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Working on laptop with coffee and toast on bed with text overlay – Writer’s Block – how to beat distractions & procrastination

Writer’s block and beating procrastination.

5 distraction-busting tips to help you write with more confidence.

There’s nothing worse than sitting down to write that overdue blog post, bad-news email or persuasive sales letter only to be confronted by distraction. I’m not talking about a momentary burst of laughter by a colleague or a fleeting off-topic thought. Distraction can be a major road-block in getting that writing task off the ground and polished to a professional standard.

Here are five of the most frustrating distractions I’ve encountered during the writing process, and – short of locking yourself away (although I do cover this) – how to overcome them.

working on laptop with coffee and toast on bed with text overlay – 5 distractions to avoid when you’re writing – and how to beat them

working on laptop with coffee and toast on bed with text overlay – Writer’s block and beating procrastination – 5 distraction-busting tips to help you write faster and with more confidence

Writing distraction 1: People staring expectantly over your shoulder

Be it a nosey colleague whose desk is in perfect view of your screen, or the ‘stakeholders’ anticipating writing brilliance while they wait, having someone hover over your shoulder as you type has got to be the most intimidating and annoying distraction for anyone trying to string some decent words together.

Solution: We know it takes time, energy and focus to produce quality writing. So don’t feel pressured to perform on stage – tell your stakeholders you’ll come back to them. Explain you need time to think, marinate ideas and refine your words, and they’ll leave you in peace knowing they’ll get what they want – when you’re ready. As for the nosey colleague, tell them to get back to work (and rearrange the office layout after hours).

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Writing distraction 2: A noisy environment 

If you’re writing in an office, the din of chattering colleagues can not only annoy you to heightened levels of procrastination, it can also capture your attention. And if a café is your preferred work space, you’ll be faced with music, gossiping neighbours, interesting faces and general café clatter. Even in the solitude of an inspiring bush setting, interruptions come in the form of bird song, distant mowers or leaf blowers and, of course, the beautiful scenery.

Solution: It is possible to write well in a noisy environment – but you need to train yourself to zone out of the noise and into writing mode. If you can’t cope with background noise, you need to adapt. Change location or invest in some noise-cancelling headphones (with inspiring/relaxing music if you wish) or earplugs (my colleague did this!). As for the scenery, it sounds like you’re looking for excuses – see Distraction 5, below.

Writing distraction 3: Your thoughts 

Could you be your own worst enemy? Are emails, other work projects, social engagements, holidays dominating your thoughts? More debilitating: theories about your writing ability or confusion about what exactly you need to achieve. Nerves and writing don’t mix well and can really impact your ability to get the job done.

Solutions: Writing well requires concentration – and dedication. You need to be able to get in the zone. If other aspects of life are top of mind, now may not be the time to write. OR you need to shrug them off and focus on the task at hand.

And if self-doubt is a recurring theme, stop comparing yourself to others. Stop reading what’s already out there on your topic, or what the initial email said. Get back to writing basics and start thinking about what your reader wants and keeping it simple.

Writing distraction 4: Deadline pressure

With just 10 minutes to hit ‘send’ on your email or ‘publish’ on your blog post, that ticking clock in your head gets louder. Pressure of any sort can be stressful – and counterproductive to getting the best words down.

Solution: No matter how short the deadline, thinking about how little time you have makes the writing process more difficult – every time.

I’ve said it before – relaxation is paramount to finding your writing zone. So breathe, close your eyes and relax. Then write. Even when time is precious, a small break can do wonders to get you motivated and back in the zone. And if all else fails head to the loo (for relaxation purposes. Not saying this is my technique)!

Writing distraction 5: Mañana, mañana

There’ll always be a raft of small, time-consuming chores competing for priority. Add to that: research and more research, getting clearer on what your reader needs when you’ve finished the outline, reading the works of other writers, finding yet more ‘inspiration’… the list goes on.

Solution: There may be no getting away from this one – if you constantly convince yourself you’re still not ready to start writing, you may need to lock yourself away. Close the door, put your headphones on, meditate. Switch off those minor (but persistent) distractions and FOCUS.

What distracts you when you’re trying to write?
Leave a comment below.

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