Writing on a computer is fun, but distractions can easily creep in. The internet, email, apps, video calls – you name it. All of these can lengthen your workday and lower your productivity.
The easiest way to avoid distractions while writing is to unplug your internet cable. However, that’s not always possible.
Maybe you need the web for research. Or you have to be connected to a workspace where you may get messages now and then from a nagging project manager.
Even so, there’s a lot you can do to minimize distractions and even eliminate them altogether.
Don’t Check Social Media While You Work
The fragmented experience social media provides – and especially if you’re active on multiple networks – can be very disruptive to your work.
If you absolutely have to check your Facebook messages or reply to some tweets, take another approach. Every hour or so reward yourself for your hard work by taking a short social media break. But don’t make it longer than a few minutes.
Go back to work before social media draws you in into that boundless realm of virtual loitering. Even better, abstain from social media while you work. You won’t only work more effectively. But you’ll also feel more focused.
Work On One Device Only
Try to resist the urge to use your phone or tablet for research. Instead, try to do your research on your computer before you start to write. That constant switching between one device and another invariably breeds distractions.
On mobile, we are always connected and a lot can happen in a short time. One thing leads to another and before you know it you end up video-chatting with someone instead of writing.
“I’ll just look up this quick fact on Google,” you may think, but then some notifications or updates will waylay you. Of course, the reverse is true. Maybe you’re one of those writers who’d rather type a 2,000-word article on hair straighteners on a mobile phone. Go for it. But turn off your computer first.
Substitute Noise with Music
Noise of any kind can impair your concentration. At the office, it could be the noisy chatter of coworkers or the humming of an old air conditioner. Or maybe workers changing a pipe down the street. At home noise often takes a different form – a neighbor’s radio, a child crying, a blaring TV.
Often, these noises are beyond your control. But even then, there’s a remedy. If closing the door and the window won’t fix it, you can try using headphones.
You don’t even have to be into classical music. Any instrumental or ambiental track on SoundCloud would do.
Take Tech-Free Breaks
Taking a short break to watch a funny YouTube video may sound harmless. But there’s not just one funny video on YouTube but about a million. And do you really think you could play CandyCrush or a new driving simulator for just a bit? Try it and don’t be surprised if half an hour passes before you know it.
Rest your eyes and keep your concentration sharp by taking tech-free breaks. Go drink a glass of carrot juice while looking out your balcony. Or do some pushups. Or lie down on the couch and close your eyes a bit. Take a nap if you have to. It will do you good.
Close Unnecessary Browser Tabs
When you research an unfamiliar topic, browser tabs may proliferate at a disconcerting rate. And often, if the topic nags you, they will beckon you to some site or other or maybe to YouTube. There’s so much content out there on the web that there’s always something interesting to read or to watch.
Can you tame your browser tabs? Can you keep only work-related tabs open while you write? Make it a habit to close tabs you no longer need. Even better, set yourself a simple rule like this one: “I’m not going to keep more than three tabs open in my browser.”
Plan Your Workday Ahead
When you have to deal with the stress of a tight deadline, distractions may creep in more easily. Knowing what you’ll be working on tomorrow can be a relief. Even if you’re a spontaneous writer who likes to write when the writing mood strikes, knowing what to do next can prove useful.
Sometimes you may be able to do your research ahead of time, so that the next day you can plunge straight into writing. Try that and you may see your writing simply flow and sentences come together like the pieces of a puzzle.
Get an Ad Blocker
You know already how intrusive and annoying web ads can be. Not only that, but online ads affect our concentration.
It’s about time you block them. Whether you use Firefox, Chrome, or some other browser, ad-blocking extensions are easy to find.
If your job as a writer means you have to browse through many different sites or use web-based tools, an ad-blocker can make a positive difference in your work life. The way most ad-blockers work, they create more white space on the screen, which can help you focus on your research.
Work Behind a Closed Door If You Have To
“But I have a small kid running around the house!” you may protest. “Family time is important to me.” That sounds fair. But if you’d have to choose between three hours of concentrated, distraction-free (yes, kid-free) writing and four and a half hours of work constantly interrupted by “Daddy! Daddy! See this!” or “Mommy! Mommy! Look!” which would you choose?
Won’t it be better to offer your kid one hour and a half of your full attention than all those “What’s the matter now? Can’t you be quiet and close the door so mommy can work?” reactions that will lower your concentration and lengthen your workday.
But what if your phone rings and it’s your mother? Or what if the kid has invented an amazing game with the new unicorn toy you brought him?
Some distractions are unavoidable. But all the other petty distractions you can keep at bay without too much trouble.
The best thing about avoiding distractions while writing is that they make focus an easy habit for you. And that can easily make you a better writer.