You sit down to write and your phone rings, your two thousand apps start beeping and popping up on your screen, and your cat jumps up onto your desk. Just a few of the daily distractions that keep you from finishing your novel. How do you beat those distractions and give yourself the time to actually write instead of fight? Well, it takes planning, patience, and a little luck to break through to the other side of those pesky distractions. Below are some articles on how to get yourself in the distraction-free zone so you can accomplish all your writing goals every time you sit down to write.
There is also a video on how one writer defeats distractions and provides some helpful tips for you to follow. I hope you enjoy and use what you learn to write more😉
Let me ask you a question. Do you consistently accomplish all you hope for your writing? If not, you’re not alone. Now there are many reasons why you may not publish as many blog posts or books or make as much income writing as you’d like. But chances are, one of the biggest reasons for your failure in this area is that you succumb to writing distractions.
Here are a few tips that I’ve found to help me overcome writing distractions.
Turn off the Internet
If you’re like me, the Internet is a great big bundle of distractions. You hear a sound every time a new email comes in. Facebook posts, YouTube notifications and more pop up every time someone you’ve subscribed to posts something new. On top of that, your addiction to checking social media, email, Google Analytics and more suck you into doing anything and everything other than writing.
One of the best ways to beat this distraction and time suck is to turn off the Internet for a specified period. You can do this for a whole day once a week, or for an hour or two every morning. Experiment with what works for you in this regard and then treat that time as sacred. Turning off your Internet is a great way to say,
“It is time to write, and nothing is going to get in my way!”
Dealing with Client Expectations
I currently focus solely on my content, but much of my income over the past six years has come through client work. And much of the work I’ve done has been for very successful people. Successful people typically work hard – and so does everyone on their team. Expectations are high, and as a conscientious team member, I prided myself in how quickly I responded to email. But my “always on” approach resulted in less productivity, not just on my work, but on client work as well.
Here’s how I learned to deal with keeping clients happy even with turning off the Internet for an hour or more at a time.
The bottom line is that all my clients knew how to get ahold of me quickly in ways that go beyond email, and I never got a single complaint as a result of turning off my Internet.
Prepare to Work Offline
While there are many distractions online, there are also many online tools that help get things done. For instance, when writing a book or blog posts, you may need to do some research. Most likely you research online, right? The need to research may stymie you a bit the first few times you disconnect from the Internet before writing. But once you’ve had that happen to you a time or two, you learn to do your research before turning off your Internet.
I personally send blog posts or other content that I may want to use to OneNote, and since I can access my OneNote notebooks both online and on my desktop, the research I’ve done is readily available to me without an Internet connection.
In spite of my best planning, at times I find that I need some information that I don’t have on my computer. When that happens, I make a note of it in the manuscript I’m working on, and keep writing. This keeps the writing flow going since I don’t stop to look things up while writing.
Turning off the Internet makes a huge difference in my overall ability to get things done since I’m don’t allow myself to be interrupted multiple times while I’m writing.
Less Drastic Measures
If you don’t want to go as far as turning off your Internet while writing, if your Facebook newsfeed is a big time waster, give the Chrome app Kill News Feed a try. What I like about it is that I can still access Facebook Messenger and Facebook groups. I need to be on Facebook daily because I use Facebook Messenger to communicate with family. I’m also an active member of Author Audience Academy and we interact in a Facebook group. The Kill News Feed app allows me to do those things without getting sucked into the cat videos or worse, political drama posts that often fill my newsfeed.
Every quarter I participate in a virtual writing retreat with author coach, Shelley Hitz. These retreats are a fantastic way to kick writing distractions to the curb, as we all check in throughout the day to report on what we’ve accomplished.
Those of us who are members of Author Audience Academy also participate in monthly Writers Block Parties, and mini virtual writing retreats throughout the month.
Accountability is a key component to these activities, and that’s why they’re so helpful. Even if you’re unable to participate in a virtual writing retreat, seek out like-minded writers until you find a writing accountability partner that’s a good fit for you.
Come to an Agreement With Family Members
Many of us who write work from home. In fact, many of us write because we can work from home. As awesome as working from home is, a huge hindrance is that you’re. . .home. Not a big deal, if you happen to be home alone. However, it can be quite a challenge if family members are home when you need to write.
I can definitely relate to this, as my husband and I both work from home, often in the same room. We kept running into a problem with this because I was frequently in the mood to talk when he was in the mood to write. He also was often in the mood to talk when I was in the mood to write. We finally decided to put our moods aside, and be more disciplined, both when it came to writing – and talking. Now we have an agreement that we do not talk – at all – between 9:00 a.m. and noon. Now obviously, if the proverbial house was on fire, we’d let the other person know. But otherwise, we work in silence, for three hours every day.
Usually after three hours of intense writing, no talking, we’re ready for a break. At that point, we enjoy some conversation, along with lunch. In the afternoon we get back to work, but in a less stringent way. Neither of us minds the afternoon interruptions that happen since we got so much done earlier in the day.
The agreement you have with your family members may be different. The important thing is to have some set times you can write without interruptions, and then be mindful of being available in the other times.
