Focus, and I have a love-hate relationship. For most of my life, I’ve jumped from one shiny thing to the next and then wondered why I hadn’t accomplished as much as I’d wanted to. People would tell me time after time to just finish one project. Finishing projects wasn’t something I did very often.
My writing projects really suffered, and I now have a stockpile of unfinished stories in a file cabinet. How many do you have? Am I the only one? No, I’m betting not. I think this is something that many of us writers have. There are so many things to do, and everything is so overstimulating, fun, and exciting. Then I keep getting amazingness shoved in front of my eyeballs, while my ears are hearing cheerful voices saying, “You can’t live without this.” How can we possibly have all this fun if we are staying focused on one thing?
The truth of the matter is, if we don’t focus on our writing goals, we will be less happy and won’t be able to enjoy as much. I stumbled across five game-changers for staying focused, and I wanted to share them with you.
This one wasn’t so obvious for me. I started to meditate as a way to get rid of anxiety. It worked, but it also did much more. I noticed I was able to focus more than before, and I felt calm and ready to take on tasks as well.
Meditation was difficult at first because I could only focus for a short amount of time. With repetition and a “not going to quit” attitude, my ability to stay focused for more extended periods grew.
Our brains can change, and we are the masters of that change. If you want to learn to focus more, be sure to practice, and meditation is a great way to do that.
There are several types, but I prefer mindful meditation. I’ve created my own mantra, which I change up from time to time. I use an app called Insite Timer, and it works well for me. I get to track my sessions, see what my friends are meditating to, and I get little stars for reaching goals. Who doesn’t like having a star by their name!?! I love it. It also comes with a lot of courses and types of meditations so that you can find what works for you.
If an app is not your thing, there are meditation teachers and classes are all over, you should be able to find one that fits your needs.
#2 Plan Your Day, Week, Month
Make a list of what you need to get done. Determine upfront, which tasks can be shuffled to other spots if in a pinch, and which ones are foundational. Making those decisions is important because if you are not willing to budge on writing a certain word count, then you need to give yourself time to do it.
I’ve heard countless times that people need to do all the big tasks first and then do all the little things second. I don’t agree. If I have a wide-open day, many times, I get all the small piddly stuff done, and then when I’m working on my big project, I don’t have to think about the little stuff. I feel satisfaction by being able to check off my to-dos, so knocking off little things at the beginning of my day makes me happy, and when I’m happy, I’m more productive.
Excellent planning is not a single method that fits everyone. I have a day planner just for my writing schedule. I note the days I’m going to post content along with when I need to be writing. My personal “to-dos” are on my phone calendar. At the beginning of the day or when I’m planning my week, I compare the two and determine time slots for everything. For my writing, I need to see a large picture of the month, and that’s what my day planner provides along with individual day pages to list my writing tasks.
At times it seems like the tasks are overwhelming. I used to panic and spend so much time just looking and rearranging my tasks and feeling anxious that I didn’t get much done. Now, I look at my list of tasks and choose one appropriate for my available schedule and work on it until it’s done. I cross it off my list and go to the next one.
Play around with your planning and figure out which way works best for you. Some people use sticky notes on their wall or calendar. Some people color code their items, while others need to write every single detail. It’s really about you and how you work. Ask yourself how you can be most efficient with your time. If you start using a particular methodology and it’s not working for you, change it up. The planning process itself should not take the bulk of your time to create or maintain. Use what works, but don’t overthink or over-complicate.
#3 Understand Your Relationship With Social Media
Social media is a killer for me, and I had to create boundaries.
There is a time to work on social media, a time to play on social media, and a time to put it away. If you need inspiration for your creative writing, you could get it from posts, but is that what you are doing? Are you mindlessly scrolling? You’ll see a lot of cool things, and you may pick up writing tips and be inspired, but ask yourself the following questions the next time you’re scrolling
Social media can be a ginormous time suck. You can spend a whole day scrolling through everyone’s pages, you can get stuck in the comparison trap, which dampens your creative spark, and it can make you feel completely drained.
Devote time away from social media to live your life. That means writing more, spending more time with family or friends, being outdoors, talking to people, seeing new things, or being part of something bigger through volunteering.
#4 Get Sleep
Sleep is so important, but it can be hard to do! The first step to getting adequate sleep is acknowledging that it’s necessary. Sleep will help every part of your process, writing or not, and is a critical component in productivity. Once you understand this, you can start working towards it.
So many people like to brag about how little sleep they get. It’s like a badge they can wear saying; I’m amazing because I stayed up half the night working. If your body and brain are not functioning at full capacity because of lack of sleep, then it’s not something to brag about.
Planning and being efficient with your time can be vital to getting enough sleep. I know that we are all overworked, trying to raise a family maybe, trying to be a good friend and help with other people’s projects, etc. But we need to make sure we are being taken care of and getting sleep. Don’t feel bad for telling others that you need to get home and get some shut-eye.
#5 Say No
Many of us want to be that fantastic friend, helping everyone out, and being involved. It makes us feel good when we can help others. Unfortunately, when we always say yes to everyone, we stop saying yes to ourselves.
In my own experience, I have said yes to help someone and then gotten mad for saying yes because it meant that I couldn’t work on my writing. If you are not going to stick up for your writing schedule, and yourself, no one else is either.
If you are someone (like I was) that says yes without thinking and has a hard time saying no, replace the “sure I can help” with “let me look at my schedule, and I’ll get back to you.” Adding distance between the question and your decision will help give your brain time to think about what is important to you.
I really hope these tips work well for you; they have for me. Let me know if you have other tips to help stay focused on your writing goals.