October 2, 2018
Note From Rochelle
Are you hoping to get that book written before the end of the year? If so, I can help.
If you’ve been thinking about creating a book from some of the many articles, speeches, or blog posts you have written—consider purchasing my class, Leverage Your Content: How to Easily Create a Book from Articles, Blog Posts, and Speeches. The class comes with several worksheets to help you get started on transforming your blog posts and essays into books!
If you have been putting off writing your book because you don’t know how or need accountability, consider signing up for a complimentary consultation.
Today’s tip will help you overcome one of the biggest obstacles modern writers face: distraction!
Defeat Distraction and Write
by Rochelle Melander
Last week, I came across an article, “Neuroscientists say Multitasking Literally Drains the Energy Reserves of Your Brain.”
I didn’t even need to read the article—I knew it was true. In the past week, I’ve been frustrated by feeling spacy and not remembering things I usually recall with ease, like the names of books and authors. Despite my discipline of writing before checking into Facebook or email, I’ve been having trouble focusing on my work.
But when I look at the season and my life, it makes sense. It’s fall, the season of cold, windy weather, swirling leaves, and change. Plus, we’re in a particularly emotional news cycle. Although I don’t check in with the news or social media until noon, as someone who works alone at home, Facebook has become my break room. As a result, my head is spinning, and I am experiencing the brain drain that the article talks about.
I see it all the time with the students I teach. They tackle their writing assignment with excitement—but it’s hard for them to sustain their attention. And no wonder. Just about every 6 minutes, someone’s phone bings, buzzes or blasts a happy tune. When other students stop by the table, it’s easy to get distracted and chat. Plus there’s a lot going on at the library—and it’s tempting to watch and listen in on the drama.
According to cognitive psychologist Daniel Levitan, author of An Organized Mind, it’s no wonder we’re feeling overwhelmed and distracted. He said, “our brains are busier than ever before. We’re assaulted with facts, pseudo facts, jibber-jabber, and rumour, all posing as information. Trying to figure out what you need to know and what you can ignore is exhausting.”
In addition, we’ve taken on tasks that we used to delegate to others, like making travel reservations. As he said, “We are doing the jobs of 10 different people while still trying to keep up with our lives, our children and parents, our friends, our careers, our hobbies, and our favourite TV shows.”
So how do we avoid this feeling of being unfocused, distracted and spacy?
Write it Down
Start each day with a brain dump. Write down everything that’s cluttering up your brain, from what worries you to what you need to do today.
Daniel Levitan suggests that we can remember only about four things at a time. And you know that we’ve got way more than that floating around in our brains. When we put our drama and our to do list on paper, we free up a bunch of brain space to write.
Tackle One Task at a Time
When you’re busy, it’s so tempting to tackle multiple projects at once. For most of us, this means trying to stay connected on social media while we’re writing or paying bills.
But multitasking is bad for our brains and our bodies. Multitasking increases the stress hormone cortisol and raises the fight or flight hormone adrenaline. According to Levitan, multitasking also “creates a dopamine addiction feedback loop.” In other words, when we deviate from our key task to check tweets or texts, we get a tiny dopamine hit. In effect, we’re rewarded for doing tiny, meaningless tasks. This creates the desire to constantly search for that novelty.
Research shows that this task switching—even if we just think about what’s on Facebook or in our email cue—can lower our IQ by as much as ten points. And rapidly switching from one task to another also burns up the nutrients we need to focus, leaving us “exhausted and disoriented.” (Levitan, Why the Modern World is Bad for Your Brain. (Oh yeah! That’s what I’ve been feeling!)
But the solution is easy: tackle a single task at a time.
But how? We’re so used to multitasking that single tasking seems almost impossible.
+Divide your day into 45-minute chunks and assign a single task to each chunk.
+Turn off anything that might distract you. If you have difficulty doing this, you can purchase a tool to block out distractions while you write. Popular examples include SelfControl, RescueTime, or Omniwriter
+Keep a notebook or a file open and jot down tasks that threaten to pull your attention from your purpose. Even if you’ve already completed a to-do list, it can be helpful to leave a notebook or file open for random thoughts—especially as you are training your brain to focus.
Take a Break
As an avid exerciser, I know that working out harder and more frequently will not help me build muscle. Instead, I need to build breaks into my workout schedule, giving my muscles time to recover and rebuild.
Studies suggest that if you take 15-minute breaks every two hours, you will be more productive. But the key is to use those breaks wisely. Don’t go on Facebook or Twitter. Take a walk, fold laundry, bake cookies, sweep the floor, or make art.
If you try all of these tools and still feel distracted, you might need more focused support. Writer’s block, procrastination, and even monkey mind can show up when you’re facing a manuscript problem (I don’t know how to organize this!) or doubting yourself (I’m not good enough to write this.) Coaching can help. Together we can discover what’s blocking you and get you writing again! Contact me for a complimentary consultation.