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Five Ways to Reduce Distractions When Writing

Do you get distracted while writing? Here are five ways to reduce distractions when writing.

Sometimes, the freelance writer faces distractions that feel overwhelming. How can you resist the comments on that controversial article you just read? And isn’t there something to be said for popping into the next room to make sure that your kids are playing an appropriate video game?

I know it can be difficult to get away from distractions when you work from home. Once, when taking a “quick trip” upstairs to refill my water bottle, I was sidetracked by a Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie. I didn’t even enjoy myself as I stood there for 20 minutes.

Overcoming distractions when writing takes a little effort. Here are five ideas for making it happen:

reduce distractions when writing

1. When Possible, Work When You Feel Best

Distractions when writing are often most effective when we are tired, hungry, or otherwise not feeling “our best.”

In some cases, willpower is sapped, and you just don’t feel like getting that writing done. A distraction is preferable to working.

And don’t blame it entirely on writer’s block. If you find yourself doing something mindlessly unproductive just because you’ve gone down some rabbit hole somewhere, it’s probably a good time to face the fact that you’re not blocked — you’re distracted.

Working when you feel closer to your peak can help you avoid this low willpower. I work best between 9 am and noon, after I’ve had a little time to wake up, get my son to school, and deal with email and social media issues. Most days at this time I feel alert, reasonably rested, and focused. Distractions almost never get the best of me between 9 am and noon because I’m at my best. Work when you’re in that state of mind, and most distractions won’t phase you a bit.

2. Set the Mood

Another way to reduce distractions when writing is to set the proper mood. When I’m sitting on the couch, or sitting outside, my head just isn’t going to be “in the game” as much. I can still get work done (the joy of the freelance lifestyle is working from anywhere, after all), but there are more distractions to battle.

If you want to keep the distractions to a minimum, create a writing happy place that helps you focus your mind. My home office features the trappings that say “work!” and it helps. There aren’t as many distractions, and just being in my home office is an inducement to get stuff done.

3. Shut Out the Noise

Sometimes, I need to shut out the noise around me and just concentrate. My husband and son know that when my home office door is shut, they shouldn’t disturb/distract me. But sometimes you hear things through doors. And if you are not feeling strong in willpower, it’s tempting to investigate, especially if it sounds like there is Fun In Progress.

Headphones

At times like these, I use earbuds to cancel out the noise. When I find myself prone to distraction and in need of focus, I switch my playlist to the one that contains classical music. This helps me relax and focus better. With the earbuds in, and the outside noise blocked by classical music, I am less distracted and better able to focus. I get much more done, and it’s of higher quality.

4. Assign Mundane Tasks to Specific Times

Another way to reduce distractions when writing is to schedule in time to complete specific mundane tasks. I take care of social media first thing in the morning. I check email at specific times of the day, and only the most important emails before evening.

Because I know that these tasks are scheduled for specific times of the day, I don’t feel the need to “check” things and become distracted. You can also use something like the Pomodoro technique to help you keep to a schedule. If you work for a set period of time (20 to 30 minutes) and know you will take a short break (five to 10 minutes), distractions aren’t as tempting. You know you’ll get to the other stuff in due course, so you don’t feel the need to rush off.

Another take on assigning mundane tasks is outsourcing. If you outsource some of your work, you have less to worry about, and fewer distractions. While i check in with my social media, the largest portion of it is handled by my virtual assistant. This means I am freed up to focus on other things, and my energy isn’t sapped by mundane tasks and the distractions that can come with them.

Another version of this is to use a specific schedule to help you get to some of the things that have been nagging you. If you are distracted by thoughts of what you wish you could get done, or low-level tasks that you are neglecting, you can schedule a day for those. I usually pick one day week to work on this sort of thing, and since I know it’s coming, I don’t have to be distracted by those tasks the rest of the time.

5. Use an App to Force the Issue

If you still have distraction problems when writing, use an app to force the issue. This works well if your distractions are Internet-based. Use a program designed to get rid of everything else on your computer and just confront you with the page for the text. As long as you do any research ahead of time, you shouldn’t need this extra stuff anyway.

There are also timer apps that will block your access to Facebook and other distractions for set periods of time. This forces you to focus. Another app I like is one that makes a little meditation bell noise. When this goes off, it forces me to evaluate my situation, and whether or not I am being as productive as I should be.

Sometimes, I work best when I don’t have Internet access. If you are struggling, go someplace where you won’t be able to connect to the Internet and just write.

There are many ways to reduce distractions when writing. With the right approach, you should be able to get more done, and even writer better.

How do you reduce distractions when writing?


4 Responses to Five Ways to Reduce Distractions When Writing

  1. Love this list! I work best early in the AM and then from about 4-midnight. Middle of the day is no bueno for me.

    What I need to function best: plenty of water, COMPLETE silence (headphones do the trick), a fast computer, fast internet, a comfortable chair/couch/whatever, and knowing I can stay put for awhile.

    If I have like 10 minutes to write, I won’t even bother. I’ll do social media or something instead. Nothing worse that getting into the ‘zone’ just to be yanked out soon after. Ahhh!

    Anywho, thanks for the article.

    • I find myself doing the same thing. If I’ve got 10 to 15 minutes, I’m all about a quick couple of social media posts, or to get through some of the easy-and-fast-to-answer emails. Hmmmm… I hope that I will soon know what it’s like to have truly fast Internet.

  2. I notice I have the hardest time writing when I have a messy room or environment surrounding me. When I tidy up the house, I feel a lot better overall and don’t have a constant nagging thought of, “I should clean my house.”

    • It’s so true that your environment can influence how distracted you are. Tidying up a bit — at least around your writing area — is a good way to make sure you feel ready to engage.

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