Friday, July 6, 2012

Focused or Blurry? Five Tips for Clarity

By Peg Brantley, author of RED TIDE

I'm a person who loves excitement and spur of the moment interruptions. I appreciate involvement and interaction with others. I treasure conversations with friends and I can feel twenty years younger just by hanging out with my granddaughters. The freedom of disorganization and flexibility. The freedom to Just Be.

I'm also a person who craves routine and solitude and the gift to follow my plan for the day. I like knowing this is going to happen now and that will happen then. The organization of my time and the confidence in what I can accomplish during a given period of said time. That wonderful opportunity to focus on the task.

Say what???

I don't know about you, but events can pull me out of my coveted routine. Sometimes those events are amazing and wonderful and memory-makers. They're part of life. Sometimes those events are filled with anxiety and distraction. These are also part of life. And sometimes I don't know what the hell happened. I'm just off.

But how do I regain focus? How do I get back to work? Because other than my husband and family, work is what grounds me. I happen to be a writer, but it wouldn't matter what I did, as long as it was important to me.

Here are some things I've found that work:

  • Within my morning pages routine (three pages of handwritten stream of consciousness writing) I include my goals for the day.
  • A To Do List in no particular order but which includes things like scene completions and word count (often taken from my morning pages). Personally, I love striking lines through the items on my list. That simple act imparts power.
  • Trust the process. Sometimes it's important to be pulled away and unfocused. We all require breaks from time to time. Let it happen. Maybe I need to give in and curl up with a book. Or watch a movie on Lifetime.
  • Mentally prepare to get down to business by doing something completely unrelated—like watering the plants or playing a game of Free Cell—with the understanding that once I'm finished, I'm into the project.
  • Take the plunge. Start in willy-nilly and let go. Again, trust the process.

What about you? Are you always one hundred percent focused: 20/20? Or do you sometimes experience blurred vision or floaters that distract you? If so, have you discovered a technique that helps get you back on track that you're willing to share?


  1. I understand that dichotomy. I also crave structure and routine and thrive on to-do lists. But my family life is often chaotic and that is invigorating in its own strange way.

    My biggest distraction though is the constant availability of online information and interaction. Sometimes I just have to look at the clock and set limits on how often I can "see what's happening." Now I'm back to work. :)

  2. Thought-provoking post, Peg. I find I need to make time for my own writing first thing in the morning or it doesn't get done, as the demands and distractions of the day pile up. Also, I need deadlines to produce. I have to learn better how to set my own deadlines and stick to them.

    Thanks for a great post, Peg!

  3. Both of you mention the "clock/schedule" concept and that's one thing that has truly helped me in the past.

    On my old PC I had a calendar that was acutally part of the dashboard and I scheduled my entire day, from online time to researh to writing to exercise to what I call slush time. I even scheduled educational time for reading books on craft. It worked pretty well, especially as a reminder of what I was *supposed* to be doing at that moment. Unfortunately, I've not been able to find the type of calendar I want for my Mac.

  4. I'm always juggling my time, and bounce between writing, marketing, and researching on an ongoing basis. I never write/market etc around a specific daily schedule because it's too difficult to plan my time that precisely. Like LJ, online interaction is my biggest distraction. I try to fight it, but I....hang on, I'll be back in a minute, I just have to send out a tweet......

  5. Hi Peg -- although I admit I failed to look at my To Do List today (goofing off), I also prefer to have a tidy list of obligations that I can cross off as completed.

  6. LOL, Jenny. I know what you mean. Which is why the scheduling thing kind of works for me. I say I can play online at this particular time. Which of course, I no longer have since I don't have a scheduling thing I like.

    Patricia, I carried over the undone items from yesterday and added a few for today. The total number on my list for today is 17. I've crossed off 7. One of the remaining items is the post for your blog.

    Now I need to go get ready for dinner guests. Oops. They didn't make it to the list!

  7. I'm definitely a stream of conscious kind of person. My attention span is minimal, and my usual pattern is to be all over the place at once. I've learned to accept that as part of My Process. In doing that, I've found things move much more smoothly. As they say, what you resist, persists. So I try my best to go with the flow.

  8. You're right, Drew. I think writing can really teach a person about themselves… their process… their flow. And it translates to almost every other area of our lives.


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