Getting in the zone and staying there is often difficult, especially when writing. Trying to complete assignments can be daunting, particularly if you have a massive content calendar to fill, you need to hit a high word count, or you have to produce several pieces of content in a short timeframe. You may find your attention wandering often, unable to focus when writing, making these tasks take longer than they should. If you’re searching for how to write without getting distracted, you’ve come to the right place. You’ll find tips for distraction free writing and practical suggestions to help you. Let’s dive in!

Why Focus and Concentration Is Important

Think about a car engine for a moment. When the fuel enters the piston, the engine only works if there is an electrical current to ignite that fuel and cause “combustion” within the internal combustion engine. Now, think of your energy as that fuel and your focus as the electricity. Without both of these pieces, you won’t be able to move forward with creative endeavors because your “engine” won’t turn over. There’s some good news, however! Just because you’re struggling with focus now doesn’t mean you always will. In fact, focusing is a skill, and like all skills, it’s one you can (and should!) practice. 

The part of your brain responsible for focus and concentration is your frontal lobe, where you develop your executive function skills. Still thinking about the engine? Your frontal lobe is the sophisticated computer chip that gives directions for how to do things. 

And like a computer chip, the frontal lobe runs instructions when it’s time to focus. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, there are two stages when you switch your focus from one task to another. Stage one is goal shifting, or “Now I want to do this instead of that.” Stage two is rule activation, or “I’m turning off these rules and turning on those rules.” 

The problem is that every time you move your focus, you have to go through these stages, which takes time and energy, creating a little mental block. If you’re multitasking and going between many different tasks (flipping over to Facebook for a quick “break” while writing your whitepaper, going down a rabbit hole of Wikipedia links…), you’ll pay a price. This same study found that even these short mental blocks can cost as much as 40% of your productive time. 

How Do You Stay Focused When Writing?

The big, obvious statement: don’t switch back and forth between tasks! Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s look at how to focus on writing from a remote setting or an in-person office. We’ll have some more practical tips on how to improve your focus and concentration later in this guide.

How Can I Focus On Writing at Home?

Working from home can be a wonderful experience–and a frustrating one filled with distractions. From chores to family members to pets to all the little demands of your daily life, not being able to escape to an office can make it difficult to get into a productive workflow. Here are a pair of tips when you need to focus on writing at home: 

  • Cultivate a peaceful digital environment. Whether you have a dedicated home office, float around your house, or sit in your local coffee shop, the most important thing for focusing during this era of remote work is to limit your tech. How many notifications do you get on your laptop? Do you work with your phone right next to you? From silencing your notifications, using “do not disturb” mode, or perhaps only checking email at certain times of the day, you can set up a framework that gives you a peaceful digital space to work. 
  • Pay attention to energy level. Often we think of tasks in terms of time. If you have to knock out three blog posts in two days to meet your content marketing calendar, you’re probably stressed out about time. It may be more stressful because you have a lot on your plate with meetings, emails, and staying in contact with your team remotely. Rather than looking at your schedule in terms of time, evaluate your day in terms of energy level. Focusing takes a lot of energy, both physical and mental. When do you have the most energy for creative tasks? Are you a morning person who is “up and at ‘em” before the sunrise? Perhaps you’re a night owl who has a lot of energy at night when everyone else is in bed. Maybe you’ve noticed that after a nutritious lunch you always get your best work done. Figure out when you have the most energy available so that you can use that to your advantage. 

How Can I Focus On Writing Without Getting Distracted at the Office?

If you’re working an in-person job or on a hybrid work schedule, you’re probably spending a lot of time working in a bustling office environment. Coworkers pop in and out, there are donuts in the conference room, someone accidentally replies to all on email, which sets off a chain reaction… There are a LOT of potential distractions. When working from your office desk, here are a few suggestions for how you can minimize distractions: 

  • Set boundaries for quiet time. If you have an office with a door, you could create a version of a “do not disturb” sign that tells your coworkers when they can interact with you. If you’re in a cubicle or an open floor, you could use noise-canceling headphones to signal to others that you’re not available for face-to-face communication. Whatever solution you come up with, you’ll need to communicate to your colleagues and let them know what that signal means: please don’t bother me, I’m in the zone! 
  • Eliminate clutter–physical and mental. Scan your desk. How many unnecessary items do you see? Maybe there’s a stress ball from an old conference, a binder that you keep forgetting to put away, or a dirty mug that needs to go home with you. Now scan your calendar and to-do list. What tasks are cluttering your attention span? Maybe you have several low-priority tasks that have been hanging over you for awhile, or certain regular tasks that can be moved to a different time in your workflow to give you more uninterrupted time. 

