Writers and Concentration – Distraction Doesn’t Have to Win…Does It?

Nathan Bransford, author of the Jacob Wonderbar series of books, is one of TVWriter™’s go-to guys for writing and productivity tips and tricks. One particularly relevant example of Mr. Bransford’s helpfulness is the article below. Especially to this TVWriter™ minion in particular because, as my partner often says, “Distractions?” You don’t just  succumb to them, you create them just so you can do the succumbing.”

Sorry for the TMI. This should make up for it:

How to regain your concentration
by Nathan Bransford

Around the end of last year, I noticed something really alarming: I was having a seriously hard time concentrating.

  • I couldn’t write a blog post without flipping through random tabs.
  • I couldn’t read a book without checking my email.
  • I could barely make it through a long form news article.
  • Forget about trying to sit down to be productive writing a novel!

Since then, as you may have noticed with the uptick in blog post frequency, I’ve made a nearly-full concentration recovery.

You too can once again have an attention span greater than a hamster’s! Here’s what I learned about how to regain concentration.

Turn off your notifications

All of them, except for the barest essentials.

I now keep my phone almost entirely in Do Not Disturb mode, and have programmed just a few exceptions, namely phone calls from family members in case of emergencies. And I turned off notifications on my computer entirely.


  • When I walk down the street, I can let my attention wander without getting pinged. I have ideas again!
  • When I’m at my computer, I’m not getting distracted with incoming emails.
  • I’m not getting a random notification about the latest Netflix show I’m not going to watch.

Decide when YOU want to look at your phone. Don’t let your phone decide that for you.

(And for a look at some of the science behind the effect this type of technology is having on us, check out Jennifer Hubbard’s recent article in Creative Nonfiction).

Close all those browser tabs

I used to have about twenty tabs open to sites I would check frequently. Email. Facebook. Twitter. The weather. The news. You name it.

The problem with having a million tabs open is that I got into this mind-numbing habit of scrolling through them and checking for updates… even sites that basically never update.

And meanwhile, every time I got a Twitter notification or a new email, I’d jump and check it, interrupting whatever else it was I was doing.

Close those tabs, or at least limit to the precious few that you need to check a million times a day. Otherwise, open stuff only when you need to.

Write in full-screen mode

Even when I was writing, I was still constantly distracted. I’d see a new email open up behind my writing window and go and check it. And good luck if you happened to have Twitter open underneath your word processing application….

Read it all at Nathan Bransford’s Blog

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