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Day 28: Managing Distractions

Yesterday we explored how to manage expectations—yours and others—in navigating the challenge of NaNoWriMo. Today we’ll be talking about what distracts you from your writing, including other people.

Schedule time. Each day block out dedicated writing time. Schedule breaks and response time too so that you won’t be tempted to answer the phone or get sucked into browsing when you jump on Google to look something up.

Try the Pomodoro method: schedule your writing in twenty-five-minute blocks of time followed by a five-minute break in which you let your mind wander and recharge your battery. Use your timer to manage both the writing blocks and the breaks.

Make your availability clear. Start communicating with friends and family know about your availability during November. Let people know that you will have dedicated writing time when you will not be available. If you’re in a place where you’re likely to be disrupted, try doing something to signal your unavailability like wearing a hat or putting up a “do not disturb” sign.

Observe radio silence. Silence your ringer and notifications during writing time. Resolve only to respond to phone calls, emails, instant messages, and other notifications during non-writing time.

According to Brendon Burchard, “The inbox is nothing but a convenient organizing system for other people’s agendas.” Keep that in mind when you are tempted to check your inbox or you’re drawn into feeling the need to respond to everything right away. Keep your priorities front and center.

You can further reinforce this policy by using apps such as StayFocusd and Freedom to selectively restrict your access to distracting websites.

Keep an “Interrupters Log” This advice comes from Keep a log of interruptions. Study the trends. If there is a frequent offender (in the form of a person), have a conversation with that individual. If it is some other distraction, develop a strategy to cope with that interruption.

Say no. Coach Sophia Andréa calls the word ‘no’ a “word-border, a limit that allows you to claim who you are.” Nano is all about honoring a very strong commitment to yourself. It can be pretty transformative, especially the first time you win the challenge. Learn to protect your precious time by saying no to others.

I always love the oxygen mask metaphor: put your own oxygen mask on before helping others. There will be more for you to give if you keep your own energy high by doing the writing that feeds your soul.

Take control of your environment. If you are in a high-disruption environment try to get away to a place where you can concentrate. For some people, that’s the library or a coffee shop.

If you can’t physically leave, try noise-cancelling headphones. You might also enjoy Noisli, an app that offers background sounds such as coffee shops, white noise, and thunderstorms.

Shake it off. Learn the art of deliberate recovery. I’m sure you’ve seen the familiar scenario on the Discovery Channel: an antelope is chased by a lion. If the antelope manages to evade the lion, what does it do: it shakes it off. It’s a great technique for clearing the anxiety of the chase. For hitting the reset button so that the animal can go back to peacefully grazing.

When you’ve been distracted use this wisdom from mother nature. Shake it off. Do it physically if you can, or just metaphorically if need be. Don’t wallow in the distraction.


If you’re not already on the “31 Magic Days of NaNoWriMo Prep” mailing list, sign up here.

Looking for more support? I coach writers on the Nano process and I’m currently offering a free planning session to help you get started. You can sign up here.

Table of contents for other articles in the series.

Be sure to also check out the 5 Epic Clues to NaNoWriMo Success webinar

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