How Do You Not Get Distracted When Writing?

The first step towards distraction free writing is to figure out why you get distracted. Everyone is different, and we’re all distracted by different things. When working on how to identify distractions, your best tool is to gather information. Every time you find your attention wandering, make a note with the details. What time of day is it? What were you writing at the time? Was there a specific trigger like an email ping or someone walking through your space? Don’t let this process become a distraction in and of itself—just keep a quick note so you can circle back later. 

Once you’ve identified common triggers, it’s time to eliminate those distractions. Perhaps you need to try working from a different room. Adding a white noise machine or listening to ambient noise might keep you from being distracted by office noise. Even simple steps like working from one tab or putting your word processor into full screen mode can help (spoiler alert: Slice can help! More on this later). Whatever you’ve identified as your distraction, come up with a few ideas on how to mitigate that issue. 

How to Improve Concentration and Focus

In addition to all the tips we’ve shared above, here are a few general ways that you can improve your focus and concentration while writing: 

  • Practice makes progress

You’ll never be able to focus perfectly every time you sit down to write. That’s just not possible! However, you can and will make progress if you exercise your brain. Segmentation is a great strategy for this. Break your work into small pieces and work in blocks of time. Set a timer for 5 minutes and work on composing just a few sentences. Gradually work your way up until you find a time frame that works best for you. As you practice, you’ll find a timeframe that fits your focus and helps the words flow. 

  • Stimulate your brain on your off-time

What you do outside of work can help improve your focus during work hours. Try engaging your brain with fun activities that use your executive function skills. For example, learning a new skill is a perfect way to stimulate and activate your brain. You could take a cooking class, practice painting, learn an instrument…any activity that you find fun that also requires focus and attention will help you practice those skills. 

  • Set yourself up for success

Give yourself a solid foundation so that it’s easy to focus. Limit your distractions, create a peaceful work environment, eat a healthy meal, drink water…these are all basic things that will make a big difference with your focus. It’s also important to use the right tools. With our tool here at Slice, you’ll find  writer-focused features that will help you get and stay in the zone. You’ll be able  to “slice” each assignment into smaller sections and use panes that allow you to write and research side-by-side. 

One important thing to note: focus issues are usually the result of external or behavioral factors. However,  it is possible that your lack of concentration is a symptom of an underlying health condition. Lifestyle choices can also impact your focus and concentration. Stress, poor sleep, dehydration…these factors can play a role in your ability to focus. You may want to talk to your doctor or medical provider about your focus issues in order to rule out any health factors. It may also be worthwhile to review your medications (including any potential interactions if you’re taking more than one) with your doctor to see if that may be contributing to your lack of concentration.

Is There an App to Help With Writing? What’s the Best Writing App for Focusing?

Yes! Here at Slice, we’ve built a writing tool that is built around eliminating distractions. 

  • Eliminate clutter. Enjoy a peaceful environment.

In Slice, you’ll find everything organized into projects, with one easy place to store your writing and research. 

  • Quit multitasking. 

With Slice’s integrated Chrome extension, you can segment your writing into the research phase and writing phase. You’ll be able to easily clip useful information while browsing, saving it directly into your project. Once you’ve collected your information, Slice’s panes display your writing and research side-by-side. No more proliferation of tabs to distract you! Everything you need is in one place, so you don’t have to multitask anymore. 

  • Slice it up!

There’s a reason that our name is what it is. We’re firm believers in segmentation as a strategy for focus. With Slice, you can easily segment your writing into manageable sections that make it easier to focus and get in the flow. 

  • Set you and your team up for success.

You’ll be able to assign responsibilities, set due dates, and indicate project status—all on a section-by-section basis.

Head over to our website to see these features in action. You’ll improve your focus and concentration in no time!

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