My Top Five Distractions and How I Deal with Them

Unless you happen to living in a hut in the middle of a forest that happens to be filled with silent animals, you’re eventually going to run into things that distract you as you’re writing or doing other work.

Dealing with these distractions is of the challenging parts of my average day, so today I wanted to talk about my biggest distractions and how I cope – or, in one case, don’t cope so well – with them.

1. Social Media

How I Deal With It: There are so many things I love about social media, from the relationships it’s helped me to form and maintain to the way it keeps me up-to-date on everything that’s going on in the world around us.

I  know some writers who avoid it altogether. While I doubt I’ll ever be one of them, I have seen how quickly it can gobble up time if you don’t keep track of how often you log onto it.

One of the things I do to limit my amount of time on social media is to set reminders for tweeting certain things. For example, every week I nominate someone on Twitter for #FollowFriday, a hashtag that is meant to be used to draw attention to people you think others should follow there.

When that alarm goes off, I write my tweet on that topic and close the app again. There are other points in the day when I specifically open the app to check for messages and scroll through tweets.

It’s not a perfect system, but it has helped me focus my use of social media and save more time for writing.

2. City Noises

How I Deal With It: Toronto is a bustling city that I’m proud to call home. However, there are so many people living here that it’s impossible to avoid all of the noises that come from traffic, sirens, construction, parades, and occasional protests.

I did find all of this background noise jarring when I first moved up here. Every streetcar that rumbled down the street grabbed my attention.

These days, the best way to deal with it seems to be to do nothing to stop it. Often your brain will learn to filter these noises out as unimportant once it gets used to them.

If that doesn’t work, I’ll sometimes turn on a fireplace or rainstorm video to temporarily drown out the noise. I find both of those sounds comforting, and they’re good at cancelling out shrieking alarms or the loud bangs that can happen on certain construction sites in my experience.

3. Email

How I Deal With It: Who else feels the urge to read new emails as soon as they arrive in your inbox? I know I sure want to do that.

The best solution I’ve found to avoid jumping into my inbox so often is to not leave it open all of the time. If I don’t see that notification, I don’t feel the urge to immediately find out what it’s about.

Waiting a few hours to check to see what new messages I might have is much better than jumping every time someone emails me.

4. RSS Feed

How I Deal With It: Honestly, I don’t deal with this one as well as I should. My RSS feed is filled with all sorts of interesting blogs and other sites. It is very tempting to check it more often than necessary, especially if I’m working on a piece of writing that’s tricky in some way.

So far I have had luck with setting an alarm on my phone when it’s time to read blogs as well as with only checking my RSS feed when I’m using my laptop (as opposed to trying to avoid it when I’m on my cellphone).

This is still a distraction that I’m learning to effectively manage, though. I always want to read a new blog post or news article as soon as possible.

5. Youtube

How I Deal With It: Youtube is the kind of site I could spend hours surfing without ever growing bored. Seriously, the rabbit videos alone there could keep me occupied for days on end.

I’ve learned to use this site as a reward to accomplishing certain goals because of this, so I try to confine most of my time there for those occasions.

As an added bonus, the fact that I don’t use it as often as I once did only makes Youtube more interesting to me.

What are your biggest writing or other distractions in life? How do you deal with them?

4 Responses to My Top Five Distractions and How I Deal with Them

  1. One thing I do that most of my friends think is peculiar is to keep social media OFF my phone. I check Facebook & Twitter & interesting blogs (like this one) ONLY when I’m at my desk. I use it as a purposeful distraction—a break for a few minutes.

    By limiting my access, I limit the time I spend on it and therefore keep it from distracting me all the time.

    It works!

  2. On a tangent, speaking of the fireplace video, my brother used to live in Singapore and it’s obviously impossible to have a fireplace there, so he used to enjoy watching a video of a roaring log fire and imagining he was sitting in front of one. I thought it was silly but on reflection it does make sense that an expat would want something like that!

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