Thursday, October 24, 2019

Writers: How to Ditch Distraction and Focus

By Rochelle Melander, @WriteNowCoach

Part of The Writer’s Life Series

JH: “Get more done” is a goal for pretty much every writer I know. There’s so much on our plates that sometimes it feels as though we’ll never see the finish line of anything. Rochelle Melander is back in the lecture hall today to share tips on avoiding distractions and keeping focused.

Rochelle Melander is a certified professional coach, experienced book strategist, and the author of eleven books, including, Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity. She provides solutions for people who feel stuck, overwhelmed or confused by the writing and publishing process. She is the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop that supports children and teens in finding their voice and sharing their stories.

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Take it away Rochelle…

Are you feeling distracted? Do you sit down to write and have difficulty focusing? Does your brain spin through all the tasks on your to-do list?

Here are some signs that your brain might be on overload:
  • Forgetting deadlines & appointments
  • Feeling agitated while relaxing (I should be doing something)
  • Difficulty concentrating on writing or other projects
  • Trouble focusing on and remembering what you’re reading
  • Rapidly hopping from idea to task and back again
  • Feeling exhausted or being unproductive at your most productive times of day

In this new world, where multitasking seems to be the norm, and we have more to do than time to do it in, we increasingly feel distracted and scattered. We might worry that we're not working hard enough or that we are experiencing memory loss.

But distraction is not a sign of personal failure. It’s the norm.

In fact, distraction is so frequent and alarming that scientists study it. You probably know the statistics:
  • People check their cell phones about every 12 minutes throughout the day.
  • Multitasking has an effect on our work, lowering our IQ by 10 points.
  • Interruptions have the same effect on us as losing a night of sleep.

But most of us still want to do deep work. As writers, we need to focus! What is the solution?

(Here's more on 8 Tips on Balancing Work and Writing)

How to focus

Rochelle Melander
Focusing requires taking action. When we face and address the distractions in our life, we can make meaningful changes. The following interventions can help.

Work on a single writing project at a time.

When we are juggling work and life, adding multiple writing projects to the mix can make writing especially challenging. Consider choosing one big project to work on at a time.

If you cannot work on just one project or you juggle multiple kinds of work projects, then organize your day so that you are working on similar types of tasks at in one session. This is sometimes called “chunking” or “clustering.”

For example, a freelance writer who is also a novelist might write first thing in the morning, then spend an hour answering email and connecting on social media, and devote the rest of her day focusing on her freelance writing job. She could also set aside specific days for distinct tasks, such as following up with clients on Monday, writing articles on Tuesday through Thursday, and pitching new articles on Friday. Chunking her work this way will help her to focus on one task at a time.

(Here's more on 3 Unexpected Principles for Optimal Creativity)

Create a distraction-free writing zone.

Ignore him. You can do it.
Whether you write in the morning or afternoon, in a busy coffee shop or a corner of your bedroom—you need to eliminate distractions. This means putting a big “do not disturb” sign on your life. Shut off the internet, put the phone in another room, and get to work.

Give yourself a buffer zone.

When we hop from answering email, socializing online, or meeting with colleagues to writing, it can be difficult to focus. Our brain is still spinning with all of the things we’ve done, talked about, or promised to do.

Stop. Take a deep breath. Then make notes for what you need to do to follow up on the tasks you have been working on. Once you’ve done that, take a break. Go for a quick walk, wash the dishes, or call a friend. You might even change your environment before you write. Once you’ve had a break, your brain will be ready to focus on the next big thing: your book.

It can also be helpful to give yourself a small buffer zone after your writing session. Take time to jot down what you want to work on in your next session. Then take a break before tackling the next item on your to-do list.

Schedule thinking time.

When writers experience writer’s block, it’s often because they haven’t thought about their book in weeks. So when they get to their writing desk, they have nothing to say. And even those who do work on their book every single day can simply run out of juice.

We need time to think. We need space to mull over our topics or jot down ideas. Give yourself extra time each week to think about writing. Schedule a session to ponder new ideas, journal your character sketches, or mind map scenes.

(Here's more on Scheduling for Writing Success)

Take an artist date.

Just like your computer and phone need to be turned off to function well, your brain and body need downtime. There’s a reason why Julia Cameron suggested that artists need an artist date. When we so regularly draw from the well of our experience to make art, we run dry. In order to stay productive, we need to take time off and refuel.

Take a day each week to go offline. Spend the day doing something away from a screen. Read, walk in nature, or look at art. This will help refresh your brain.

Challenge Yourself

We cannot change our modern day world. We’re stuck with cell phones and social media. We need these tools to research our books, connect with colleagues, and engage with readers. But we do not have to let these distractions run our lives. We’re still in charge, managing our own domains. And we can create rules and systems to help us ditch distractions, focus on our work, and write.

About Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity

Do you struggle to:
+Find time to write and create
+Ditch distractions
+Overcome self-doubt and fear
+Believe in your strengths
+Silence the inner critic
+Stop procrastinating and write
+Focus on your work

What if you could find a simple solution to every one of these challenges?

In this book, you’ll discover YOUR perfect solutions. In our guru-obsessed culture, it’s tempting to think that if we follow the routines of successful creatives, we’ll be just as prolific as they are. But when it comes to creative productivity, a pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all guide can’t help everyone. Each person has distinct needs and deserves a unique solution.

In Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination, and Increase Productivity, you’ll tackle quests to help you discover your ideal work rhythms, design a life that supports your productivity, and overcome any obstacle you face. Instead of playing someone else’s game, you get to design the game, create your own playbook, define the rewards, and reap them all! You’ll also adopt a secret identity, recruit allies, identify villains, and celebrate your epic wins. Because you’ll be using a gameful approach to shaping your creative life, taking on these quests won’t be a chore. You’ll relish investigating your life and playing with possibilities.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the information. Many authors have also said that taking a walking, by yourself, without headphones, can loosen up the ideas and help them flow.Happy writing.