Busy kids, demanding dogs, grocery runs, alluring refrigerators, visitors, Twitter, the call of the sun through your window – all worthy adversaries in the battle for your concentration and productivity. As writers, we must guard against the constant intrusions that threaten to turn an hour-long project into a 3 hour-long project.
There are some distractions you can work through if you just can zero in on your focus. Parents become Jedi’s at ignoring the door-knocking, whining or ordinary play noises of kids and it is that selective hearing that will help you get through other distractions. Even if you’re not a parent, you’ve used your selective hearing skills to block out spouses, roommates or your boss’s yammering – all it takes is channeling that focus to blocking out the beeping of Twitter and the phone ringing.
Another way to block out and manage distractions – give yourself a time and a time-limit. If you’re an obsessive email checker like myself, you can easily spend hours checking and rechecking your email. The same holds true for Twitter, Facebook or any of the other social networking sites. Set a time, once every two hours, etc. to check your email, updates, etc., and then only allow yourself 15 mins to respond or surf. This also works for returning phone messages. Knowing when you’ll be able to satisfy your addiction will help you make it through getting actual work done.
Refocusing after an encounter with distractions can take almost as much time as the distraction itself. Often it’s not possible to shift gears and jump right back into the work, so find some focusing or breathing exercises that will work to zone you back in. I tend to use two that work pretty well for me:
I close my eyes and count slowly backwards from 20 to 0. This helps calms my brain and gets me ready to “go back in.” Or I use one of my work songs. Right now I have three on rotation and they aren’t the most politically correct or wholesome songs but they get me motivated. If you like hip hop email me and I’ll let you know what works for me. If not, find a song that motivates you. Two to three minutes of your favorite jam can be enough to not only get you inspired to keep working, but remind you why you’re working.
Got tips for dealing with distractions? Share ’em!