Your phone can help you focus on writing or it can distract you.
The best way I've found to use it to focus is to consciously choose these 3 things:
- Where the phone will live while I write
- Who can reach me while I write
- How long I will write in one stretch
Where To Put Your Phone When You Write
Because you'll be using the phone's timer (more on that below), you'll need it to be somewhere close enough to hear. But don't keep the phone in the same room.
That's for two reasons.
First, studies show that having a phone within reach, even if it's turned off, lowers our mental capacity for other things. Some part of our brain is always listening for the phone.
This article about the McCombs School of Business study at the University of Texas at Austin puts it well:
The researchers found that participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly outperformed those participants who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag.
My own experience bears this out.
When I leave the phone on the bookcase in the hallway outside my home office I feel much more focused and often forget about time passing. If the phone is within arm's length, though, my mind wanders often.
Second (you forgot there was a second didn't you?), putting the phone far enough away that I must get out of my chair to reach it ensures that I will move and stretch enough during my day.
Most phones have a setting called Do Not Disturb (or sometimes No Interruptions).
This setting suppresses all alerts, including social media, and any notifications of texts, emails, and phone calls. When this setting is activated your phone will not ring, make any other noise, or vibrate.
You can customize the setting to allow calls from certain numbers or repeat calls from the same number to come through.
That way if, for instance, you're the person your aging grandmother depends on for a ride to the doctor, you won't miss her call.
Time To Focus On Writing
Now that you found a home for your phone and put it on Do Not Disturb, set its timer.
Choose a length of time to write that's short enough that you won't worry you're missing out or falling behind by not checking messages or social media or doing other tasks. But the block of time should be long enough that you can get something significant done on your current writing project.
For me, 30 minutes is ideal.
After 30 minutes, I walk over to the phone to shut it off. I then reset the timer for 3 to 5 minutes and stretch during that time. Doing so helps me alleviate aches and pains from sitting too long in one position. I also look at messages to be sure none require an immediate response.
If I still have time in my day to write, I reset the timer for 30 minutes.
You can repeat this process as many times as you want to. But even if you only write for one 15-30 minute block you will make progress.
That's all for today. Until next Friday —
P.S. Not sure what to write during that 30 minutes? If you're having trouble getting your novel started or you're stuck in the middle, Super Simple Story Structure: a Quick Guide to Plotting and Writing Your Novel might be able to help. It's available for multiple e-book platforms, as an audiobook, and in a workbook edition.