Hyper-Focused Writing

     Writing is hard. Why? Because writing requires a constant generation of new ideas. Writing demands consistent creativity while simultaneously expecting the observation of certain parameters (i.e. grammar). And the human mind, being what it is, likes to avoid hard things like writing by finding the next easiest distraction. Maybe you want to write more. Perhaps even a lot more. Here are few behavioural techiques that will help you stay focused while writing.

Tip 1: Set a high word count goal for the day.

     If you reach for the stars and still come up short, you have still reached the edge of the galaxy. By setting a high word count for yourself, smaller daily word counts become much more achievable. For example, suppose you set a daily word count of 250 words. The closer you get to 250 words, the better you will feel about achieving your word count for the day. As 250 gets even closer, you may notice yourself easing up focus a bit. Now suppose instead you set the daily word count to be 1,000 words. At 250 words, you are only 25% of the way towards your goal. If you have any chance of hitting 1000, you best blow through 250 on your way to 500, 750, and finally 1,000. The higher the goal the better as it will demand more focus and effort in order to achieve it.

Tip 2: Use the Pomodoro Technique, across several ‘sprint’ writing sessions throughout the day

     I have talked often of the Pomodoro Technique, so I won’t dive deep into the mechanics here. The main idea is to simply use a timer of some kind and only work on a single particular task for some fixed amount of time. In this case, the singular task is writing. Set a timer for say, 30 minutes, and for that 30 minutes you do nothing else but write. If you have an impulse to do something else, just tell your mind you can do X as soon 30 minutes is up, and get back to writing.

    To combine the Pomodoro Technqiue with the high daily word count described above, consider giving yourself multiple sprint writing sessions through out the day. For example, I do four 30-minute sprint sessions a day, with 250 words each session. The end result is a daily word count of at least 1,000 words.

Tip 3: Ditch the mouse!

     The thing with computer mice is that they are easy to click. The easier it is to click on something, the easier it is to click on something besides what you are writing about. It is very easy while writing to get stuck with an idea and say “I need to do some research. Let me just look up this file or check this site real quick.” What invariably happens is you get sucked into an information rabbit-hole and by the time you get back to your paragraph (likely much, much later than you intended), you forgot what you were even looking for in the first place. So I propose that you ‘Ditch the Mouse!’. For the length of your sprint writing session, place your mouse far beyond arms reach behind you and keep both hands glued to the keyboard for the entire fixed length of time you have commited to. Then just keep writing and only writing. Learning keyboard shortcuts such as Control + C for Copy or Control + Alt + M for Comment (in MS Word) can prove immeasurably helpful.

     Of course, you may have times where you need to reference a document or someone’s name or a technical detail of some kind. Here is what you do. First, write in BLOCK LETTERS what you need to come back to later. Then, using keyboard shortcuts, make a comment over the BLOCK LETTERS to look it up later. The important point here is to not stop the writing process. Remember, we are trying to get words out of your head and onto a page. There is an important difference between writing and editing. You may want to consider setting another 30 minute ‘sprint’ editing session where you only focus on editing what you have written in the first sprint session.

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One Response to Hyper-Focused Writing

  1. Carlton Johnson says:

    Awesome article, Paul. I like the drop the mouse suggestion., i will try it this morning when i do my writing.

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