Updated: Jan 9, 2022
By Kashika K
“Everything you want is on the other side of fear” – George Adam
At a time where the internet and its easy accessibility have amplified the amounts of distractions, to be able to focus on anything at all proves difficult. That combined with a combined exhaustion from, well, being alive, makes everything that needs to get done as some huge monster against which no cheat codes can get you through.
An increasing commonality in most, procrastination is the process of choosing to do something else rather than what you need to do. Psychologists associate this with feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, or the simple reason that doing the task required would bring no joy to us.
Writing, already an effort and time-consuming task, calls for consistent effort. Therefore, it becomes important to develop mechanisms and re-evaluate the attitude we approach our work with, to ensure a burden-free and happy writing experience.
Here are some things that can help:
Find a place where you work best
Maybe it’s the sofa near the living room window, or the table in the guest bedroom, explore spaces available to you and find where you feel the most productive. If possible, you can also try to work in a library near you, or a café.
Some people prefer sunlight, others do not and are able to work much better due to the comfortable and favourable environment they are in.
Rather than lying in your bed waiting around for a ‘Eureka’ moment, actively look for inspiration, something that can help to kick start the gears of your creativity.
Listen to new music, watch a movie that seems interesting, or just go out into the world. Look around and focus on things that you usually look past. Maybe the plot for the next one strikes while gazing at the neighbour’s golden retriever playing with a bee!
Get Rid of Possible Distractions
Let’s be honest, time passes at an impossibly accelerated speed when your thumb scrolls through social media while you have a deadline that needs to be taken care of. It feels like we are transported to a different timeline altogether.
Simply putting your phone away from you, preferably in a different room, or putting it on Do Not Disturb can go a long way in beating the urge to check it every 5 minutes. The less time your phone takes up in a day, the more you are likely to divide that time into doing something good and useful.
Set Reasonable Expectations from Yourself
Unless you are a machine that just pumps out designated tasks as soon as they are required, you cannot start working overnight on a novel that you were supposed to start writing 6 months ago. It needs and deserves your patience and time.
To want to write 4 chapters in a day or 6000 words in 2 hours is not practical. All it does is demotivate you, first before you even begin writing and afterwards, when you are unable to reach the desired goal. Set some deadlines for yourself that can be accomplished with achievable levels of effort in reasonable time.
Begin with something that is doable, like 1 hour dedicated to writing every day, and increase this over time to 2, 3 and further. Do not burn yourself out and be consistent in your effort.
Create Associations with Work and Rest
Don’t work in bed on Mondays and sleep on your table on Fridays. No matter how convenient it is, it is essential to keep designated areas for different needs. The mind and body need to be in sync with each other.
Working on your table every day through the week will make your brain associate it with work over a period, and as the place for focus resulting in increased alertness and productivity while you work on it. Similarly, keeping your bed as the sole place for rest can help you get better quality sleep and much needed rest.
Make To-Do Lists
To-do lists are the ultimate way to stay organised and on top of the tasks that you need to do. They can be for a day, a week, or even for longer periods of time.
To have a clear idea of what work you need to get done makes you more likely to work towards it and get it done. There is nothing more satisfying than ticking something off it when you finish a task!
The Pomodoro Technique
Amongst the many techniques that have been developed to increase productive sessions of working, an extremely helpful one is the Pomodoro method. It includes separating your time into chunks of 25 minutes with a 5-minute break after. After 4 Pomodoro periods, you may take a longer break of 15-20 minutes.
25 minutes of productivity and designated breaks from the work is a lot less intimidating to start with when you have not been working at all. Designated breaks allow us to feel more at ease and not feel tired easily. Try this out and you can find if it works for you.
Set Up a Routine
Routines and schedules help us stay organised and follow a plan, making it simpler to work and not laze around.
In our bid to increase consistent effort, making a routine that is reasonable and suits your personal preferences can be a huge help. Plan out your day, include enough breaks and time for other tasks that you need to do, and most importantly when you need to work. Remember to be realistic while planning!
Stop Feeling Guilty
Prolonged feelings of guilt and anxiety that build up due to delayed work or abandoned ideas block possible positive outcomes in the future. It feels normal to get caught up in past mistakes and not be able to focus on the now, but that should not be the case.
These emotions need to be dealt with yes, but quickly and swiftly. Repeatedly getting stuck in these negative thoughts will do no good. Acknowledgement of your feelings is essential in making your mindset better to focus on the future.
Work With What Excites you
There is no need to follow a strict chronological order while writing. Hence, you can easily choose what to work on and what you wish to write.
A particular scene that came to you in the morning, or a specific character profile that you can develop, whatever comes to you and makes you want to write, do it. To overthink is to kill potential, and all you need to do is begin. There is no right or wrong.
Find your Peak Time
Peak Time is that part of the day where you are most creative and active. Whether it is early morning or late afternoon, whenever you have the most energy to do things is when you should focus that energy in the correct direction.
Most people recommend finishing big or ‘unpleasant’ tasks in your peak time, when you can get them done in an efficient and quicker manner. Prioritize, and work!
Do Not Fear Failure
A lot of people believe that they are not good enough writers and since their work does not meet their expectation, refuse to work at all. These is being incredibly harsh on yourself and underestimating what you are capable of.
It is important to have faith and believe in yourself to achieve anything. Believe that what you are writing is good, and even if you cannot, do not stop writing. It does not need to be ‘good’ by a standard you have been exposed to at all if it is something you have created out of your own need to simply express.
It is one of the foundations of psychology that teach us that any behaviour that is rewarded is done more, and one that is ignored or not appreciated is done less.
It is important to celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they might seem. You don’t need to go overboard with it and take yourself to a fancy restaurant either. A simple cookie, or a walk to the park are rewards that are helpful and keep you motivated.
Find a Musical Companion
Although some might argue that music ends up distracting us rather than helping us work, that is not true for everyone. If a quiet place is not available to you, it is better to find some soothing tunes that take your mind to a better place for writing.
Most people now listen to a lot of classical music while working. There are no lyrics, which means less distraction and it tunes out any white noise you might get affected by. Look up playlists on Spotify or YouTube and try it out.