Distractions are going to happen, no matter what you do. Write this down. It’s reality, like Murphy’s Law. Distractions WILL happen. So what can you do about overcoming distractions so that you get to your writing?
Recognizing that you are being distracted. This is something you can train yourself to do “in the moment.” The goal is to shorten the time between the 30 minutes that just went by when you were checking emails, surfing the internet, or talking to your best friend on the phone, and the time that you consciously realize that you should be writing. Be patient with yourself. This can take time and is not a miracle fix. But recognition is a first step.
Say “STOP.” Or “NO.” Saying this is helpful in many situations, especially if your mind wonders. Once you recognize that you’re falling into distraction, say “STOP” or “NO.” Take a few deep breaths or try a short meditation, and get back to writing.
Is there a “why?” Many times there might be fears behind your distractions. Maybe it’s a fear of failure, a fear of succeeding, a fear of – FILL IN THE BLANK with the fear or emotion that’s delaying your writing. What’s keeping you from writing – your fear or other emotion – might be allowing you to get so easily distracted in the first place. Try journaling about what’s behind your distractions. You don’t have to do this alone. Along with journaling, try talking about this with a close writing friend, your writing group, or a writing coach.
Time suckers. Almost anything can be keeping you from working on your writing project. Here are some common to many writers:
– Phone calls
– Surfing the internet
– “Getting Organized”
Do you see yourself in this list?
Here are some things to try in overcoming distractions:
Keep a writing log. One way to track your writing activities is to keep a writing log of what you’ve done each day. You can use this to match against your goals to see how you’re doing. It’s also helpful to have this log of your accomplishments. If you start to feel that your writing is getting nowhere, look back over your writing log. You’ll be amazed at what you have been doing over the last weeks and months.
Yearly, weekly, daily goals. Goals setting might help you to focus on your writing. Set realistic goals that have time limits. Start with your yearly goals and break them down into shorter, more achievable chunks. (NOTE: The January 2010 issue of Live Your Writing Dream Newsletter will cover this topic in more detail.)
Keep a list of unrelated tasks as they try to distract you, unless this is something you need to take care of right away. You might also include how you’re going to deal with the distraction. Most of all: let it go.
If you don’t think keeping a list of unrelated tasks will work, try getting rid of the distraction – giving yourself a time limit – and move on to your writing.
Your writing space. Keep your writing space in a state that helps you to want to write. If you are a neat-freak, use NON-WRITING TIME to clean your space, so when it’s time to write, you won’t be bothered by things out of order. Make your writing space your own. Maybe you like to keep affirmations handy and read those to get your mind in a state for you to write. Maybe you keep artwork within sight to inspire you. How about music? Do you find music helpful when you write? When the phone rings, check caller id before you decide to answer to not. Make your writing space a place that will WANT to make you write, and not a distraction.
Using a timer for time suckers. If you do need to respond to an important phone call or email, set a time limit for doing this. The same for any other task that might turn into a time sucker. Set limits. Remember – YOU are in charge of how you use the time you have for your writing.
When thoughts wonder…change your environment. If you find your thoughts keep wondering and saying “STOP” or “NO” isn’t working, set a time limit and go outside your writing space. No matter what you do doing the time limit, return to your writing when the time is up. Take a couple of deep breaths and start putting words on paper or in your document.
Reward yourself. Give yourself little incentives to get to your writing or when you had a successful writing session. (And you are the one who defines what “successful” means.)
Remember: Distractions are something that you do have CONTROL over many times (and no, not 100% of the time) so take charge and find ways to focus on your writing 98% distraction free!
Today’s Question: What is your major distraction and what have you tried to avoid the distraction to get back to your writing? Does it work? If not, what else might you be willing to try?