Overcoming distractions

squirrelI’m very good at getting distracted. In fact even while writing this I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone off on another tangent. I went to open up WordPress to start drafting my article and discovered I didn’t have access to the admin section with my author profile, just my personal one. So I flicked over to Outlook to send an email requesting access. While I was there a work email caught my eye that I had to answer – but before I could reply I had to quickly make a change for them to their website. That done, I’ve opened up Word and finally started typing.

But the new mail notification in my task bar is showing up, tempting me to flick back and see what the mail is. There’s a 99% chance it will be junk or spam – but hey, it might be a publisher offering me a multi-million dollar deal.

And I’m sure I just heard the ding of a Facebook notification.

I’m telling you, Doug the dog from Up has got nothing on me.

Squirrel!!

But I have to figure out how to stop, because constant distractions mean I never get anything done. Especially when I’m writing, distractions take me out of the scene and it takes me forever to get back in – if I don’t completely side-tracked in the meantime.

Over school holidays, I took myself off to the library a couple of times for the afternoon to write. I purposely didn’t connect up to their WiFi, put my headphones in to block out noise and was able to concentrate on writing. That seemed to work well but isn’t practical for me every day.

Some things I’ve tried which work well – when I remember to use them – are:

  • Internet killers. I have Freedom, the software app that kills your internet for a specified amount of time, and there is no way to get it back before that without rebooting your machine.
  • Timers. I have a Pomodoro app on my phone – it ticks away for 25 mins and then rings an alarm to tell me the time is up. Strangely the ticking seems to help focus me.
  • Turn off Facebook and Outlook. These are my biggest distractions. Just knowing that there is something happening “out there” that will give my brain a boost is very alluring. I suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out)!
  • Going somewhere without internet. I have my little lightweight netbook that I can take with me to write. It gives me a change of scenery and no internet distractions.
  • Pause before switching. One of my favourite blogs, Zen Habits, suggests making yourself pause when you get the urge to switch to something new. Take a breath and ask yourself if you really want to fritter your life away checking Facebook / Outlook / Pinterest etc.

Most of these focus more on internal distractions rather than external. Having my son at home means I’m constantly open to external distractions – which require a whole new set of strategies. And honestly, other than saying “I’m not going to be available for the next x minutes” and sticking to it and then not getting distracted by myself, I’ve got no ideas!

So I’m asking for help – what are your best tips for not getting distracted (internal and external)? Or does it simply come down to willpower? (In which case, I’m sunk!)

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2 thoughts on “Overcoming distractions

  1. Kerrie, I hear your pain. The lure of the internet for me is enormous – its a temptation like chocolate I cant resist, so now I just don’t buy chocolate! But I find using my little netbook works for me. Altho it has internet access, I dislike using its small screen. I also find that changing my writing location out of my study also works. For some reason, I think I now view my study as ‘work’ area. So again, taking my netbook elsewhere is a good idea. Self imposed deadlines, a sound talking to and if all else fails, I bribe myself. But I’m also open to any other suggestions that works for others.

    • I hear you about changing locations, SE. Self-imposed deadlines don’t work for me quite as well as external deadlines but they help! I’m thinking of saving up for a Surface tablet to replace my old, horrendously slow netbook – I’m mulling it over.

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