We need to create space to do our work. Our thinking, our writing, our research. Creating a ‘container of space’ to work in, is one way I like to think about this. The container has clear boundaries to keep all distractions out. They define the space, and create a void, which provides room to concentrate on the single task we need to concentrate on. The void is where our work can emerge and develop. The container itself reminds us to focus, and gives us the structure to do exactly that.
If this sounds too vague – in everyday language I mean: use a work schedule and stick to it.
- Use time as a tool.
Use time to create space, and use it to create incentives and urgency. It’s so easy to let time slip and let the day slip by, especially when you are doing research without a short-term deadline. So easy to be distracted, so easy to be pulled in ten different directions, so easy to lose track of what you wanted to do in the first place, so easy to let your mind wander off. Time can help you. Dedicate a specific portion of your day to a specific task. As in, right now. Decide on what you want to do next, decide on how much time you want to dedicate to that activity or task, set a timer, get excited, and do it. By doing so you combine intention and structure – an unbeatable pair. The timer will tell you when to stop, when it is OK to be distracted once again. Until then: give your task your undivided attention.
- Be vigilant about your boundaries.
Switch everything else off. If you have created a 45-minute container to work in, work! If you can: switch off the Internet, switch off your phone, close the door and say no to your colleague. This is your space, your time. Your time is not a democracy. You decide. You decide what is important and what is not, right now, at this moment. You can respond later. It is your privilege. Let them wait. (Note to self: Facebook can wait too).
- Go for it.
There is only one way to get past procrastination and fear of the blank page: jump! Do it. Go for it. Do not hesitate. Do not wait. Do not be distracted. Ignore those petty fears. Move through the unease. Get going. Immerse yourself in what you’re doing. Immerse yourself fully.
- Write at the same time every day.
Creating regular routines will help you move into a place of focus more easily. Fix a daily date with yourself at your desk. Writing Dates are the best! Look forward to meeting your work afresh. Look forward to engaging with your ideas. Look forward to that next inch, that next paragraph to be covered. Lastly: love your work. Love your task. Love your ideas. It’s a date after all.