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Focusing When You Have to but Can't

Other Than Just Praying

Photo by Sarah Pflug from Burst 

Sitting down to create something—whether that is a story, an illustration, or an assignment for work, even holding onto that pencil, or hands raised above the keyboard—you still can't create. And maybe you have to create due to a deadline.
Maybe there is chatter in the other room, your social media has a notification, or you could feel intimidated from the dreaded white page.

There are a few basic things to keep in mind while trying to get into the zone. Hopefully, a few will help you as you desperately attempt to not be distracted.

1. Music and Sound

Be wary of music with lyrics. There is a plenitude of playlists without lyrics out there. Sometimes, I'll even throw on some music I know will stop eventually. I've heard of many people who absolutely can't listen to music while creating, and that is fair, but, for others, it might just be what they need. I find it especially helpful if I find one or two songs that are in the mood of what I will be creating to listen to before starting.

My biggest helper is weather sounds. I use (which I somehow only just realized has tracks on Spotify and has more sounds if you just scroll down). It creates a form of white noise to block out some speaking and other distractions around you without being music.

2. Change your environment.

My first trick is that I use is a diffuser. I find having a scent to focus on helps me find a more zen state.

Depending on your setup, this could be dangerous for your computer, but I like filling a basin with cooler water in the summer and warmer in the winter that I can have my feet in while I work. At first, I felt silly doing it, but the summer heat was really getting to me. Between that and a cool cloth on my neck, it both helped my posture and calmed my senses.

Temperature is worth paying attention to. Even if you aren't actively noticing it, if you are getting too cold or too hot, your body will subtly (or not so subtly) react. So, whether that is using air-conditioning, heating, a cool cloth or an extra sweater, it's something to pay attention to.

Natural light is a saviour. Maybe not while it's blinding you... but making sure to get some natural light during the day, and ideally a bit in your work space, helps. I say from experience. I started lasting twice as long just from opening a blind and taking time outside before starting.

3. Nutrition

This might sound silly, or like a dumb thing to mention, but the amount of times I've tried to sit down to work and ended in this odd, dazed state is numerous. Whether you need some water, haven't eaten recently, or are low in electrolytes, it is hard to focus. For electrolytes, I find if I feel dopey after I've already eaten and had water, it's usually the culprit. Right now, I'm sipping on a homemade lemonade for just that. Due to varying metabolisms, this might be more of an issue for some than others.

4. Technology

Days like this, I miss my smartwatch. Honestly, if you can get one, they are great for keeping you informed of your phone without having to "accidentally" end up in other apps. I've started putting my phone fully aside and have gotten people to contact me through messenger and email, so I can have those two tabs open and can glance at what people are telling me without worrying someone is trying to contact me on my phone.

Bookmark those tabs and close them. I am so prone to having around 15 tabs open, and it's a bad habit. I constantly think, Oh I want to look at that later. You are better off bookmarking it for the day and then going through your bookmark folder regularly, deleting what you've looked at. Sometimes, I'll even just send a bunch of links to myself over Messenger.

5. Timers

For some, it might be too distracting, but I have an app on my phone that puts a stopwatch for 30 minutes. And you can't pause it; the session has to be forfeited if you stop. I then make myself work for that half hour. After, I decide after if I want to try another 30 minutes. In the end, I tend to start thinking, Hey, I can do 30 more minutes, I can manage that, and I proceed to end up doing a few more hours in total. With having roommates, I find it especially helpful. It means when they get home I am less prone to feeling like I need to go say hello right away because I have about 20 minutes left or so.

6. Stretches and Quick Exercises

I am prone to a very sore back. And that can be crippling when you are sitting at your computer or page and need to focus. Just generally, too much sitting makes for soreness. I find standing up and doing even like 30 jumping-jacks and a stretch per leg and lifting up my arms is all I need to feel less tense or sore. 


Do you have any tricks you use to focus? There are so many out there. I hope my bundle has got you thinking about it, so maybe you can find your focuszen.

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