Like many people, I have a love-hate relationship with writing. I write every day because it’s part of my work as a teacher and a blogger, but frequency doesn’t make it any less difficult.

Writing is the process of shaping ideas into a coherent narrative. This takes time, patience and focus.

Focus is key.

Focus means fending off sources of distraction and procrastination. Whether it's smartphone pings and dings, email pop-ups, or traffic noise in the street below, distractions are all around.

Below are three things I've found that help me to focus on writing. Be advised, all of this is purely subjective and might not work for you. Feel free to leave a comment about your tips on productivity if you have a minute.

CHAIR

Let's start with chairs. Why? Because chairs affect posture. Good posture means less fatigue, and that can help increase focus.

The Aeron Chair by Hermann Miller is one of the most expensive objects I've ever bought. It is an ergonomic office chair with lumbar support that costs around $1000.

I got mind second hand last year from Yahoo Auction (the Japanese equivalent of Ebay) at less than half the retail price. It has some marks and scratches here and there, but it works fine.

Before the Aeron, I went through many different chairs. What they all had in common was that they reminded me that I was sitting in a chair. In other words, they were a distraction.

With the Aeron, I don't notice the chair at all. It supports my back and keeps me upright and alert. I like the mesh panels for their breathability in summer and I like the fact that the chair doesn't squeak.

HEADPHONES

Another item I decided to pull the trigger on was a pair of noise cancelling headphones. I went with the Bose QuietComfort 25. I was skeptical at first and was prepared to return them if they didn't work as advertised. But I was pleasantly surprised.

I put them on, flicked the switch to engage noise cancelling, and I got quietness. Not silence, but quietness. Of course loud noise still filters through, but most of the background noise in my room was gone: the refrigerator hum in the kitchen, the computer fan under my desk, the traffic below my window and so on.

After a couple of years of using these headphones, I still find that when I put them on, I get straight into work mode. For me, there's something about isolating myself from my immediate surroundings that helps me to focus.

BINAURAL BEATS

The last thing I'm going to mention here is a little bit out there…you might call it “new age” even. So take this with a pinch of salt.

About three weeks ago, I started listening to binaural beat relaxation music on YouTube. A video popped up on my account through the YT algorithm.

I immediately took to the experience. I found the music relaxing and this too helped me to concentrate on writing.

What are binaural beats I hear you ask. According to Wikipedia, binaural beats are:

An auditory illusion perceived when two different pure-tone sine waves, both with frequencies lower than 1500 Hz, with less than a 40 Hz difference between them, are presented to a listener dichotically (one through each ear).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beat_(acoustics)#Binaural_beats

I started reading a bit more about the perceived health benefits of binaural beats. The US magazine Psychology Today for example, claims that,

Binaural beats are a fascinating and exciting technology that harnesses the brain’s responsiveness to sound in order to move you into a state of deep relaxation, relieve anxiety, and help you sleep better.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201810/how-can-binaural-beats-help-you-sleep-better

A more sober academic study published in the American Psychological Association found the following:

Findings suggest that listening to binaural beats may exert an acute influence on both LF [low frequency] and HF [high frequency] components of HRV and may increase subjective feelings of relaxation.

https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2015-12319-001

Ultimately, I have no idea whether binaural beats actually alter mood and perception. What I can say is that the combination of my chair, my headphones and these new beats, help me to focus on writing.

In case you want to listen to some of this stuff yourself, I'll leave you with an example track from YouTube.

Let me know what works for you and thanks for stopping by.

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