But I was feeling, to put it mildly, unfocused. I couldn't concentrate on one thing for long. I'd check Twitter, then answer a blog comment, then click onto my home page to see what was up on the news, stare off into space, check Twitter again, answer an email, look at my blog stats.
Felt to me like I was totally and completely lacking any kind of concentration.
I beat myself up over this, kept talking to myself about how unfocused I was that morning. And then I thought to check what I'd done: answered numerous blog comments and scheduled a day's worth of tweets.
This experience made me realize that sometimes I'm my own worst enemy. I'd accomplished much more than I'd thought, all while berating myself that I wasn't concentrating. And all this got me thinking a lot more about concentration, mostly because being intently focused on work (like a piece of writing) is more pleasant than the distracted state I describe above. There's nothing I love more than being in flow while writing, and yet this can be an elusive place. So I thought about and tracked what allows me to concentrate and here I share the results with you:
1. Feelings Lie. Emotions are tricky buggers. We think they are always telling us the truth when sometimes they are overwhelming us for a completely unrelated reason–like that something triggered a long ago subconscious memory. If your feelings, like mine, are telling you that you're unfocused, look deeper. Maybe you've gotten more done than you think. Give yourself a break already.
2. Set a Timer. I proselytize about this all the time, because it works so well. Seriously, try it. This is how I get most of my writing done these days. I set the timer on my phone for 30 minutes and dive in, doing nothing but writing for those 30 minutes. Then I take a brief break. Only usually I'm so absorbed I hit the timer off and keep going.
3. Keep a Success Journal. I've been doing this lately in relation to my writing non-negotiables. At the end of every work day, I pull out my Moleskine and ponder what I've accomplished, and then I write it down. It's very pleasing to review and it also helps with #1 on this list.
4. Change Your Venue. If you're distracted at home, pack up and go to a coffee shop and vice versa. Try a different room in your house, or go outside on your deck. Even though I have a laptop, I get rooted in place in my office and once in awhile I need to remind myself to change things up.
5. Keep At It. True confession: my concentration was initially all over the place as I started this article. But I kept returning to the work, and eventually concentration kicked in.
6. Nap. Sometimes there's just no substitute for some shut-eye. I actually hate to even admit this, coming from a family that abhorred inactivity and napping, but sometimes it is exactly what you need. Doesn't have to be a long nap, close your eyes and doze for 5 or 10 minutes. It can be incredibly mentally renewing.
7. Learn What Works For You. Napping may make you sleepy all day and changing your venue may destroy any concentration you could muster. What works for me may not work for you, so pay attention and figure out what does.
And speaking of which….please share. I'd love to hear your tricks and tips for concentration and focus. I'd love it if you left a comment!
Photo by Batreh.