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Unable to focus? Here's 4 Tips for Maintaining Writing Productivity

Okay, so you sit down. You have your work space set up. The drinks and snacks are gathered. While you want to write, you can’t keep at it. There’s some sort of disconnect between your desire to write, and the desire to actually do it. You’re not alone; this is a frustrating and common struggle. Here are some tips that can help you maintain productivity so you can make the most out of your next writing session.

1. Use website blockers

It’s becoming increasingly easier to get distracted these days. Social media platforms, apps, websites. We have definitely cracked the code on wasting time. I am no stranger to procrastination; YouTube has been a vice of mine for many years. It’s terribly easy to click on a new video right after the last. Now that I joined other social platforms in 2020, I understand why people sucked into Twitter, Instagram, and Quora. It’s very difficult for me to put down the phone.

Usually, I exercise a lot of self-discipline and determination. But full dependency upon mental fortitude will not guarantee productivity. You’re only bound to lose motivation. So what to do?

This is where website and app blockers come into play! These programs block your access to whatever website or app is wasting your time. When you can’t muster up the self-control and dedication, these blockers will do the work. After the appropriate sites are blocked for the amount of time you choose, all you have to do is funnel your focus into the task at hand. I found some website blockers and app blockers to help you start exploring.

2. Background music

Ambience is everything. We like to discuss the significance of our physical surroundings when writing. But sometimes, auditory distractions are overlooked. Personally, I can’t concentrate on my work when there are too many background distractions. People walking by, talking, sometimes windows. In college, I usually studied alone in the quietest floor of our school library, in a cubicle. Or, I would seek out an empty classroom or study room on campus so I could use their whiteboards for my outlining. The commonality between these work environments was that I liked being alone, and in a quiet space.

I always had my headphones in. Even if I wasn’t playing music. Sometimes my typing, other people’s typing, or the sound of the air conditioning was too distracting. Even right now, or whenever I’m sat at my computer, I have headphones in. Somehow, I feel more focused on my work whenever I’m wearing them. They feel like a “work outfit” of sorts.

As for the music, classical has always been popular for studying. I like to listen to piano concerts sometimes. But I experimented a lot when I was selecting music to listen to while working. When I was in high school, Deadmau5 was consistently playing in the background.

When I was in college, I discovered white noise, or would listen to a song on an hour-long loop. Sometimes, I would get too distracted by the clock, and found it much easier to get sucked into my work when the background song was playing on repeat.

Give these a try:

Perhaps, music may be your key to bettering your perfect writing ambience. The background you create has the potential to nurture your productivity. Remember, the music should serve to better your productivity, not distract from it! If the music is distracting you, it's not doing its job. Try lowering the volume, and finding something else to listen to. This process takes trial and error, but eventually, you will find something that works best for you, whether it's complete silence, or background music!

3. Write in sprints. Then increase

I liken writing to exercise. It requires a lot out of you. And usually, you get out the effort you put in. Like exercise, sometimes it’s best to start in small bursts, and add upon your success over time. There is always space to improve.

Try a writing sprint! Start with something small, like five minutes of writing non-stop. Your fingers don’t leave your keyboard, or you pen doesn’t leave the paper. Whatever words come, allow them to come.

Editing will come later. Need editing help? Here are some editing tips. Remember, when you're sprinting, no phones, or checking websites, or getting distracted during this time. (Unless of course, you have to. Bathroom break, phone call, etc. Life happens).

One of my writing sprints

Of course, setting a timer is important. You need to keep track of how many words you're average per sprint. I recommend starting with 3-5 minutes, then increasing over time. Trust me, when you're thinking about it, 3 minutes can feel like an eternity. As you grow more comfortable, increase the length of your sprints. However long you have available, or however long you feel comfortable being away from your other callings, like email and social media, the better. Ideally, you want your entire writing session to become an undistracted marathon of content creation.

Want to sprint with friends? The Writing Community on Twitter likes to do group writing sprints!

4. Know when to stop

Sometimes, it just isn’t worth it. Forcing yourself to be productive is well, unproductive. There is a thin line between pushing yourself, and giving yourself unneeded stress. (Of course, if you have a deadline or an assignment due, yes, there are times where you will have to force yourself to get work done).

Me, having a moment while writing in March

Allowing yourself a break is not a failure. It is a victory in introspection and self-respect. Wearing yourself thing for the sake of writing will never produce good writing. Remember, your goal should be to make the very most out of your writing. Good work comes when you’re in the right mind space. Write when you’re most motivated and focused, and productivity will follow.

Writing is an artform that requires a distinct mental fortitude. If there were a way to make a science of the practice, there would be a lot more writers. Is it not worth it to fret when you aren’t making the most of your writing sessions. Making magic will never be easy, but it can be easier. So put down the phone, take a breath, and try again.😊

How do you stay focused?

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