Imagine, instead of writing, your job was to run. That’s it, just run.
Each morning, you left home and ran. Would you sprint? Would you pace yourself? How long would you run? Would you stop to pet a puppy, get a cup of coffee or flirt with a neighbor? If you’re like most people, you might quickly get distracted.
Once that happens, the quality of your running will peter out. Soon you’ll be wandering all over the place wasting your time.
But, if your job was to run for 30 minutes, take a break and run for another 30 minutes, it’d be a lot easier to stay focused. You could put off flirting with the neighbor until your break.
The truth is, without time limits, it’s difficult for anyone to stay focused.
It’s All in the Timer.
Fortunately, a simple timer set for brief periods will help keep you focused. You can use a free online timer. I prefer to use the timer in my iPad so I can listen to music or sound tracks specifically designed to enhance concentration while I work. The right kind of music will boost your concentration even more.
“Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents.” –Ludwig van Beethoven
Headphones help to block distracting noises too. If you’re working in a very noisy place, use earplugs and headphones.
Don’t let the simplicity of this technique fool you. It’s powerful. The trick is to set a timer for a span of time you’re comfortable with. A 30 minute work period is a good place to start. Before you sit down to write, simple set a timer for 30 minutes and don’t do anything but write or think about writing for that time.
Be Gentle with Yourself.
Your mind might still wander. If it does, gently bring it back to the task at hand.
If you have no idea what to write, that’s okay. During the allotted time, it’s your job to make space in your head for your writing project. If you do that, the ideas will come.
Breaks are Critical.
The length of the break period is up to you. If you’re on a deadline, keep break time short, 5 to 15 minutes. If you’re working on something intense that requires a lot of brain energy, take longer breaks.
Breaks can be productive too, especially when you need to be creative. Sometimes, the best ideas will pop in your head when you’re on break.
It’s important to get up out of your chair and move around during the break period. Walk and stretch to get the blood moving again. Get some fresh air. If you’re feeling energetic do pushups and squats.
When you plan your day, either the night before or in the morning, it might help to schedule how many writing periods you want to have. Expect some days to be more productive than others.
Music…the Other Secret.
If you’re listening to music when you’re writing, the type of music can make a world of difference. Songs with words and a heavy drumbeat are distracting and keep your thought process on a superficial level. On the other hand, classical music improves focus and creativity. Baroque music, specifically, has been proven to boost creativity and concentration.
Baroque music, such as that composed by Bach, Handel or Telemann, that is 50 to 80 beats per minute creates an atmosphere of focus that leads students into deep concentration in the alpha brain wave state…In one study, students wrote twice as much with music than without! Music and Learning by Chris Brewer, 1995.
Here’s a very powerful sound track designed to enhance focus and creativity.
While I have discussed using a timer and music to help to help you stay focused when writing, naturally, this method can be used to focus on most any task. An iPod or MP3 Player will give you the flexibility to move away from your desk while still enjoying the benefits of music and headphones.