Let me ask you a question. Do you consistently accomplish all you hope for your writing? If not, you’re not alone. Now there are many reasons why you may not publish as many blog posts or books or make as much income writing as you’d like. But chances are, one of the biggest reasons for your failure in this area is that you succumb to writing distractions.
Here are a few tips that I’ve found to help me overcome writing distractions.
Turn off the Internet
If you’re like me, the Internet is a great big bundle of distractions. You hear a sound every time a new email comes in. Facebook posts, YouTube notifications and more pop up every time someone you’ve subscribed to posts something new. On top of that, your addiction to checking social media, email, Google Analytics and more suck you into doing anything and everything other than writing.
One of the best ways to beat this distraction and time suck is to turn off the Internet for a specified period. You can do this for a whole day once a week, or for an hour or two every morning. Experiment with what works for you in this regard and then treat that time as sacred. Turning off your Internet is a great way to say,
“It is time to write, and nothing is going to get in my way!”
Dealing with Client Expectations
I currently focus solely on my content, but much of my income over the past six years has come through client work. And much of the work I’ve done has been for very successful people. Successful people typically work hard – and so does everyone on their team. Expectations are high, and as a conscientious team member, I prided myself in how quickly I responded to email. But my “always on” approach resulted in less productivity, not just on my work, but on client work as well.
Here’s how I learned to deal with keeping clients happy even with turning off the Internet for an hour or more at a time.
- Spend a couple of hours in the morning reading through client emails and immediately taking care of the most pressing needs.
- If there are no emails from clients, I sent a quick email to update them on a project or to in some other way, “check in.” This let them know that I was on the job and even if they didn’t hear back from me while I was unplugged, they knew I hadn’t forgotten about them.
- Communicate about my unplugged time, and asked them to text me if something urgent came up.
The bottom line is that all my clients knew how to get ahold of me quickly in ways that go beyond email, and I never got a single complaint as a result of turning off my Internet.
Prepare to Work Offline
While there are many distractions online, there are also many online tools that help get things done. For instance, when writing a book or blog posts, you may need to do some research. Most likely you research online, right? The need to research may stymie you a bit the first few times you disconnect from the Internet before writing. But once you’ve had that happen to you a time or two, you learn to do your research before turning off your Internet.
I personally send blog posts or other content that I may want to use to OneNote, and since I can access my OneNote notebooks both online and on my desktop, the research I’ve done is readily available to me without an Internet connection.
In spite of my best planning, at times I find that I need some information that I don’t have on my computer. When that happens, I make a note of it in the manuscript I’m working on, and keep writing. This keeps the writing flow going since I don’t stop to look things up while writing.
Turning off the Internet makes a huge difference in my overall ability to get things done since I’m don’t allow myself to be interrupted multiple times while I’m writing.
Less Drastic Measures
If you don’t want to go as far as turning off your Internet while writing, if your Facebook newsfeed is a big time waster, give the Chrome app Kill News Feed a try. What I like about it is that I can still access Facebook Messenger and Facebook groups. I need to be on Facebook daily because I use Facebook Messenger to communicate with family. I’m also an active member of Author Audience Academy and we interact in a Facebook group. The Kill News Feed app allows me to do those things without getting sucked into the cat videos or worse, political drama posts that often fill my newsfeed.
Every quarter I participate in a virtual writing retreat with author coach, Shelley Hitz. These retreats are a fantastic way to kick writing distractions to the curb, as we all check in throughout the day to report on what we’ve accomplished.
Those of us who are members of Author Audience Academy also participate in monthly Writers Block Parties, and mini virtual writing retreats throughout the month.
Accountability is a key component to these activities, and that’s why they’re so helpful. Even if you’re unable to participate in a virtual writing retreat, seek out like-minded writers until you find a writing accountability partner that’s a good fit for you.
Come to an Agreement With Family Members
Many of us who write work from home. In fact, many of us write because we can work from home. As awesome as working from home is, a huge hindrance is that you’re. . .home. Not a big deal, if you happen to be home alone. However, it can be quite a challenge if family members are home when you need to write.
I can definitely relate to this, as my husband and I both work from home, often in the same room. We kept running into a problem with this because I was frequently in the mood to talk when he was in the mood to write. He also was often in the mood to talk when I was in the mood to write. We finally decided to put our moods aside, and be more disciplined, both when it came to writing – and talking. Now we have an agreement that we do not talk – at all – between 9:00 a.m. and noon. Now obviously, if the proverbial house was on fire, we’d let the other person know. But otherwise, we work in silence, for three hours every day.
Usually after three hours of intense writing, no talking, we’re ready for a break. At that point, we enjoy some conversation, along with lunch. In the afternoon we get back to work, but in a less stringent way. Neither of us minds the afternoon interruptions that happen since we got so much done earlier in the day.
The agreement you have with your family members may be different. The important thing is to have some set times you can write without interruptions, and then be mindful of being available in the other times.
Distraction-Free Writing Programs
I personally don’t use any distraction-free writing programs, because, for whatever reason, they don’t help me. But I wanted to include them here since some people find them helpful. The primary way that they work is that the only thing on your computer screen is the thing you are working on, at that moment. For instance, here’s a screenshot of what you’ll see when using Ommwriter:
If you get distracted by too many buttons and other “doodads” you may want to give one of these programs a try:
Again, I can’t personally vouch for these since this type of approach doesn’t do anything for me, but since so many writers swear by them, you may want to give them a try.
One final way to beat writing distractions is to give yourself deadlines – and to make those deadlines public. For instance, when writing a book, I’ve put up “coming soon” pages with the date, and countdown timer. Even if no one else ever looked at the page, the countdown timer sets a fire under my butt to get the writing done, by the deadline.
I recommend OptimizePress for your coming soon pages for your books and other projects, but just a regular WordPress page works as well.
You can also put your Kindle book up for pre-order which will force you to get it done on time. However, be careful with this approach, because if you fail to meet your deadline, you’ll lose your preorder privileges for a year.
What are your tips for beating writing distractions? Share them in the comments below.