Getting in the zone is tough, and there are some days when our brains just will not cooperate with us. They become easily distracted by shiny things, enticing noises, and the allure of social media. Sometimes a dead leaf being blown across the lawn is enough to draw attention away from the task at hand.
It’s an odd state of mind to be super-sensitive to distraction, and we are very often not in control of it. The best we can do is mitigate the temptations and get as much work done as possible, even if it’s not as much as we would normally achieve. But the truth is, those days when focus eludes us almost entirely are going to come up, and often at inconvenient times.
After many non-consecutive days of struggling to focus, I slowly began to realise that I had to work with my inattentiveness rather than fight it. Give it what it wants, but on my terms. That way, I stood a chance at getting some work done.
Thanks to a great deal of reflection, and a furious need to conquer procrastination, I have a few tips on hand that may help on those days that seem doomed to become unproductive:
Play a Useful Podcast
This is essentially giving the part of us that wants to procrastinate an out. Sure, we can not focus on what we’re supposed to be doing, but if we’re going to be distracted, the distraction must be productive.
Podcasts are great for this. The days I can’t focus, I’ll throw The Creative Penn podcast and get to work. Every time my brain decides to break focus and look for a distraction, it’ll hear the podcast and accept it as an adequate distraction. A minute or two later, I’m back in the zone.
I really believe you need to have the right podcast for this to work. A host with a gentle but engaging voice is perfect. The last thing we need is to be pulled out of our work by a host whose excitement drags us out of the zone more effectively than our desire to procrastinate. Those podcasts are for after work!
I absolutely hate gum. OK, it’s not the gum I hate, it’s the sound it makes when being chewed, especially when said chewer chews with their mouth wide open. Cue giant shudders.
But desperate times call for desperate measures, and on my least productive days, I’ll bite the bullet and reach for a stick of gum. Chewing is rhythmic and tricks my brain into feeling like it’s multi-tasking. A sense of multi-tasking, in my experience, generates the feeling of achieving more. Which in turn, creates more motivation that counteracts the drive to procrastinate. It’s a weird concept that has no real root in logic, but it seems to do the trick.
Put Ambient Music On
Playing music while working is quite commonplace these days, but to really focus, you need to listen to the right music. Anything too upbeat will encourage procrastination, in my experience. In the same breath, gentle music doesn’t have to mean classical. A whole genre of music has developed in the last decade to help us work.
My favourites are the likes of Chillstep on YouTube, and Blackmill and Electus on Spotify. The lo-fi background music have wonderfully gentle rhythms and can really allow you to immerse yourself in work. This music doesn’t just help your productivity, but it’s absolutely beautiful stuff, and you will feel a lot more at peace for having listened to it.
Thanks for reading! Did you know I also write urban fantasy books? Check them out here!