Three concentration hacks to help you write! (Lise Leitner)

Photo by Dmitry Sovyak |
It’s November, and AcWriMo and NaNoWriMo have officially begun!

If you’re like me and love getting a lot of writing done, but also love all things shiny and distracting, getting long sprints of writing done can feel very difficult some days.

While everyone’s writing routine is different, there are lots of ways to improve your working environment and focus.

The good news is that lots of them are easily accessible and free!

To help you prep like a pro ahead of AcWriMo and/or NanoWriMo, here are three concentration hacks that have greatly helped me focus (and write!) better in the past:

1. is a wonderful website that features a collection of over 150 free sound generators to help you concentrate, relax, or sleep. The soundscapes are created by Belgian engineer Stephane Pigeon, who travels all over the world to record different sounds in nature. All soundscapes are free and easily accessible online, so whether you need to block out chatty colleagues at the office or have some background noise at home to concentrate, just pop on your headphones and pick the best soundscape for you. Many soundscapes even allow you to alter the volume of different aspects of a sound generator (so you can turn down those noisy birds!), allowing you to find the settings that suit you best.

If you’re not sure where to start after seeing the website’s massive landing page, my three all-time favourites are the rainy riverbank, the Japanese garden and the primeval forest.


2. FocalFilter

If you’re working on your laptop and your emails and social media accounts are just a click away, it can be tricky to resist at the best of times. While productivity tools like FocalFilter (or SelfControl if you are a mac user) won’t help with things like procrasticleaning or procrastibaking, they will allow you to block a list of distracting websites for a set amount of time.

Both apps are free and work across all browsers (so you can’t cheat the system!). I found this app particularly useful when I was writing using the Pomodoro technique, as I could easily block Facebook, Gmail and Twitter during my twenty minute sprints, before rewarding myself with a social media break!

FocalFilter (Windows):

SelfControl (Mac):

3. Communal writing sessions like #MelbWriteUp

Run by La Trobe graduate researcher Jason Murphy, #MelbWriteUp is a weekly intensive, all-day writing workshop that takes place every Saturday and is open to any researcher or writer. Dates are announced monthly, and you can book in via Eventbrite.

Just like in a Shut Up and Write session, a #MelbWriteUp day consists of several Pomodoro sprints, with short breaks in between, and a lunch break. I found participating in these session particularly helpful, not just because it lured my writer hermit self out of the house, but because it’s much harder to get distracted in a different environment where you are surrounded by like-minded people. Plus, you meet lots of writers and researchers who are in the same boat as you!

If you’re not based in Melbourne, there are also lots of different Shut Up and Write Sessions being run across different La Trobe Campuses during the week, or even online! You can find more details on our La Trobe Researchers web page.

#MelbWriteUp booking URL: (dates are released monthly)


While these initiatives won’t actually help you write any better or faster, I hope they may help you focus more and help you de-clutter your writing brain for a productive academic writing month, no matter whether you’re working on your PhD, a paper, a story, or a different project entirely.

Happy writing!


Lise Leitner is a tech enthusiast and the Senior Research Communications Advisor at La Trobe's Graduate Research School. 

She maintains and produces content for several of the School’s digital channels, including the website, social media and newsletters.

When she is not working at La Trobe, Lise is writing stories or obsessing over the latest release videogames. Lise tweets from @lisekarel.