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Day 20: Managing Expectations and Distractions

Today I’d like to delve into how you manage expectations and distractions.


The art of conquering a challenge like NaNoWriMo is really all about managing expectations: yours and those of others. Gretchen Rubin has created a framework to understand how individuals manage expectations. She’s identified that people can be classified into one of four styles which she outlines in detail in her book, The Four Tendencies. The types are based on an individual is influenced by external (others’) expectations and internal (personal) expectations. You can take her quiz to find out which type you are.

Here’s a graphic to illustrate the four tendencies:

So, let’s break down what this means for Nano.


You thrive on both sorts of expectations: your own and those of others. In a sense, you’re perfectly suited for Nano. You’re self-motivated and don’t need a lot of hand-holding to get it done. You’re likely to succeed to the extent that you’ve made a strong commitment to yourself that you’re going to complete the challenge.

You can give yourself an additional charge by creating external expectations. To the extent you’ve made Nano your community, you will create a positive impetus for yourself. It’s particularly important for an Upholder to engage in Nano community building activities. Get out there and declare your novel. Not just on the NaNowWriMo website but shout it out on social media too. The more publicly you make your intentions known, the more likely you are to succeed.

There is a risk area for you, however: friends and family whose expectations compete with Nano. You don’t like to let other people down so you will have to be mindful when others are wanting you to do something besides write. Be sure to check out the article on The Myth of Time Management for further ideas.


You are motivated to meet the expectations of others, while you find a harder time meeting your own expectations. Since you don’t have that internal commitment pushing you, it’s crucial that you create outer commitments by announcing your intentions to the world and relying on the Nano community to create expectations for you. Likewise, you will need to really work to not be derailed by others’ expectations about what you should be doing besides Nano.

So, here’s what I’m saying to you, Obliger. I’m counting on you! Show me that this blog works to change people’s lives: get it done in November!


You must convert an outer expectation into an inner expectation if it’s going to motivate you. For you, securing your own personal endorsement of the expectation is critical. I’m a Questioner, so I feel you. When I first heard about Nano in 2015, I was intrigued by the contest and promptly did nothing. I didn’t write at all in November. Then in December, I jammed out about 35,000 words of fanfiction for the hell of it. We don’t need no stickin’ Nano! But now that I’ve have drunk the Kool-Aid on Nano, I’m a true believer.

You can easily uphold external commitments, you just have convince yourself that you buy-in.


You resist all expectations, both inner and outer. You thrive on rule-breaking. If there’s an expectation, you’re just as likely to do the opposite. Frankly, I’d be surprised if there are any of you here because a contest like Nano probably wouldn’t be appealing. So, please let me know if you are out there, planning to do this. If you are… try this. Or rather: don’t!

Focus on the present moment. Feel your love for writing. Just write for the sheer pleasure of it. Write because you can. Write to show off the fact that you control how you spend your time.

So, let me know, how’d you come out on the test?


Now we’ll be take a look at techniques for managing those pesky distractions that interfere with your writing.

Schedule time. Each day block out dedicated writing time. Schedule breaks and time to get back to others 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 now 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.

What do you anticipate your chief distractions to be? What are your strategies for overcoming them?

Visit the Countdown to Nano Program Site for a listing of all the articles in the series.

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Need someone to bounce your ideas off so that you're ready for Nano? I love to help Wrimos focus their writing efforts so I'm offering a free 30-minute consultation to help you structure your approach to Nano. You can sign up here.

Looking for additional support and accountability come November? I can help with that! Learn more.




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