How to Focus: Dump Distractions
August 23, 2022
Note From Rochelle
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Today’s tip is the fourth in our series on how to focus and talks about overcoming distractions.
Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach
How to Focus: Dump Distractions
Being distracted has become normal. Whether we’re writing, attending a meeting, or hanging out with friends, our phones buzz with texts, calls, and alerts. When we’re using our computers or tablets, notifications pop up. And then there’s those smart watches that tell us when to catch up on our movement. Not all of these interruptions are bad, but they do make it difficult to write.
Research by Cyrus Foroughi from George Mason University suggests that small interruptions decrease our ability to write well. In two studies, participants were asked to outline and write an essay. In the first, some were interrupted at regular intervals. In the second, they were interrupted at random times. But the result was the same: those who were interrupted wrote less and scored lower than their peers. (Source: http://www.fastcompany.com/3033189/work-smart/small-distractions-are-making-you-a-terrible-writer-says-science)
After an interruption, it takes us about 23 minutes to refocus. If you have only an hour to write, that can eat up your time.
So what’s the solution?
We need to focus. We also need to stay connected. Here’s how:
If you’ve been reading this series, you’ve already found your genius time and scheduled writing sessions during it. Next time you’re writing, try this to dump distractions and focus:
Create a calm environment. In order to focus, we need to create an environment where that’s possible.
Eliminate the distractions that regularly pull your focus from writing. If you can, turn off your phone and shut down the Internet. If you can’t trust yourself to stay offline, use an app like SelfControl or Freedom to block email, certain websites, or the whole internet.
Add the elements that make writing work for you—like soft music, white noise, or a clean office. If you live in a house that’s filled with distractions, then find a library or a coffee shop to write in. Successful writers create a place—either at home or in a public environment—where they’re able to focus on their project. I have clients who rent offices, work at libraries or coffee shops, or carve out corners of their basements. Do what makes it possible for you to focus.
Create a working rhythm of focusing and taking breaks. None of us can focus for more than 90 minutes at a time. Most of us do better with a rhythm of working for 25-45 minutes and then taking a 5-minute break. (This is often referred to as the Pomodoro Technique.)
And remember, not all breaks are the same. Walking in the park will energize you, while hopping on social media might make you feel more distracted. Next week I’ll talk about what kinds of breaks restore your energy.
Try it! I encourage you to try this method and let me know how it goes in the comments below.