Do you struggle to maintain focus during your writing time?
Procrastination and lack of focus were constant frenemies on my own journey to becoming a writer. For years, these ever-present saboteurs prevented me from completing both my fiction work and getting my freelance career started.
Facing your distractions is unavoidable: You have to admit you have a problem and take steps to do something about it, without getting sidetracked by the magpie shrieking at a squirrel outside.
Fortunately, you don’t have to win this battle on willpower alone.
Fear not, intrepid writer. Here are a few tools to help you get your head out of the clouds.
If you’re prone to distraction, you may not realize that focus is something that can be built through practice.
is a multi-platform app that uses community encouragement and digital coaching to help you build new habits. It stands out from similar apps with its dedicated tracks for writers. These specialized journeys not only hold you accountable to write every day; they also provide encouragement from other writers building a habit just like you.
To maximize motivation, when you check in each day, you can record your word count in the “Add a note” section. Even writing one paragraph a day is enough to help kickstart a habit.
We’ve discussed the Pomodoro Technique previously on The Write Life. As a chronic procrastinator, I cannot stop gushing about how brilliant it is.
The premise is simple: Instead of trying to complete your work in a long, overwhelming sprint, you break projects down into manageable, 25-minute chunks called Pomodoros. The goal is to stay on one task for the entirety of each Pomodoro until the job is done. Every 25 minutes, take a five minute break to clear your head. Every two hours, take a 15-minute break.
There are countless Pomodoro timers available. One excellent option is on Android (for Apple users, try ). It’s simple, customizable, and allows you to record your given task for each Pomodoro.
On my laptop, I use for its convenient taskbar functionality, and when working away from my own devices, I switch to , which is entirely web based.
No matter your setup, there’s a Pomodoro timer for you!
Writing often feels like creating something out of nothing. It can be easy to just click over to Facebook and never return. Enter distraction blockers.
For Android, is a true example of the nuclear option for blocking access to apps and websites. It’s hard — I mean really hard — to shut it off once you’ve enabled a block for a certain period of time.
For Chrome, is a customizable option. It requires some discipline, but the option to divert to a different website or an inspirational quote might be all the motivation you need.
Other popular distraction-blockers include (Mac), (Chrome), and (Android).
has quickly become my favorite writing tool that most writers have never heard of.
It’s a web-based productivity app with a premise very similar to the old school method of using index cards on a cork board. For a writer, the possibilities are endless. You can use a Trello board to make to do lists, prioritize submissions, even to track research.
My favorite use for Trello is as a scene organizer for fiction projects. Make a board to represent your novel, then make lists on that board to represent each chapter. Finally, make cards for individual scenes or story events. It’s very easy to move scenes around.
Being organized can take a huge amount of stress off and allow you to focus on your content.
Hack your brain
Ambient sound has a powerful effect on creativity. is a top-notch noise generation app. You can use it to customize an entire soundscape of nature sounds, soothing music, and other effects — there’s even one for the clicks of a keyboard. The clincher, however, is its excellent binaural beats and isochronic tones. Listening to these auditory illusions hacks your brain into concentrating or relaxing.
If you’re looking for a bit more variety, has an extensive library of brain-hacking soundscapes, including several particularly creepy arrangements great for writing fantasy or suspense. I’m a fan of .
Interested in more productivity aids? Check out seven more productivity tools for writers.
What are your favorite focus-building tools?