Do you ever have days when you just can’t focus? You might have a deadline or just want to meet your daily word count, but no matter what you try to do, your mind keeps straying. Perhaps you can’t stop checking your emails, or maybe you keep reading the news, or drifting into your favourite online shop. Whatever it is, it’s not helping you be productive or creative.
This happened to me in March 2020. I had just got a writing commission to write a lot of short animations within a tight timeframe, which meant lots of daily deadlines over a period of several weeks. It was intense. Then suddenly lockdown happened. Like many people, I suddenly found myself looking after my toddler full-time without childcare. Luckily my husband was a huge support, but I still only had small windows of writing time, whenever he wasn’t working. So when my little writing slot opened up, I wanted to sit down and hit the ground running.
But could I do it? No way. Day after day, my mind would jump and spin and dance, anywhere and everywhere except on what I was supposed to be writing. It would especially turn to the news and all the uncertainty in the world around us. It was infuriating and also really stressful, as I had to get this work done. Surviving on no sleep was not an option as I need oodles of energy for my toddler!
Luckily, I remembered the Pomodoro technique and quite honestly, it saved the day and got me back on track.
Have you ever tried it? If not, here’s how it works…
It’s super simple. The name comes from those tomato shaped kitchen timers. The idea is you set a timer for around 20 or 25 minutes. If you don’t have a timer, you can also use this online version.
You give yourself a writing goal for that period of time, then get to work. When the timer goes off, you take a quick breather. Grab a drink, go to the loo, assess how you got on, and start again with a new goal and a new alarm. And basically you keep this up for as long as you need to – hours or days – for as long as it takes you to meet your goal and get your mind back on track.
Just like mindfulness…
I find this strategy is surprisingly good at helping me to keep focused. But the thing is, even when my mind drifts off, as it frequently does, the little ping of the alarm quickly reminds me to return my attention back to my writing. It’s a bit like mindfulness meditation. Some meditation techniques involve a gong going off at intervals for precisely the same reason – to bring your wandering mind back to your breath.
So next time you find yourself struggling to focus, don’t despair and don’t give up, instead try the Pomodoro Technique and see if it works for you. Let me know how you get on, as I love hearing from my readers!
By the way, if there’s anything in your writing that you’re struggling with, get in touch as I might be able to address your issue in a future post.
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