“The shorter way to do many things is to do only one thing at a time.”
Mozart knew his music, but he also knew a lot about creativity. Creativity thrives on concentration, not distraction. We all know this in our heart of hearts, and yet we can’t help but try to squeeze more into our day by multitasking. The result more often than not, is that we feel fragmented and unfulfilled. Even more serious, all this brain-scattering activity undercuts our ability to concentrate: to focus one-pointedly on the page. So, how can we bring more laser-like focus to our work? A few suggestions that might be helpful:
Enlist your environment: Sometimes the most obvious distractions we’re battling on the road to greater focus are the ones right in front of our nose: all the “noisy” stuff that’s clamoring for our attention in the physical space where we’re planning to work. If this is true for you, then you might take some time to clear away some of the clutter in your immediate vicinity. I know that when my little office gets too messy, it’s hard for me to focus. Sometimes, I deal with this by just clearing the workspace right in front of me. And sometimes, I get more ambitious and spend half an hour or so before I start working just straightening things up. Mostly, I find that this is time well spent: because I feel better, I concentrate better and get more done.
Give yourself a prompt: On the upper left-hand corner of my desk is an orange 3×5 index
card on which I’ve written: “Now I’m going to concentrate as hard as I can. I’m not going to think of anything else.” This simple triggering device signals to my brain that I mean business — that I’m ready to concentrate on whatever I’m doing. Right before I set to work, I look at the card and say the words on it aloud to myself, then I turn to the page. When I find my focus flagging, I’ll shift my gaze to the left and read the words again, then get back to work. I find this really helps me. You might try making a card like this for yourself with the words I use or some other phrase or sentence that you find works well as a focusing trigger for you.
Take short breaks: I once had a teacher who used to say that “short and frequent intervals of study” worked the best when trying to master new material. I think the same goes for writing. Short, intense periods of work punctuated by brief breaks in which I relax and decompress seem to work best for me. I use this work-play pattern throughout the day to stay focused. How about you? Any helpful focusing tools or tips you can share?