10 tips to help you focus your mind and get writing
Are you able to just turn on your laptop and get on with it?
Or do you often feel like you're just staring at the screen blankly trying to shake off a fogged-up brain and very real urge to fall asleep?
You might be desperate for your mind to focus, and inspiration to strike, but the lure of that next cuppa, or the ping of your phone, are just too much to ignore.
I sometimes think the only thing that truly focuses me is an imminent deadline, but always leaving everything to the last minute is exhausting. Recently, I’ve been trying out some techniques to help me get down to work quicker and focus properly on getting the job done. And I have to say just a few small changes seem to be making a big difference.
So whether you’re trying to write a blog post, plan your social media for the next month or even complete your tax return, these 10 suggestions will help you to focus your brain on the task at hand. And maybe even get that writing done in record time.
1. Organise your workspace
How many times have you heard someone say ‘tidy desk, tidy mind’? Well I’m definitely an advocate of this. I say advocate in a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ kind of way, as when you read this I can guarantee my desk will not be tidy at all. But right at this moment it is, and it feels wonderful. I honestly do feel like I can focus better when I’m sitting at a clutter-free desk. It’s just a shame that it so often gets covered with Star Wars Lego and random gadgets.
See #deskgoals on Instagram if you need inspiration.
2. Don’t slouch!
Did you know that poor posture can make you feel tired and therefore less focused? It makes sense I guess. If your joints are out of alignment your whole body has to work harder to balance and support itself.
When you’re working, sit up straight with your shoulders back, eyes ahead and lower back slightly arched. Make sure your ears are directly above your shoulders. This will allow your body to relax, letting you concentrate on the important task of...Now what was it you were supposed to be doing again?
3. Go for a walk at lunchtime
One of the best ways I find to focus on work is not to try and do it constantly aaaaallllllllllll day. It’s vital to take a break from time to time. And what better thing to do than go for a wander round the block? You could call a friend for that long-overdue catch-up, snap some pics for your Insta account or *shock horror* leave your smartphone at home and just enjoy the sights and sounds around you.
The other benefit of getting out in the natural light is to get some all-important vitamin D on your skin. Vitamin D is essential for your wellbeing, lifts your mood and gives you a natural energy boost.
Haven’t got time for a walk? Take 5 minutes to mooch round your garden and pull out a few weeds.
4. Snack regularly – but choose healthy options
When you’re working to a deadline the temptation can be to work through lunch and not think about food. Don’t. Do. It. Missing meals will make you sluggish, slow and more likely to make mistakes. It can also lead to headaches. Snacking regularly will keep your blood sugar stable and your mind clear.
But make sure you choose less sugary options like wholegrain crackers and hummus or a handful of nuts. You don’t want a nasty energy slump an hour later.
5. Drink plenty of water
I learned the other day that even mild dehydration can cause sleepiness. Before this I had no idea! I know that not drinking enough water gives me headaches, but I didn’t realise it could be making me feel less energised.
Now I aim to drink water regularly throughout the day. The best tip I’ve found is to fill up a 2-litre bottle with cold water (chilled in the freezer if you have space). Sit it on your desk, and then challenge yourself to get through it by the end of the day. You’ll feel much more alert. The downside is frequent loo breaks, but stick with it and your body will soon get used to the excess liquid.
You could even add pieces of lemon or other fruits if you prefer something with a little flavour.
6. Exercise, exercise, exercise
Exercise is a personal thing. The kind of exercise that I enjoy may be completely different from the exercise you enjoy. Perhaps you like yoga or running, whereas I am far more likely to be found playing a team sport. But the type of exercise you do doesn’t matter, this is about getting out there, getting a sweat on and throwing yourself into something that takes your mind off the daily grind. You’ll come back to that writing task refreshed and ready to kick butt.
It also helps that exercise is a natural endorphin booster, meaning you’ll benefit from happy hormones for a long time after you’ve finished.
7. Try the Pomodoro Technique
If you’ve not heard of it, the Pomodoro Technique is a time management technique. I first came across it on another copywriter’s blog and was intrigued to try it. And now I love it, it really focuses the mind and maximises productive time.
The idea is to set a timer for 25 minutes and work until the bell rings. You then take a short break (three to five minutes) to do whatever you like. Do this repeatedly, and after the four ‘pomodoros’ take a longer break of up to half an hour. Repeat each cycle. Make sure you keep a tally of the number of cycles you’ve done and the work completed. Not only will it make you feel like you’re achieving something, but you’ll be able to use your notes to estimate the time it takes to do certain tasks better in the future. Which means more accurate quotes if you’re doing client work.
8. Turn off your phone
Waaaiiittt…Don’t leave in disgust.
Maybe just put your phone in a different room if the idea of turning it off is terrifying to you.
If you’re anything like me though, when you hear those little pings you just can’t resist taking a quick glance down at your screen. And even that tiny break in your concentration is enough to make you lose your train of thought and have to spend minutes searching for it again.
It may sound obvious, but only having half a brain on your work will mean you only get half as much done.
So get rid of distractions.
Why not put your phone on airplane mode out of sight, and then treat yourself to a regular 5 minute social media break as part of the Pomodoro Technique, above?
9. Mindfulness matters
Mindfulness isn’t just a new buzzword, it is a proven method for calming the mind and allowing you to focus on the present.
Try this simple exercise: Take some time to breathe in deeply for 7 seconds and out for 11 seconds for a few minutes. Concentrate only on the breath entering and leaving your body and picture the stresses of the day rising up out of the top of your head. You may find it helpful to look at a beautiful picture to remind you of a time you felt happy and relaxed (I use my favourite photo from our honeymoon).
Check out this easy mindfulness technique to use when you’re out and about.
10. Offer yourself a bribe
If all else fails, give yourself an incentive to get you started. For instance, write 3 paragraphs and you can have a cup of tea and a biccie, or get to the end of the page and you can spend 10 minutes on Twitter.
You'll probably find that once you've got that far you'll be on a roll - often the hardest part is getting started.
Are there any more techniques you like to use when you’re having trouble focusing on your work?
If you try these and still can’t get stuck into that business writing task, why not give me a call? Sometimes the most productive answer is to hire a copywriter.