How Going Low-Tech Can Help You Write More Efficiently
With many folks still stuck at home due to social distancing, some of you have probably thought now is a good time to increase your freelance writing. However, working from home means dealing with all sorts of distractions. If you find yourself struggling to focus while on your laptop, there are a few low-tech solutions.
Your location and what activities you associate with that place matters. For instance, if you read in bed or exercise in your bedroom, you may find it harder to sleep because your brain is associating the bedroom with something other than rest.
Having a set place where you write will help get you in the right frame of mind. If you are in a dorm or an apartment, that may be a particular chair or maybe (if things are open and safe near you) then a certain coffee shop. For myself, I usually sit at a certain part of my desk or a particular armchair when I am writing. Otherwise, I get up early and spend an hour at Panera to get some work done. Either way, my brain knows that it is time to write and I am less distracted than if I sit on the couch where I could be tempted to reach for the TV remote.
Another example of a physical reminder could be having an object with you when you write. For example, I have a little battery-powered lightbulb with a small stand. I sometimes turn that on when I’m writing and leave it next to me as a lamp. However, the idea is not so much to have a light source, so much as to be reminded that I’m supposed to be writing. When I’m not writing, the lightbulb is off and put away on my desk.
Pen and Paper
Sometimes you had a great idea for your op-eds, but the timing is terrible. Maybe you’re trying to sleep but your mind keeps turning over what arguments you want to use. Or perhaps you’re slammed at work but are thinking about that news story on Twitter that would make a perfect lede for your next piece.
In these situations, you want to keep up your writing habit and not forget these flashes of insight. The best way to do this is to immediate jot down your ideas on a piece of paper. You might tell yourself you’ll remember later, but why take the chance? Putting these good op-ed ideas on paper lets you do a memory dump and clear your mind so you can sleep or go back to work or whatever else is more pressing.
Ditch the Computer
If you search forums online for tips on how to write while you’re distracted, you’ll find advice on various activity tracking apps or social media-blockers for your web browsers. All of these are helpful options, but they might not be enough. Some people have resorted to old-school typewriters or modern—and very expensive — hipster contraptions. However, there is a midway solution: the Neo2.
This nifty device is a relic of the 1990s and was made to help people concentrate when writing. The Neo2 comes with a keyboard and a small screen—and that’s it. It has all the benefits of not being connected to the internet while none of the drawbacks of being pricey or non-digital. You can save up to eight files on the Neo2 and then when you’re done writing, you simply plug it into your computer and transfer the text into Word or whatever processor you are using. In fact, I wrote most of this article with my own Neo2.
Low-Tech, High Productivity
All of these solutions are designed to be easy and actionable. Too often many of us try to become more efficient or get into a habit by using the most complicated means possible. Comparing fancy electronic note systems may be a good idea and so would be looking for a deal on a faster computer, but it is important to be careful not to mistake research for action. You’ll make more progress by implementing quick, easy, cheap steps towards writing than if you spend hours looking up the “best” solution.