Distraction-Free Writing Programs
I personally don’t use any distraction-free writing programs, because, for whatever reason, they don’t help me. But I wanted to include them here since some people find them helpful. The primary way that they work is that the only thing on your computer screen is the thing you are working on, at that moment. For instance, here’s a screenshot of what you’ll see when using Ommwriter:
If you get distracted by too many buttons and other “doodads” you may want to give one of these programs a try:
Again, I can’t personally vouch for these since this type of approach doesn’t do anything for me, but since so many writers swear by them, you may want to give them a try.
One final way to beat writing distractions is to give yourself deadlines – and to make those deadlines public. For instance, when writing a book, I’ve put up “coming soon” pages with the date, and countdown timer. Even if no one else ever looked at the page, the countdown timer sets a fire under my butt to get the writing done, by the deadline.
I recommend OptimizePress for your coming soon pages for your books and other projects, but just a regular WordPress page works as well.
You can also put your Kindle book up for pre-order which will force you to get it done on time. However, be careful with this approach, because if you fail to meet your deadline, you’ll lose your preorder privileges for a year.
Distractions like social media are enemy number one for the writer determined to finish. But distractions are only distracting because we let them – because they interrupt us when we’d rather be concentrating on the task in hand. Here’s our 5-step guide to help you keep focused and beat your creative distractions.
Concentrating on your creative work is hard – especially when you’re starting out or if the ideas aren’t flowing. It’s all too easy to get side tracked and start tidying that cupboard or organising those paperclips.
But getting distracted can have a real negative impact on your work – and your determination to finish.
Psychologists tell us that we only have a finite amount of concentration every day (and everyone is different) and getting pulled away from the task in hand depletes our reserves a little more.
But research tells us that keeping focused and preventing distractions from cropping up is all about taking back control – over yourself. The more control you can have over your physical environment, your schedule and your writing mindset – the less likely your mind will wander.
With that in mind, here’s our five-step guide to beating your creative distractions and keeping your focus:
One practical way to keep focussed is to audit your creative working environment and physically rearrange it to ensure you minimise distractions. This technique involves using ‘choice architecture’ and was first proposed by Professor Richard Thaler, scientist at the University of Chicago and father of nudge theory.
In the same way that dieters reduce the temptation of snacking by putting sugary treats away from view (or not buying them in the first place) writers can keep procrastination at bay by keeping their writing environments distraction free.
So, if you want to focus on your writing, turn off your phone, use an internet blocker and tidy the house before you sit down. Strategically place material by writers you admire the most on your bedside table or by the sofa and yes – pin inspirational quotes up where you’ll seem them if that helps you keep focused. Don’t give yourself the chance to get distracted or to procrastinate and you probably won’t.
Psychologist, writer and thinker Dr Robert Boice studied writers for decades and in his 1996 book Procrastination and Blocking: A Novel Approach found that the least distracted and most productive writers are also the most efficient schedulers and planners.
He discovered that writers become less likely to procrastinate when they find a regular slot in their diary – and commit to writing without fail in that slot. He concluded that giving yourself a specific time has a number of advantages.
Practically, it means that you don’t have to spend the mental energy ‘finding the time to write’ every time you want to do it. You don’t need to think about when to write – you just write.
Also, making writing a non-negotiable fixture in your weekly schedule means that you are more likely to develop a habit of writing – it becomes something you do unthinkingly.
Taking regular breaks isn’t necessarily harmful for your concentration but being unwittingly distracted is. The key is to take breaks on your own terms according to Professor Paul Dolan, a behavioural psychologist from the London School of Economics.
Dolan’s research reveals that the best way to avoid distraction is to cheat it by staying in control and deliberately switching to a pleasurable and therefore rewarding activity when you feel your concentration is starting to wane.
By taking control and deciding to spend 15 minutes flicking though your Facebook feed or playing CandyCrush rather than becoming unwittingly distracted – your reserves of concentration don’t get depleted.
Related reads: Why writing systems beat will power every time >>
You’re more likely to get distracted if your writing is flagging or it seems like a chore so one way to inject a little levity into a writing project is to turn it into more of a game or a challenge.
For example, using the Pomodoro technique, writers splurge words in intensive 20-minute blasts followed by a five-minute break – and perhaps cake (cake is optional). Other writers prefer entering ‘extreme writing’ challenges like NaNoWriMo, NaPoWriMo and 29 Plays Later.
Some writers find that simply splashing the cash on snazzy stationery can make writing less of a chore. Alternatively, having your favourite snack handy when you sit down to write can mean you associate one activity with the other and so enjoy the process a whole lot more (and get distracted a whole lot less).
But if playing ‘good cop’ doesn’t work…
..then you might need to play ‘bad cop’ on yourself!
If you’re still struggling to keep your distractions at bay then it could be time to hold a threat over your head to keep you motivated and focused.
For example, why not set a bet with a friend that you’ll sent a first draft by a certain date. Makes the stakes high though – something needs to be at risk. Losing a sum of money’s always a great motivator to keep you focused.
Why not ask a friend to give a sum of money to a political party you dislike – if you don’t meet your goal. That’s a sure fire way to keep you focused. Use a motivational site like StickK to set a goal and keep you focused.
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