This post was partially inspired by an article that ran in The Guardian a few months back. I have noticed that it’s become harder for me to focus, and to stay focused, over the past couple of years. There was some “noise” in my data, though. My eyesight was a factor; once I got new glasses and could see better, it was easier to concentrate on what I was doing. Anxiety is always a distraction; as it’s mostly under control, knock wood, I’m better able to relax and get into a flow state. Still, it wasn’t until I started tracking how I was spending my time, and charting my productivity hour by hour, that how much the digital world was demanding my attention. Now blogging and concentration go hand in hand, but I needed to make a few changes so that could happen.
Blogging and Concentration
I’m going to stop right here and back up a bit, because you’re probably asking what any of this has to do with blogging. The answer has some layers to it, but it’s relevant. In the old days, I wrote most of my blog posts offline. Before there were things like Blogger and WordPress, I wrote posts in HTML using Notepad. Get off my lawn! Later on, there was website software that would allow me to write and format something offline, then upload it, because few of us were wired 24/7. Even up until about a year ago, I would write, edit, and organize posts in Scrivener, then cut-and-paste them into WordPress.
These days I write blog posts directly in WordPress. It autosaves, so if I do get knocked offline I haven’t lost anything. The WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin is incredibly handy, allowing me so see scheduled posts, drafts, and gaps I need to fill. The ability to save drafts, and filter than according to date, category, and tags makes doing things offline, well, pretty much a stupid idea. But this means that I’m always online when I’m working with the blog. That opens me up to distraction.
Tuning Out Distractions
My big “aha” moment last year was when I realized I could set up two separate Chrome logins on my laptop. One is under my personal email, the other my work email. This allows me to have two completely separate sets of bookmarks. Nothing personal, which includes streaming services video and music services, is on my work account. It’s as lean and clean as if I worked in a corporate office with an overzealous IT department.
Not only are there no clocks within my sight line at my work space, I’ve turned off the clock on my laptop. Yes, that’s a thing that you can do. No, it will not break your computer, and you can turn it back on. I have alarms set on my phone to let me know when it’s time to take a break. The phone is on the other side of the room, though, so I can’t look at it.
Workflow is Everything
I operate in blocks of time, and each block is devoted to just one project. It might be two hours set aside specifically for my current work in progress. There could be an hour just for accounting. This blog gets an hour of my time per day. Sometimes that’s spent outline future posts. Most of the time it’s spent writing or editing. There are days when I only get part of a post done, and there are days when I knock out 2 or 3 in a sitting.
When I need a break, I get up and leave my workspace. I will go into the living room, sit in the comfy chair, and read. In the afternoon I’m fond of going into the bedroom and taking a short nap for 10 or 15 minutes. Nothing involves doing other work, like checking email. Breaks never involve screens, unless the book I’m reading is on my phone.
More Time for Blogging
This ability to focus has created more time in my day. That’s why I’m able to do all of the other things that I need to do, and still have time to be a blogger again! Because I can get into a flow state while I’m working, blogging is almost a meditative experience. Now I have consistency again, and can begin working on quality and engagement.