Productivity July 3, 2020

How to focus when writing content?

Alex Cannon @boomahora

When working, I'm usually listening to music, have a podcast going or the tv is on in the background.

However, when writing content, anything that has words in it completely distracts me. If I'm lucky and everything is quiet, I'll just work in silence, but that is rarely the case.

I've found this to be quite useful

How do you concentrate when your surroundings are distracting?

  1. 8

    I find that I'm more susceptible to distractions when my current task at hand isn't specific enough. When it is specific, almost nothing can get in my way.

    I've gotten into the habit of writing down my top 1-3 goals for the day - all of which are very specific and fairly small. Have you tried being more specific with what you're setting out to write?

    1. 2

      I agree, not having a clear goal of what you want to achieve is one of the great distraction feeder.

    2. 1

      Great idea, I'll try for the next article to break it down into goals rather than trying to finish it all in one go. Also, I really liked that post you linked below on making things specific, thanks for suggestions!

    3. 1

      Hmmm... I hadn't thought of it like that. Turning a feature into specific action sometimes makes me feel like it's too big, and then I get distracted. I think I might suffer from this.

      1. 2

        that's cool - i have the same issue - that's why I've been focusing on this :)

        I'd try to start with a braindump of everything that might be relevant to the feature, and then go deeper on anything that's not specific enough to take easy action on.

        I really liked this post [1] on making tasks specific. I also wrote more about braindumps in this post [2].



  2. 2

    Similar to others, I find that I have trouble focusing on writing when I haven’t done any “pre-work”, or at least pre-thought. A blank page triggers writer’s block.

    Now I start by jotting down notes when I have them, walking down the street or getting out of the shower. Later, I organize those thoughts into an outline. By the time I sit down to write, I have a plan of action, and I can focus much more consistently.

    1. 1

      I've found this really helpful also, however, I now have about 10 partially started articles with notes.

  3. 2

    I use all sorts of youtube mixes like what you posted. Depending on my mood, I'll either go for synthwave, classical, or jazz. It seems to help to cater the genre to whatever mood I'm in.

    For writing, have you tried an app that has a focus mode? has one, and so does

    I have found using those tends to help a bit. I happen to be working on app for writing as well with a configurable focus mode. You can checkout a demo at Click the third icon on the left menu bar (hand with a pen) for the focus mode. It currently has quite a few bugs, though, I wouldn't recommend relying on it as a text editor just yet.

    1. 2

      Thanks for the suggestions, I'm not sure if the focus mode really helps my problem, as it seems to be more audible issues for me. However, I really like the idea you have with Polished and keeping the context of references. That is definitely a problem I have when I need to search the multiple tabs and windows I have open.

      1. 1

        Gotcha! My favorite youtube mix to work to is this:

        Thanks for the feedback :) I had the context problem myself which was the reason I started building Polished.

  4. 2

    I listen to this playlist :)

    But yeah, for me it's definitely about listening to music without words and closing ALL other tabs.

    1. 1

      6 hours and 30 minutes of wordless songs, thank you! That's me sorted for Monday.

      1. 1

        You're welcome! If you listen to this all week then Spotify's Personalized Mix for you will also be wordless songs so you get even more 🤣

        1. 1

          I might actually need to make a second account just for work! I definitely don't want to purge "songs with words" from my personalized mix haha.

          1. 1

            Haha glad I warned you then ;)

  5. 2

    I've discovered that a few things work. I was an English major in college so I wrote a lot.

    1. Shut things out. Try writing it by hand in a notebook with your devices off and/or stowed away. You can also try something like Ommwriter as well (highly recommend!).

    2. Outline. I realized that I have trouble concentrating when I don't know what I need to write next. So rather than think about it, I get distracted.

    3. Practice. Concentration is hard and you need to develop a kind of discipline for it.

    1. 1

      You're completely right about writing by hand, I'm not sure why, but I always seem to concentrate better when writing article structures out.

  6. 1

    Maybe these are obvious tips but these have helped me when writing:

    • Invest in noise-cancelling headphones/earphones. Airpods Pro or Bose QC32 II are both great.
    • Get rid of the obvious distractions. Phone, TV etc. Try out Browser distraction blockers like Freedom.
    • You mentioned you listen to music. I do this too, but I find it harder to concentrate when listening to something familiar. Try songs without lyrics or music you are not familiar with.
    • "How do you concentrate when your surroundings are distracting?". This question sounds like you need to change the environment you are in. Whether that be changing things within it or finding a new one, I would try to explore my options here.

    Hope this helps!


    1. 1

      I'll take a look into some noise-cancelling headphones, thanks for the recommendations. Infinitely better than putting my current headphones on full blast.