One of the areas of my busy life that I have trouble with is focus. I can multi-task unlike many people. I can do many different things at once and juggle many balls at the same time. This is great for my job, but not great for writing and creating.
In my 6 month blogging update I mentioned that I would like to learn to write better and faster in the coming 6 months. Well those 6 months have come and gone and I’m not much better. As I’ve began to look at how I create, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not going about it the correct way at all. While my current multi-tasking lifestyle is great for destroying debt and getting a ton of things done at work, it will not work with writing.
Writing A Blog Post
I usually write over the course of a day. I piece together little 5-10 minute moments of time while working. If I’m lucky I can get a paragraph completed in that amount of time. As I go from task to task at work, I keep 3×5 cards on hand to collect any thoughts. Then when I get a few more minutes I’ll transfer those to the computer and keep going until I have written a post.
This has worked so far, but I know I can do better. I could take an hour or so at home to write, but I don’t want to take any time away from my family. Since I work so much, my family time is very important and I want to make the most of it. I could stay up late as well but I already average only 4 hours of sleep as it is, cutting into that doesn’t help much either.
There Must Be A Better Way
I’ve been wondering how other people do it, and if there is a better way. As I was scanning twitter the other day, I noticed that Leo Babauta (Zen Habits) had tweeted about a new book he had written about focus. I took a few minutes and head over to his site to check it out.
The eBook is titled: Focus-A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction (not an affiliate link). I read through the description and was immediately hooked. The best part about the book was that it was free for download; you could also pay $35 to get an expanded version with other extras if you like. I downloaded the book and began reading. I purchased the book and the extras are great.
It became clear to me that I needed follow the tips and learn a better way to focus so I can improve my writing. In the book, Leo lays out some great ideas and tools to use to help you focus. As a multi-tasker some of the advice is hard to swallow, but I figure that’s exactly what I need in order to write more efficiently and with better creativity.
What I’ve Learned
I’ve learned that eliminating many distractions from my life really does help me focus on one task at a time. Focusing on one task is helping me to complete it quickly and without have to revisit it later. This cuts down on the time required to remember where I was when I finished working on the task that last time. It may only take an extra 5 minutes to complete a task in one sitting as opposed to working on it in 3 or 4 shorter sittings.
I’ve turned off my Gmail and twitter notifications. This was hard to do, but has already proved useful. I still check my email and twitter, but only at certain times throughout the day. I use to review my email and/or twitter the moment the alert came in, which took my focus off of what I was working on – not good. Now I can review my alerts when I’m free to reply and comment instead of storing the data in my head for a later time.
I’ve removed my desktop icons and switched to a launcher program called Launchy. Lauchy allows me to hit ALT+Space and type the name of the program I want to launch. I can type “ch” then enter and Chrome will be launched. This has made it much faster to get around my computer. No more looking for desktop shortcuts and using the start menu.
I’ve installed a program called CreaWriter. It’s a program that covers your whole desktop with a cool picture and provides a window to enter text. I’m using it right now to write this post. CreaWriter has many options to customize the experience any way you like. I’m using headphones to listen to the included campfire ambient sound track. It helps me to detach from the noise of the outside world and focus on writing. Since no other programs are visible, I can just write and write without worrying about what else is happening on my computer. CreaWriter also has a typewriter sound going off in the background which is pretty calming as well, reminds me of keyboarding class back in 1989.
If you are having trouble focusing or just want to learn a little more about how you can write better, create better, think more clearly, or just relax more. I highly recommend you pick up Leo’s books. It’s a quick read and it might just change your life. It has helped me and I only got purchased the book 3 days ago.
I just spend an hour writing two blog posts. The one you are reading and one for another site that will go live later this week. I never could have done in such a short period of time without the tips and help from Leo’s book.