Being Laser-Focused Is the Key to Great Writing (Here’s How to Start)
Getting distracted while writing can be fixed with these simple strategies
Ok, so you have an essay due in three weeks but if you start working on it now you won't have to worry about finishing it at the last minute.
This was a common goal of mine during my first year at university, I hated doing work at the last minute so I would try to start doing it from when it was first assigned. The philosophy behind this goal seemed smart to me at first until I had my first mid-term essay. Even though I started this essay early, whenever I sat down to take a jab at it I would get distracted very easily.
If it wasn’t something that was out of my control, I would somehow still find a way to distract myself. Whether it was my phone or buying a coffee from Starbucks to make sure I stayed “awake.” This was an ongoing problem as you could imagine but I finally decided that enough was enough when I ended finishing that essay an hour before it was due.
As many beginner writers sit down to write their daily articles for the day, they may find it hard to stay focused during the time they are writing. You have so many ideas popping up in your head while you’re writing that you tend to zoom out for a second and let those ideas take you into a world that has nothing to do with writing. Just think about the amount of work you could’ve got done if it wasn’t for these distractions.
As you get more accustomed to writing on a regular basis, you may become more aware of the exact things that are distracting you, but you may also feel like you have no control over yourself when you do notice them.
There are a few techniques that I have used recently to help me stay more focused when writing. If you want to become more locked into the content that you create then look at some of these strategies and try to apply them to your life.
Get your phone away from you
Our phones are the biggest distractions that humans will ever face for as long as we live. They’re just so convenient, it takes us only a few seconds to unlock our phones and scroll through our social media feed to see what our friends are up to. Unfortunately, those seconds turn into minutes faster than we think.
When writing, you want to stay as focused as possible so that you don't miss any potential sentences that could really make your piece stand out. If you need to keep your phone by you at all times I completely understand, things happen and you need to be the first one to find out.
Try to at least put your phone in silent mode. You’d be surprised how this simple trick could transform your writing process. When you keep hearing a “DING!” in the middle of your writing, your body takes control over your mind and you quickly pick up your phone to see what happened.
Putting your phone on silent will help you get through more paragraphs without stopping.
This reminds me of when you’re having a conversation with your friend and you're telling them something extremely important and then all of a sudden they decide to cut you off. It’s almost the exact same situation, instead of your friend cutting you off it’s the ring of your phone distracting you.
If you’re willing to admit that you are addicted to your phone, then you can try checking all of your messages and social media apps before writing, and then put your phone out of arms reach. This way, you will notice when you’re about to go for your phone and you can voluntarily stop yourself from doing so.
If you want to get your writing done within a specific time frame, get rid of your phone, no matter how hard it may seem.
Listen to “study” music
Many students have found a variety of music to help them with their studying and memorization. I was introduced to some of these sounds from watching a handful of videos on Youtube that showed what different students used during their studying sessions.
One common genre of music that has been rediscovered within the past few years is lo-fi hip hop. Now, this is not the hip hop you may be thinking of where it has to do with rapping and what “the kids are listening to” nowadays. This music is actually very soothing and can be used not only for studying but for writing, relaxing, and going to sleep. When I use this type of music, I find that my productivity levels go through the roof. You can listen to it with your favorite headphones or through a speaker, the experiences are for the most part similar and will help you to be more focused when writing.
Another genre of music that many students seem to use as well is classical music. This is your Beethoven, Wolfgang, and Mozart types of songs. “ A group of studies found listening to Mozart can cause a temporary “enhancement of spatial-temporal reasoning performance,” which means the ability to think through long-term, more abstract solutions to logical problems.” Listening to classical music has an extraordinary effect on your brain that helps you to stay focused for longer periods of time. Classical music also integrates both sides of your brain for more proficient studying.
Who knew that music can have such a big impact on the way that we do work. New writers need to start using this process more to see the results that they are seeking.
Take a 15-minute break when you’re close to finishing
Once you’ve been writing for an extended period of time, you may start to become a little tired from looking at your screen. I do think that you should push yourself a little bit when writing but you also don't want to burn out from just one article.
Even though ideas are coming to you at random spurts, writing can really tire out your brain. To prevent this short burnout from happening, take a 10–15-minute break to get away from your computer screen or from the paper in front of you.
There’s no scientific research on this, this is just something that has been very effective for me since I’ve started writing during these past few months.
During these 15 minutes, you can go for a short walk which will allow you to put your focus on something else other than writing. If you’ve been writing for a long time inside your house then this is a great opportunity for you to get some fresh air and exercise.
Another thing that you can do during these 15 minutes is to eat a light snack. Eating a heavy meal during this time will cause you to be tired when coming back to your writing or you may get distracted from all of the food in front of you. Eating a light snack, like a granola bar or some fruit will help you stay in flow with your writing process and will also give you a boost of energy.
The last thing that you can do during this break is to check your phone for any messages or to scroll through your favorite app. This choice is tricky because if you don’t have self-control when it comes to your phone, you will end wasting a lot of energy that could’ve been used for writing.
This is really for the people who are hooked onto their phones and need a quick fix to help them stay motivated to write.
Taking a short break like this, in general, is good for your writing because you're able to come back to your writing with a fresh pair of eyes. You can focus more on your work as well when you have this short break to look forward to when you’re close to finishing.
Being laser-focused on your writing takes some work but will definitely be beneficial to your writing career. The more concentrated you are on your writing, the easier it will be. I’ll leave you with a quote from author Paulo Coelho that says
“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate, and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”