When writing a book by typing it all up by hand, it’s very tempting to correct every spelling mistake as you go along. But this is trying to do do things at once. And multitasking always takes significantly longer than completing one task and then starting on the next.
This is particularly true of simple spelling errors and typos. It’s many times faster to correct them in one batch at the end of your typing.
But it’s more than that. Creating content and editing it are two fundamentally distinct operations. The first is creative and open-ended, divergent thinking wheras the second is convergent, focused on a short-term goal of no errors.
This distinction is important.
When you continually interrupt your creative process with a distractor task, you’re hamstringing your creativity. So don’t do it!
A Quick Story …
Allow me to tell you a story.
I remember when I was first studying cognitive psychology and being fascinated by it. It was all about discovering the limits of human information processing. It was the study of what limited our ability to perceive, process, remember and recall information, and how we could best work within these limits.
One aspect interested me as it seemed non-intuitive. It was that people can only really concentrate on — or truly pay attention to — one thing at a time. I was sure that this was wrong — and indeed had spent a lot of time doing two things at once.
Or so I thought. What actually happens is that your concentration switches from one task to another rapidly.
The experiments that proved this were compelling. A subject wore headphones. One person’s voice narrated a story in one ear, with another distinct story in the other ear. Then the subject was asked to recall the stories. Only one could be recalled.
The story varied in which ear was monitored, but it was only one that people could recall immediately after. Sometimes attention switched ‘ear’ part way though, but when this happened, the first ear was subsequently ignored.
So paying attention to more than one thing at a time is an illusion.
Before you say “Well I can drive and talk at the same time”, yes, there are distinct tasks that can, to an extent, co-exist, but you’ll quickly find you’ll stop talking when 100% of your cognitive resources are needed to avoid a potential accident, for example.
Try These Quick Tasks!
Prove it to yourself right now. Here are two tasks: write down the alphabet A-Z at the same time as writing the numbers 1–26 below it. So write A then 1 below, B then 2 below etc. Time how long that took.
Now write the letters A-Z in a line. Follow that up with 1–26 below it. I’ll bet the latter tasks were completed in a much faster time.
“One look at an email can rob you of 15 minutes of focus. One call on your cell phone, one tweet, one instant message can destroy your schedule, forcing you to move meetings, or blow off really important things, like love, and friendship.”
Becoming More Productive
So how can you use this tip to become more productive?
Firstly, as I’ve mentioned, when you’re next writing, allow any typos to sit uncorrected. Then run a spell-check when you’ve finished a section.
Then start applying this principle to all distractions and interruptions. Focus on just one thing. Smart phones can be a particular problem. So turn them off while you’re writing! The world will not end. Social media can also be intrusive. Close all social media on your PC and phone while you work.
If you find this hard, try the Pomodoro technique.
The Pomodoro Technique
Work flat out for 25 minutes without distractions or interruptions, then have a five minute break. Set a kitchen timer to time this, or set a timer on your PC.
After 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, get up, walk around and do something different. Then restart where you left off. After four ‘Pomodoros’, take a 30 minute break.
Notice how your focus with no distractions allows you to get so much more done.
Your Next Steps
I offer book coaching for aspiring authors, to help you get your book completed. If you’ve found this tip useful and you’d like to find out more, leave me a message here: