Have you been struggling to focus on your writing lately?
Has your productivity or creativity been decreasing over time because of annoying distractions?
Do you find it hard to complete a few paragraphs without losing your attention to something around you, or inside your head?
If so, then you are one of the uncountable writers who spend each day battling writing distractions.
It’s true that distractions are everywhere, and technology is not making it any easier for people like us. From our phones, to social media and apps, crazy pet gadgets, and all forms of physical and mental clutter, there will always be something trying to turn us away from our writing. Lucky for you, there are many effective ways of making sure you always keep your focus and complete your writing tasks on time without worrying about getting distracted. They include the following:
Getting familiar with your distractions
Before you start looking for ways to remove the distractions, you have to understand them fully. Take some time to think about all the times you’ve been distracted from your writing. What exactly did you do instead of concentrating on your writing? What did you think about it? We all have certain things that tend to distract us, and the easiest way to purge them is by acknowledging them. Note down all the things you do or often think about, and be specific while doing so. Before you explore the options discussed below, try to think about all the possible ways of eliminating all these distractions. You might be surprised at how resourceful you can be!
Switching off the internet
You’d agree with me that the internet is the biggest source of distractions. It’s hard to finish a paragraph or two when there are pop-ups from Pinterest or Gmail begging for your attention. For most writers, it often starts with a little research, and then a peek into one or two Facebook feeds before they find themselves struggling to get out of the Instagram black hole. While researching something, it’s also easy to find your mind drifting towards “something you’ve always wanted to research” when you see a hint. It, therefore, makes sense why disconnecting your Wi-Fi for specific periods of time is a great way to remove distractions.
Setting strict limits
Many professional writers usually set specific milestones to get themselves writing with little or no distractions and do so by setting a word, page count, or time limit. Thinking about the amount of writing you should be getting done- especially when you’re not feeling like writing- discourages focus and encourages procrastination.
However, when you begin writing knowing that you only have to write for 30 minutes before taking a break or moving on to another task, you’ll be more likely to focus and breeze through the writing more effectively. For better results, you can even introduce a reward when you complete your milestones. For instance, you can promise to respond to your text messages when you write two pages.
Creating a proper writing space
In many cases, we get distracted because we’re writing in spaces filled with social distractions. This is often the case when we have multiple people living in our houses, or when our spaces are prone to social interactions. Ever tried writing when you’re literally hearing all the sounds of your brother watching a football game? It’s important to create your own silent place where you can work without seeing anyone, or if possible, without hearing anyone. This place doesn’t have to be an office or a fancy room, but simply a place where you can sit down and write without getting disturbed. You should only walk into that place when it’s time to write, with your phone switched off or muted.
Creating a “worry diary”
As you already know, our biggest hindrances to constant and effective writing are our thoughts, anxieties, and worries. Whenever you find your mind racing when you sit down to write, stop, take your physical diary, and write it down. This is important because it helps us acknowledge our worries so that we don’t spend too much time on them, and so that we go back to our writing faster. When you complete your session, go through your notes carefully, and try to find out whether there are patterns or reoccurring thoughts. Try to find out whether some of them are practical in nature, and if they are, create solutions for them. However, if you’re dealing with something hypothetical, it probably means that you cannot do anything about them apart from parking them and moving on.
Having a plan for the distractions
One of the most effective ways of beating common distractions is having an “if or when-then” mental model. This is a simple mental construction that helps us form a link in our brains to make tasks easier. For instance, “if I feel like walking out, then I grab my jacket.” In this case, you can have something like: “when I think about my text messages while writing, then I take two breaths and continue writing.” This will act as a cue to keep your mind focused on writing, and help you avoid spending too much time beating yourself up or thinking about how to avoid the problem the next time.
Declutter your writing areas
Clutter is one of the biggest causes of distractions during writing. A cluttered writing space is often filled with different kinds of items that clamor for attention. Pens, notes, folders, bills, stick notes, cups, torn papers, business cards, plastic pieces, and similar items are some of the most common forms of clutter that tend to occupy our writing spaces. These items keep us from being in charge and steal our freedom, slowing us down and eventually making us lose focus and write poorly. Decluttering has been proven to increase self-confidence among writers simply because a clean, organized space is mentally empowering. Having decluttered space is a constant reminder that you are self-directed and take your writing work very seriously, and also that you want to be efficient, thorough, and accomplished.
Depending on your space, decluttering can be as simple as clearing your desk and only leaving behind your computer, a notebook, and one pen. If you feel like your space needs a full makeover, you can even consider adding a fresh coat of paint, removing wall hangings, getting rid of all the books you don’t use, and disposing of all the other things that you don’t need.
If you’re foreseeing a lot of work in your decluttering process, then create a decluttering challenge of sorts to get yourself back in charge.