by Annette Lyon
First off: To all you NaNo-ers out there, keep pushing on this last day! Congratulations to all the winners out there; celebrate your accomplishment!
I have had a hard time focusing lately. That includes work on my writing, my editing, and even attention to housework and (worse!) to my family.
Many things can be blamed for it, among them the legitimate issues of ADD and chronic pain.
But life must go on. I need to write and edit. More, I need to make sure my family actually eats and has clean underwear.
I've found a some things to help, some of which don't make much sense at first glance. In hopes that some of them may help you, here's a list:
Yes, Virginia, it really does help you focus. At least, it does for someone with ADD. My son (who inherited it from Mom, alas) discovered Simply Noise, which has several free options. The basic choices are all essentially what's known as "white noise" but which all sound slightly different. The variations are called white, pink, and brown noise.
Brown noise is my favorite (and my son's, too). I find myself able to focus on a project and get a lot more done in less time while listening to it.
The site also has other sounds, downloadable for a small fee, like ocean waves and a thunderstorm.
A To-do List
People who follow me on Facebook are aware of this one: I have a list of things I want to accomplish in a month. Yes, a month. Big-picture, yet concrete, goals are easier for me to handle than specific ones I have to get done today. With monthly goals, I can look at the list and decide what I can do now.
It's a hard-copy list in a notebook, so I have the bonus of using a bright orange Sharpie to cross out items as I do them.
Major sense of accomplishment!
I have a writer friend who has also become my accountability buddy. At the beginning of each month, we email one another our progress on last month's goals and our goals for the upcoming month.
This provides an outside source of accomplishment (getting ego strokes from someone outside my brain helps a ton), and it's also an extra motivation to reach the goals I sent her before. Saying, "Yeah, well, I totally dropped the ball on all my goals" isn't going to cut it.
Meeting with my critique group helps here too. I need to have pages to read when I show up, so I'd better write some.
For me, that means the Internet. I can sit at my computer with great intentions to do X, Y, and even Z on my to-do list. Then I check email, Twitter, Facebook, and news links, and next thing I know, I've blown two hours.
There's a reason a product exists where you pay for it to disable your Internet connection for determined periods so you can focus on your work.
At one point I wondered if a smart phone would help. (For years, I have a simple candy-bar style phone that did nothing fancier than text.) I figured that if I got online updates while away from my computer, I wouldn't feel as tied to it. Then, when I did sit down at my desk, maybe I'd get more work done.
It was just a theory. Until now. Due to a set of unforeseen circumstances, I got to open my Christmas present early: a shiny new iPhone.
It's done exactly what I predicted: I don't feel the same urge to sit at my desk just to make sure I don't miss something. My kitchen is cleaner than it has been in a while. I got more reading in today. And more writing in. And research. Oh, and I wrote this blog post.
I think this is the most I've accomplished in one day in, well, a really long time.
One element I didn't expect to help me on my iPhone, but which has: setting alarms. I'll set it 30 minutes out, and suddenly I can stay on task. When the phone rings, I get to do something else, if whatever I'm doing feels hard. Or, on the flip side, if I have only X amount of minutes to accomplish such-and-such, I'll buckle down and work hard. Great tool, and one I'm sure I'll be using more.
What helps you focus?