Monday, May 8, 2017

Focusing on Focus

This year I am really trying to work on my focus. As a writer--and if I'm being honest probably also in my non-writing life--I have trouble with focus. I'm great at coming up with ideas. I create series at the drop of a hat. The number of stand alone novels I've written is small. But completing a series or staying focused on a specific idea is difficult for me. I am the queen of plot bunnies and shiny new ideas. One hint of an idea and I am off and running in a different direction. And given everything going on in the world lately, focus seems to be in even shorter supply lately.

So this year I am really trying to focus on focusing. Earlier in the year I started a series that I want to have completed by the end of the year and a few other series that I want to wrap up to move onto other projects. This means I need a lot of focus to complete those ideas, especially by a certain deadline. So here are a few tricks I'm started to apply to improve my focus.

1. Think about why. A few minutes of quiet to focus on why I want to do something or fight through a work, helps me ground myself and not give into the impulse of a shiny new ideas. Or even worse, the procrastination of doing nothing at all.

2. When you're in the zone embrace it. Whether its for a few minutes or an hour, if you're in the zone and you have that elusive focus, take advantage of it. The dishes or dinner can wait until the moment has passed.

3. Don't push it. If its not working do something else. This is the time for the dishes or the walk or whatever else you need to do. Trying to strain for focus will only exhaust and frustrate you. Which will hurt more in the end then not getting this project done at all.

4. Set a timer (this one had really been working for me). Set a timer for a specific amount of time. Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. Whatever you think you can handle. With only a limited amount of time to focus your brain more easily accepts you can do it. More times than not, I end up writing past the ding of the timer, but knowing I can walk away after that timer goes off allows me to focus of that time specific time. No matter what might be going on, I can always convince myself I can handle ten minutes of concentration.

5. Remove unnecessary distractions. If your mind is constantly thinking about what you need to do at home, or what you need to remember to pick up at the grocery store tonight, you are using up your focus on other things. Make lists, set schedules and reminders, so you don't use up your precocious focus and brain power on a hundred small tasks and instead use that focus when you need it.

6. Take short breaks every half an hour. Focus is like a muscle, the more you use it the more tired it gets. You need to give it a break every so often to not completely exhaust it. A physical activity during this time is ideal, it gives your mind a break and gets oxygen to your brain for better cognitive thought. Plus its good for you.

7. Start early. The more you get done earlier, the better you feel and the more you believe you can accomplish. A better state of mind, leads to more focus and concentration.

These are the tips I've been using to improve my focus, and so far they have been working. I'm doing better than I have in a few years completing projects and enjoying my work. Hopefully the more I work at it the more tips will come to me, and maybe I'll do a second addition to the post. If you have any tips for staying focused, feel free to add them in the comments below. I can always use more help.


Tina Donahue said...

Great post, Willa. I actually have more single titles than series. Series always stumped me. But I finally got 3 going. I've found them way easier to write than single titles since you don't have to research new locales and stuff.

Janice Seagraves said...

Great advice, Willa.

Rebecca Airies said...

Love the post! My mind tends to love series, too. Lately, my problem hasn't been staying focused in the actual writing phase of the process. It's been keeping focus when revising. So bad, I have a list of four finished books that I need to revise (although one is an R&R.)

I'm using timers too and it is helping some. I find the timers most useful for writing new words.