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genevievejones's avatar

Why can't i focus?

Asked by genevievejones (112points) August 22nd, 2008

trying to work on a writing project and i can never seem to focus on it long enough to get anything significant accomplished. I would love to be able to say to myself, “ok, you have 45 minutes, just bang out half a page,” but it seems like i need hours to get anything done because i find myself easily distracted by so much (fluther, gmail, new music, shiny things, etc.) Has the external world gotten more interesting since i left college or has my ability to focus simply dropped drastically? any helpful tips on keeping my mind in the right place?

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8 Answers

AstroChuck's avatar

Sounds like you miay have Attention Deficit Disorder.

tinyfaery's avatar

In college there were expectations of you, deadlines, and grades; now it’s just you. Personally, I perform better when there is something at stake. It’s hard to find internal pressures that can keep one focused, but that really is your best bet. Tell yourself if you don’t do a then you can’t/won’t do b, and stick to it—if you can. Good luck!

marinelife's avatar

Write and don’t stop to reread or edit or fix spelling. Just sit there and write.

There is time for all that other stuff after you finish.

AlaskaTundrea's avatar

The key for me is to reward myself for small steps of progress. Note that I said “small” steps. Make it something you can do, not some impossible task. Like, “If I finish this paragraph, I can check my email,” and hold yourself to it. I’ll eat AFTER finishing this photo resize or edit. Short, simple steps that add up to a whole.

You’d be surprised what depriving yourself of something at least momentarily can do to motivate you. Of course you’ve got to hold yourself to the “deal”, too, but finishing a paragraph is far easier than finishing an entire paper or project. Just break it down into easily digestible tasks and go at them in an organized, non-paniced manner, step-by-step, rewarding yourself with something that you really like after you’ve accomplished each one of them. Sure there will be distractions, but I do find that if there’s a piece of, say, chocolate sitting there that I won’t let myself touch until I finish up a task, you’d be amazed how disciplined I can be.

I might also note, don’t get down on yourself if you do allow yourself to be distracted. Simply say “That was nice. Now, bad me, back to work” and get it in gear.

lifeflame's avatar

1. If you are typing on computer, disconnect the wireless/ethernet. You will find yourself doing “research” and be lost in cyberspace.

2. If there are a lot of things nagging at you (“Oh I must remember to post off that letter”) that seems to scream out to be done, keep a notepad on your desk to jot down those miscellaneous tasks. That way you can reassure yourself that you’ll get around to it.

3. Give yourself an outer time limit: “Ok, you have half an hour to do what you want, but by 10am we’re going to start writing.” (iI got this from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. Excellent book about integrating writing practice into one’s life – I highly recommend it)

4. Think of a time when you were really focused, and try to remember what it was about it that made it work for you. Was it because you were excited about the idea? Was it because you were in a quiet environment? Figure out what conditions make it work for you and see if you can recreate them.

5. Sometimes going to a different environment (e.g., the library or a cafe) helps for me. That way I don’t have the temptation to fall back into bed or to make lunch.

Resistance to writing is common – it’s a matter of finding structures that help you get into a habit. For me, I do my best writing when I’m fresh out of bed; and in letters (when I have a clear audience in mind). It’s different for everyone – you need to figure out what works for you.

Hope this helps…good luck.

Knotmyday's avatar

What works for me-

Take a break; exercise.

Drink coffee (ADDHD self-medication).

Talk to somebody (a real person) about it.

You can accomplish all three by walking to Starbucks, and lugging your laptop along.

I feel your pain.

AstroChuck's avatar

Perhaps it’s ADHDD or Attention Deficit High-Definition Disorder. That’s where you have trouble following what’s being said but it sounds incrediblly sharp.

dabbler's avatar

I think it’s a sign you have a LOT of ideas on the subject and you’re having a problem hauling any of them onto the paper, because you can’t think of them all at the same time…. you are interrupting yourself.
You have thought about it enough. It’s time to follow @marinelife‘s advice and start writing.
Unless you have super powers you will Not write a finished piece at first, so do Not distract yourself that a sentence is imperfect or that you didn’t get that phrase right first time out.
Don’t review at all, write and write and write everything that comes to mind on the topic until you run out of concepts. After that you will be ready to re-organize, re-write, and clean it up.

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