by an available exciting online activity, then a sure way of escaping them is writing on a computer that doesn't have an internet connection.
If there way of doing that, you may have to resort to a desperate measure such as switching off the modem and pulling out the plug. Ideally, you should have an old computer with nothing more than an operating system and a word processing program.
If you can't help being distracted when you're seated at your computer, then detach yourself from it and write in a notebook longhand.
Dive in Immediately
One way to avoid distractions is to dive in when the time to write arrives. Don't delay even for a few seconds.
While your computer is powering on, you may want to check out a file you see on the desktop screen. Resist the temptation. Better still, have a clear sky screen except for the recycle bin and your word processing program icon.
In the beginning stages the temptation to avoid work will be great. The voice will tell you: "What's the hurry now? No harm in doing the work a little later. Let's do this something interesting first."
What you need to do is silence the voice. If you listen to it helplessly you;re sure to be dragged away from your productivity zone into time wasting country.
One way of avoiding this is to imagine you are taking part in a sprint. Imagine the gun going off. You race to finish line and don't stop until you get there.
It doesn't mean that you have managed to beat distractions and completed your first task successfully, you're in the safe zone.
You may allow yourself a break after completing a task, but don't take too long a one. Don't read what you've written. You may be tempted to correct it and get sucked deeper into it, making you ignore the next task.
Spend about five minutes in the neutral zone. This means just sitting quietly or getting up and stretching yourself or taking a short walk. Your gear must be in neutral. You're not moving forward or backwards. In short, you're aren't allowed to think about what you have done and what you will be doing next.
Then try to get back to work as quickly as possible. When you do so, the voice will be waiting to distract you.
Again turn a deaf ear to it and start running. Never mind if you don't really know where you'll be running to. Just run because the faster you do so, the more the saboteur is going to be left behind and give up the chase.
When you're writing, you should be as attentive and focused as driving a car. You keep your eyes on the road ahead and ignore the scenery around you. You only listen to the words that come to you and move on. Because you've got to reach your destination within a certain period of time.
Late for the Concert
Imagine you're going to concert and you're already running late. Even if you're late by ten minutes you'll not be admitted into the hall. So, you've got to focus on the road and make sure you reach there in time. Would you bother to slow down to find out why a crowd has gathered near the traffic lights?
So, as you can see, you can cut off distractions and meet your daily writing productivity goal, if you plan in advance how to handle distractions.
Sit down and prepare a task schedule. Have a column for possible distractions and action plan to counter them.
You'll find that you have discovered the magic key to hitting a high on your writing productivity.