As writers, we’ve all struggled with people, thoughts, and objects constantly distracting us while writing. In my case, it’s an energetic 5-year-old who loves interrupting me to show me stuff like the dragon egg she painted as soon as I sit down to write. However, there are plenty of other interruptions in our lives.
Thankfully, there are as many ways through which you can reduce and even eliminate these distractions to make an environment for yourself to maintain a steady focus on the writing task at hand. Here are ten effective ways to ward off any distractions while you write.
Turn off notifications
Screens are distracting. And so are the constant pings from our phones that we’re habituated to respond to. Blocking out any distractions such as your phone or Chrome’s notifications sounds is important whether you’re typing on your laptop or writing on paper. If you turn off Chrome notifications, you can avoid any aural or visual distractions that might break your focus.
Prep yourself to start writing
How you prep yourself depends on what you’re writing. If you’re writing a poem, short story, or fictional piece, you’d prep yourself by having an idea about how the narrative would flow.
If you’re writing a research essay or an informative piece, the research required to be able to write informed and rational arguments would be your prep. So before you start writing, have the necessary knowledge at hand needed to write without any abruptions.
Have a dedicated writing space
A dedicated writing space can be great to maintain focus and avoid distractions. In this space, your mind is aware that it’s meant to think only about the content to be written. Similar to dedicated workspaces, your writing space must be a place that is well-lit, aerated, and that supports a good working posture.
Keep the area clean
Messy workspaces act as deterrents to productivity. Before you sit down to write, keeping the area clean and organized can help you avoid the itching thought of wanting to clean up your workspace while you’re writing. On your desk, keep as few items as possible, restricted to writing necessities and nothing else.
Eat before you write
Studies have shown that sitting down to work on an empty stomach reduces work efficiency. You’d be low on energy, your brain wouldn’t have enough glucose to function at high capacity and you’d constantly be distracted by your growling stomach. Instead, have a satisfying snack (but not a full meal, as this will probably send you napping if you’re anything like me) before you sit down to write so that the only thing that holds your attention is your writing.
Pick a time to write daily
Most often, writers are encouraged to write first thing in the morning when the mind is fresh. While this works for a lot of people, some prefer to write in the afternoon or even late at night, when all is quiet. Experiment with different times and find the best time for you to write.
Find a specific time and make it a habit to sit down every day to write during that time. Ensure that this writing time doesn’t clash with other appointments. This way, you’d be training your mind to only write during those hours.
Have nothing else to do
When you sit to write, you shouldn’t be distracted by any other engagements that you’d have to simultaneously attend to. Finish everything and, once you’re done, sit down to write. You’d only be wasting time if you start writing and are thinking about the dishes that need to be washed. Once you have no other tasks to attend to, sit down peacefully to write.
Consider listening to music
It may not work for everyone, but listening to music may benefit you in getting your mind in the mood to write. White noise or lo-fi music that mostly consists of soft beats and sounds doesn’t distract you from your work while helping you block out any noise in the background and create a space to focus on writing.
The more you use such music while writing, the more you’d be training your mind to focus on work every time the music is played.
Sitting in one stretch and aiming to complete your writing tasks may not be the most productive way to go. Over time, your mind would grow tired and by taking a break, you’d give yourself a much-needed break to get back to maximum efficiency.
You can either use a timer or methods such as Pomodoro, to schedule breaks for yourself to get up and stretch your mind and body at regular intervals.
Meditate before you write
Having a clear and focused mind can really help in writing. Meditation is a wonderful mindfulness practice that you can do before you sit to write. A simple 10-minute meditation session before you write can help you center yourself, ready yourself for your writing task, and even get in touch with your creative side.
Hopefully, these 10 ways will help you block out most of the distractions that derail your writing progress. Keep these in mind and put them into practice every day to reap the benefits. Continue to develop a writing space for yourself and be mindful before you sit down to write.
Great tips, Nicholas. I’ve used a timer (shaped like a penguin 😂). It helps me to define my writing window.
Now I want a penguine-shaped timer 😀
Hi Nicholas, As a work from home Instructional Designer (Content developer with niche in adult learning) I write for a living. These tips help. I have tried working on empty stomach, it never works. I think one very important tip to add is 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night hours. Sleeping during the day and staying up at night dries my creative juice. And if I don’t sleep right, I end up sleeping at my desk 🤣
Oh, I couldn’t agree more!!! The wee one was waking up every single night for almost 2 years and I’m still recovering from that…
A wealth of great tips. Some which I regularly practice and a few that work some times but not others. It’s always in getting that sense of what works and doesn’t at any moment.
How true! I like how you go with the flow there 🙂
I’ve started using a little but loud timer. It helps me concentrate on writing (even if I end up throwing it all away!), AND it helps me get up and move after 35-40 minutes! A two-fer.
Thanks for sharing the timer tip, Sarah! Marcia was saying how useful a timer is for her, too.