As a writer, you have to stay focused for prolonged periods if you want to meet deadlines and make a living from writing. That doesn’t mean that you have you devote 100 percent of your time to writing, but it does mean that you need discipline.
However, every writer knows that staying focused is a constant struggle. It’s easy to get distracted – sometimes, doing anything other than writing is preferable. But if you want to write – and write well – you have to focus. Without focus, the quality and quantity of your writing will go downhill.
To help, here are a few tips that will help improve your concentration and keep you focused on the task at hand.
1. Set Daily Writing Goals
When you set yourself the challenge of writing a set number of words per day, you’ll have a regular goal to aim for in the morning. And it’s something you can congratulate yourself for at the end of the day. It doesn’t have to be a daily goal; setting yourself an hourly goal can be just as effective.
Try to set realistic goals that you know you can achieve. Sometimes, you’ll easily succeed. Other times, you might only just make it. The important thing is to stick with it. It’s a great motivational tool and will build your confidence too.
Related Reading: 10 Ways to Build Your Writing Self-Confidence
2. Give Yourself a Break
People used to think that taking breaks was lazy and unproductive, but various studies have shown that the opposite is true. A study from the University of Illinois showed that taking even small breaks from a task can dramatically improve long-term focus on that task.
Giving yourself regular breaks is essential for your physical and mental health. Taking time out from writing means you can return to the writing process with clearer thoughts and renewed energy. Instead of writing until you fall asleep at the computer, write for 45 minutes and then take a 15-minute break. Watch TV, take a shower, or go for a walk. A temporary change of setting is all it takes to refresh your mind.
3. Find Your Ideal Writing Environment
Everyone has a special location or comfort zone that helps productivity. Whether it’s writing to a soundtrack of waterfalls while sitting on your favorite purple bean bag in your pyjamas, or sitting silently at your grandfather’s mahogany desk wearing a suit, what really matters is that you’re comfortable and can get into your writing zone.
You might find that you can focus better in a coffee shop, or perhaps working in your basement helps. Some people need quiet. If external noise is a problem, try noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs.
4. Remove All Distractions
A crucial part of creating a comfortable environment is removing all the things that get in the way of clear thinking – before you start writing.
Put away your smartphone, shut the door, disable email notifications, and close your internet browser. While the internet is great for research, it’s also great for funny pet videos. Stop the distractions before they happen.
There are various apps and add-ons you can add to your browser to stop yourself wasting time. StayFocusd and WasteNoTime are two browser extensions that help you exercise some self-control.
Related Reading: 34 Content Writing Tools Every Serious Online Writer Needs
5. Don’t Self-Edit
Editing as you write will only distract you from your thought processes and can ruin the flow of your writing. Always remember that a first draft is not meant to be perfect. Don’t stop to make each sentence a work of art – just keep writing. It’s the best way to develop your thoughts.
It’s also best to avoid checking facts during a writing session. If you don’t have a statistic to hand, or you can’t remember the name of something, don’t stop to look it up. Simply leave a note for yourself in the text to research it later. Researching can eat up a lot of time and will only shift your brain’s focus from writing to fact-checking.
Prepare to Focus
Every writer struggles with focus from time to time, but this can be overcome with the right attitude and preparation. If you think you have writer’s block, you can beat this too.
Think of these tips as guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules. Learning how to stay completely focused while writing may take time to master, but it will save you time in the long run. Hopefully, with these tips and the right mindset, you’ll soon be able to slip into your writing zone – like a comfy pair of pyjamas – and achieve more every day.
For more writing and productivity tips, visit: 14 Writing and Productivity Hacks