Last year, James Mowery posted about five common distractions that bloggers face in the course of a writing/blogging workday. James cited TV, games, mobile phones, social networks and even the web as top distractions. There are a host of other things out there that can get your focus out of writing. Here are a few, and some tips on how to deal with them.
Most probloggers and writers I know work from their home offices or from their homes. While you get to save a lot on daily expenses when you work from home, one big challenge is managing your time between work and domestic life. Face it–there are just a lot of tasks and chores that one might need to take care of while at home. You might have to do some cleaning and organizing. You might need to prepare food for lunch or dinner. You would inevitably find some pressing task to do. Even when you’re not actually doing these, the mere fact that these are on your mind can take your focus off blogging and writing work.
One way to deal with this is to finish quick tasks as soon as you can, so they don’t accumulate and overwhelm you. As for the bigger ones–like cooking–you can perhaps schedule a thirty-minute break. Hey, you need to eat, too! Then, perhaps, you can relegate the big, time-intensive things to the weekends, like grocery shopping, washing the car, and the like.
One of the reasons I chose to run my work and business from home is so I can keep tabs on my kids. I bring them to school in the mornings, and fetch them before lunch–that way, I’m assured of their safety, the paranoid dad that I am. But as my kids are only starting to learn independence (they’re in their early primary grades), I find myself being asked to do this and do that every so often. Kids need snacks, after all. Kids need their bath. Kids need their afternoon nap.
A good way to deal with this is by blocking off a few minutes of your workday to spend quality time with your kids. This way, they don’t feel left out, and you get to do things together without distractions (yes, they need your focus, too). But make sure they understand that you need to work for a living, and that you shouldn’t be disturbed while on the job. Another good way to deal is by giving them activities to do while you’re at work. Let them play. Let them do their homework. Or how about assigning chores to them, if they’re big enough (distraction #1 and #2 solved!)?
Everyone has problems. These could be money problems, family problems, health problems, or such. Thinking about these big things can take your mind off your concentration. How could you write great blog posts, after all, if you’re constantly thinking of how to pay off a big debt, or if you’re coughing and sneezing all the time.
Why not focus on solutions, instead of the problems? This way, you might be more inspired to work. Money problems? Then being more productive would probably help solve that in the long run. Health problems? Do something about it–rather than worry, why not be proactive? Family problems? Talk!
I can classify problems as those that can be set aside for a later time, and those that need to be addressed urgently. If you have some serious illness, then you have to take care of it as soon as you can, especially if it’s debilitating and if it can sap you of energy you need to be productive. Some problems can be set aside for later. If you need money, why not just focus finishing your work now, so you can get to bill your client earlier, for instance?
4. The temptation to slack or sleep
Another big problem faced by home-based professionals and entrepreneurs is the allure of the bed. And I don’t mean this in a naughty way. When you feel sleepy and tired (and unfocused and uninspired, as well) there’s always the temptation to just sack it out. It’s not just the bed. There’s also the couch, the recliner, and even your desk.
Here lies the importance of dedicating a certain room–or at least a space–just for work. Don’t work in the bedroom. Keep it sacred: just for sleep, rest, and those other private things. Set your environment such that it’s conducive to work, and that it’s not too relaxing. Avoid dim lights, very soft furniture and boring environs. I sometimes find my office chair too comfortable, that I move to a less comfortable seat, so I don’t fall asleep.
However, sometimes, you just have to succumb to your tiredness. If you feel you’re too tired to be productive, then why not take a nap? After fifteen to thirty minutes, you’d feel refreshed and full of ideas to work on. If you’ve spent all day working, then you do deserve a good night’s (or day’s) sleep. When you wake up, take note of dreams or ideas you might have had, as these might be valuable later on. Early mornings are conducive to writing, in my opinion.
Many multitaskers would agree with me that work can also be a big distraction. When you juggle a lot of tasks, every other ongoing task can take your mind off the important thing you want to focus at the moment. If you’re a freelancer, you might be working on more than one client or project, and you just can’t give 100% to just one at any given time. If you work for someone, then you might find yourself working on an ever-growing task list, that you’re confused with which item to address first.
This can be best addressed with GTD solutions, or at least by organizing your workflow. Keep a task list, and keep it prioritized. More importantly, try to keep it short. Why not get the small things out of the way early on? Those things that can be done in two minutes or less should only take two minutes or less. And once these are out of the way, you can spend big chunks of your time on the bigger stuff.
Dealing with other distractions
Sometimes, distractions are not all that unproductive, though. For instance, online discussions, forums and social networks can be great breeding grounds for great ideas and for connecting with the right people. Even downtime can be productive if you know how to make the most of it. For a writer, you can use this time to observe your environment, and take stock of current events–things that can help give you ideas on what to write about later on.
The best way to deal with distractions is identifying these, and knowing the best way to deal with them. It’s a matter of managing your time and resources such that you are productive in those things that matter.