A Sure-Fire Way to Break Those Bad Habits and Make the Good Ones Stick
Bad habits are all around us and it's easy to form them. Focusing is a big problem for a lot of writers. We're distracted by shiny objects, things that move, things that don't move, social media updates, phone calls from our family, a knock at the door, the anticipation of the mail's arrival. The list of bad habits goes on. It has to be as long as Santa's "naughty list".
We already know that if we want to achieve our writing goals, we need to work a little harder at breaking bad habits, avoiding distractions, and making the most of our time. That story won't write itself without your fingers to put it on paper. And that query letter and synopsis won't get submitted if you don't get it written.
So, how can we make sure that we get our writing work done?
We can do that by taking charge of the time that we have to write, and making it productive by developing some specific habits and learning how to deal with distractions.
Our first step is to control our actions and thoughts. When we sit down to write, we need to control our behaviors and where our minds go.
My biggest struggle while trying to focus on a task at hand is stopping myself from clicking away from my word processor. There's something about sitting down to write that just makes me want to do anything but write. The words don't come out right… I can't decide on an opening paragraph… I'd rather go on BN.com and browse books for my next purchase (I can't imagine what life would be like without books!)… and then I remember that those bills needed to be scheduled. The list goes on as I'm sure yours does. Anything to avoid that blank page or those crappy words…
I finally decided I needed to do something about my bad habits and lack of focus. Since I respond fairly well to my own internal "boss", I started there. I can tell myself to get back to work and I'll do it. For the past several months, I've been getting up at 4 AM nearly every day (although sometimes not on weekends).
Want to know how I do it?
When I first started getting up that early, I needed a lot of work. I was already leaving my alarm clock (aka cell phone) out in the living room (just a few steps from the bedroom) so that I had to physically get out of bed and walk about 15 stumbling steps to the phone to turn it off.
But that wasn't enough. I'd go back to bed and put my phone under my pillow. The alarm would go off every five minutes for the next 20 minutes. I wasn't phased.
I needed to take it a few steps further. I started telling myself that I would "screw up my schedule" if I went back to bed. I have a busy schedule so if I were to go back to bed, I wouldn't be able to work on the things that I work on early in the morning. And I'm just not that productive at night. So, for me, it was very important that I stick to my schedule by staying up in the morning. Telling myself that I would screw up my schedule if I went back to bed worked like a charm.
The thing is, we have the power to control our own behavior, how we react to certain situations, and how well our days go. Oftentimes, we don't give ourselves enough credit for all we're capable of. God wants us to live happy lives, but it's up to us to make that happen. He can't make you happy if you won't let him. It's like therapy. If you don't think you need help, you won't take the necessary steps or open your mind to allow any room for improvement.
So, we need to control our actions by telling ourselves what we need to hear to keep ourselves focused.
To address my biggest struggle (clicking away from my word processor or the task at hand), I needed to play boss. I'm a bona fide taskmaster when I want to be but I also get easily distracted. The trick was finally coming to the realization that I'll never achieve my goals if I keep allowing things to distract me and if I keep procrastinating.
Remember this golden rule: we'll never achieve if we don't do.
Studies have shown that focusing on one task at a time is more productive than multitasking. That's because every time we leave a project and move to another one, we have to wrap our brains around the new project. Whenever we go back to the first one, we have to regroup. "Okay, where was I?"
By focusing on one task at a time (and focusing on completing it), we stay on task and we have a better chance of completing it efficiently. Switching from task to task can make both tasks take longer because, along the way, we can get distracted.
We need to be in charge and we need to control how often we check email and social media updates (and anything else that distracts us). That bill that needs to be paid should be paid outside of your writing work hours. The dog should be fed outside of those hours. Everything other than writing should be taken care of at some other time.
Don't let those things encroach on your writing time. Each time you reach for the mouse to click away from that page, say to yourself, "No, we're focusing on __________ (fill in the blank)" or "Stop. We can check that when we're done."
Continue to do this (and consistently) and eventually it will turn into a habit so that the next time you're tempted to stray from the task at hand, you'll instinctively stop yourself and you'll be able to turn your full attention back to what you were working on.
Consistency is key to establishing any habit. Continue to work on taking charge of your actions, and thoughts, and you'll be well on your way to achieving your writing goals.
For additional help with bad habits and distractions, read 13 Tips for Preventing Distractions.
What's your biggest distraction or your worst habit? Share in the comment section below or on my Facebook wall – https://fb.com/jodycalkinsbiz