When you’re trying to stick to your writing routine, there’s an endless series of things that can potentially get in your way. But there also some steps you can take upfront to minimize distractions from disrupting your writing. Here are 8 foolproof tips for taking control.
1) Prioritize Your Writing
Decide how important your writing is to you. It helps to make a list of all of your priorities and to see where writing falls on that list. Let’s say it’s #4. That’s pretty high and it means you’ll definitely want to dedicate specific time to that pursuit. But let’s say that your family is #1. That doesn’t mean that you will always entertain your family’s interruptions during writing time. You might put some of their ne3eeds first, but probably not all. Your #4 priority deserves to be fed and nurtured too. You honor that priority by investing time in it and protecting that time.
2) Schedule time. Each day, block out dedicated writing time. I strongly recommend you write every day, even if it’s only ten minutes or 100 words. Make sure that you also have time scheduled in your day for anything that typically distracts you from your writing. If you know when you will be checking your texts next, you won’t be tempted to do it while you are writing.
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. Or check out one of the many apps created for Pomodoro. I often use my phone timer or a simple timer called Due found inside the Setapp collection (for Apple products only). Setapp also has a timer with Pomodoro functionality called Session.
3) Make your availability clear to others. If you have dedicated writing time, let people know that you will not be available during that time. If you’re writing at home, try doing something to signal your unavailability like putting up a “do not disturb” sign. One client dons “Mommy’s Writing Hat.”
4) Observe radio silence. Silence your ringer and notifications during writing time. Resolve only to respond to phone calls, emails, 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 wisdom 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.
5) Keep an “Interruption Log.” This advice comes from mindtools.com. Keep a log of interruptions. Study the trends. If there is a frequent offender, have a conversation with them. If it is some other distraction, develop a strategy to cope with that interruption.
6) Say no. Coach Sophia Andréa calls the word ‘no’ a “word-border, a limit that allows you to claim who you are.” Establishing a writing habit is all about making and keeping a commitment to yourself. You do this through the daily decisions you make. 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 others if you keep your own energy high by doing the writing that feeds your soul.
7) 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-canceling headphones. You might also enjoy Noisli, an app that offers background sounds such as coffee shops, white noise, and thunderstorms.
8) 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 she do: she 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 peaceful grazing.
When you’ve been distracted use this wisdom from mother nature. Shake it off. Do it physically if you can. Stand up and shake yourself, your arms, your legs, your booty. Or just do it metaphorically if need be. Just don’t wallow in the distraction.
I’m Kira Swanson, a mindset coach for writers. I help writers master their mental game so that they can focus on what they love: writing. I help my clients to tap their inner source of motivation and inspiration, create the time to write, and quash the self-doubt that plagues so many creatives so that they can finally finish that draft.