Hacking through Distractions

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You have such a great idea for a book! But first you need to work on that other project, and it’s really time to think about editing your blog post, and when did all these coffee mugs get here? You should really take care of those. You finally get in the groove, and your neighbors start arguing again. Distractions are everywhere. Fortunately, you have the power to conquer them.

Spot the problem

The first step in cutting down distractions is determining what, exactly, your distractions actually are. There’s a difference between things your mind wanders to from time to time and things that actively prevent you from doing your best work. Making a list is a great way to hone in on problems. Let’s say you have pets. Taking care of your pets isn’t necessarily a distraction, but do you use them as an excuse to do something other than write all afternoon on your days off? Identify things that jolt you out of the zone. Is there a firehouse nearby? You may need to invest in some quality headphones. What about your desk? Exactly how many dirty coffee cups must gather before you have to stop writing early and do the dishes? As weird as it sounds, writing time is the one thing that can drive most of us willingly to the sink. The key to all these issues is recognition. List your nemeses and then create a matching defense.

Don’t try to do everything at once

Every writer faces anxiety as they work, and most writers have to handle multiple projects at the same time. If you combine those two elements, you may be left with a very frustrated writer who is always thinking of something else they’re supposed to be doing. Sitting down to hash out an entire draft rarely works, anyway, especially with larger projects. Whether your realize it or not, everything is finished in pieces. Try scheduling those pieces. Dedicate specific days and hours to ensure you work towards all your goals. That will help prevent you from worrying about that one, neglected task at the bottom of your list while you work on more immediate issues.

Balance focus time with exertion time

Sitting at your desk and zeroing in on a project is marvelous. Unfortunately, you can’t realistically do that all day, every day. The fact of the matter is your brain is just another part of your body, and it needs rest. Apart from sleeping, one of the best ways to simultaneously engage and re-energize your brain is to go for a walk. Technically, you don’t have to walk; you just need to do something physical instead of mental. If you just cannot focus, and your own skin becomes a distraction, then it’s break time. Step away from your desk and get your body in motion. If you still have those coffee cups sitting around, now is a good time for dishes.

Ready to write? Tame your distractions, and you’ll find you have a much easier time at the desk. You’d be surprised how much more productive you can be when you aren’t fighting for focus.


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