Writing is hard enough as it is without distractions. Unfortunately, our modern lives make it easy to be constantly distracted, between smartphones, social media, and the internet. As someone who was diagnosed with ADHD as a kid, I definitely have trouble focusing. But, when I do focus, I’m surprised at how much I can get done. In fact, I’ve written two book chapters in the past two days by finding my focus. Today I want to share my top tips for staying focused when you’re writing so you can finish your book faster.
Some of us are early birds (totally me) and others are night owls. It’s important to know your daily cycle and when your brain works best creatively so you can maximize your writing output. For example, I do my best thinking when I first wake up. So, when I really need to get some writing done, I set my alarm half an hour or an hour earlier so I can pop out of bed and get it done without distractions. If you’re writing and you’re really on a roll, take a note so you can remember the time of day. See if you can find a pattern, and when you do, work your schedule around writing during that prime time.
I’ve also noticed that I think really well when I run. If I’m finding that I have a lot of really great ideas pop up, I’ll dictate them into my phone. I might even dictate whole paragraphs or sections of text if I’m working on a book or blog post. When I get home, I can transcribe that audio. I personally use Rev for my transcriptions, but you could also try transcribing your thoughts by playing back your audio for the free voice typing tool in Google Docs.
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My phone is the worst distraction ever. Even though I have most push notifications turned off, I find myself constantly checking it. Before I know it, I’m scrolling through my Facebook or Instagram feed. So, when I really need to get some writing done, I leave my phone in another room. My office is on the second floor of my house, so I’ll often leave my phone on the first floor so the temptation for distraction is a full flight of stairs away. The distance between me and my phone really helps my productivity.
The internet on your computer can be just as bad as your smartphone. I find that if I have a browser open while I’m writing, I’ll tab over to check my email or write a quick social media post. Pretty soon, it’s 20 minutes later and I haven’t done any writing. Turning off the wifi on your computer takes that temptation away.
I also close out any open applications except for the one I’m using to write. I personally use a program called Scrivener to do my writing. Scrivener has an awesome full screen mode that helps take away the temptation of distractions so you can just focus on writing.
Another way I minimize distractions is by doing the research for my book separate from my writing. I’ll outline each chapter and I make a list of anything I might need to look up. Then, I’ll set aside time to just do my research, keeping track of what I find in Google Keep (my current favorite) or Evernote. When it comes time to write, I copy and paste my notes over into Scrivener so I don’t have the temptation of an open browser window.
I know this one doesn’t work for everyone, but the right music really puts me in the mood to focus and write. In fact, listening to the same music when you write can actually form an association in your brain, making it easier for you to write when you hear it. I personally listen to an acoustic album by Nine Inch Nails, Ghosts I-IV, when I need to do some serious writing. I started listening to it when I was writing my PhD dissertation in graduate school. Now I use it to help me focus when I’m writing books or important blog posts.