How to Get Focused and Write Your Book (especially when you work from home)

We all know how impossible it can be to really focus on the things we need to do, including writing. You wake up in the morning, energized and completely confident that you’ll finish the most important things on your to-do list by the end of the day, only to realize seven or eight hours later that you’ve accomplished none of those things. You’ve probably answered a bunch of emails, halfway paid attention to a class you signed up for or, bought a couple of things on Amazon, opened a retailer email and browsed their 40% off sale, remembered you had to return things you bought at the last 40% off sale, decided now is the time to package up the return and wait in line at the post office, etc. If you work from home, you’ve probably also done a couple of loads of laundry and shuttled the kids to and from school, with nothing much to show for your day. And the following day, the whole cycle begins again.

I recently listened to the audiobook The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth About Extraordinary Results, by Jay Papasan and Gary Keller. (I recommend listening to books like these, because you can let it all sink in while driving or walking). If you find yourself spinning your wheels on a regular basis, you need this book. It’s simple and effective.

The premise of the book is that if you focus — seriously focus — 20% of your time on doing the things that are most important to you, you’ll achieve a great deal more than you’re achieving right now. That 20% encompasses the most important things you do in ALL aspects of your life; the book concedes that you’ll have to spend 80% of your time doing things like driving to work, cooking, sleeping, picking up the laundry, etc. But seriously focusing 20% of your time on your top priorities makes a huge difference.

Even if you roll your eyes at self-help books, this one is worth a listen. If you’re not a full-time writer, then devoting 20% of your time to writing doesn’t make much sense. But the idea behind the book is to carve out time on your calendar each week for the things that matter to you most in each category of your life, and to plan specific steps to working toward those priorities. So you might end up devoting a specific block of time to a priority you have with your family, another block of time to a priority you have in your job, and so forth.

If you already have a full-time job that takes up most of your work week, you could make “Write my novel” the first priority under “Personal.” And then you would use your personal time accordingly, devoting a serious block of time each week to writing your novel. You break your priorities down into months, too. One key part of it is writing everything down and tracking your progress.

So your writing goal for this month might look like this:

Write the first 50 pages of my novel.

Underneath that goal, you would write steps to achieving that goal:

That’s it: a clear goal, a clear, straightforward list of actionable steps that you can actually follow through on. Try this, and in 30 days you’ll be much closer to finishing that novel you’ve always wanted to write.

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Focus image courtesy of Stefan Cosma via unsplash

Originally published at The Book Doctor.



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Michelle Richmond

NYT bestselling author of THE WONDER TEST & THE MARRIAGE PACT — I help writers complete their novels at Books at