Distractions Abound by Cari Lynn Webb

School started this week. Swim team resumed two weeks ago. Our dog returned from her vacation at grandma’s house. And suddenly as summer ended, the distractions multiplied.

I’m under deadline right now-my focus should be centered on getting words on the page. Not the rust spots on my ginger lilies. Or the aphids that discovered my hibiscus. Or the latest Cool Whip recipe I found (confession: I’ve been on a bit of a Cool Whip frenzy – I never knew there were so many recipes out there - really good ones too.)

Then there’s the real distractions - the ones that can’t be put aside like managing the high school swim team (I was only supposed to oversee the volunteers, but it quickly expanded into more) or the hunt for the correct calculator for Algebra and Chemistry (the Wal-Mart employee looked me in the eye and told me the calculator I was looking for had most likely been stolen. Seriously. And so, began the calculator search because and this is a direct quote from my daughter: I have to have that one. Specifically. The teachers said so in class.)

Then there’s the everyday distractions: what’s for dinner. Grocery runs. Laundry. The dog discovering the snacks left in my daughter’s lifeguard bag and helping herself to a snack day-not the best option for her sensitive stomach. Let’s not forget phone calls from dear friends, Facebook and TV.

Here’s a sobering stat – once you’ve been interrupted, it takes more than twenty minutes to regain your focus. That helps explain why it’s easier to remain unfocused and distracted throughout the day.

I’ve often read that I need to set boundaries for my family, establishing my writing time. Funny that my family is fairly respectful of my writing time and understanding. Now that they are back in school, it’s even better. That means I need to point the finger at myself – I’m the problem. It’s really true – I haven’t quite mastered the art of saying No.
What’s the solution? A good plan. So here’s mine:
  1. Recognize my distractions (I’ve recognized I have a distraction problem, now I need to pinpoint those specific distractions and take care of them first before I sit down to write.)
  2. No more eating at my desk (or writing space). Leave the eating in the kitchen. This advice speaks to me – I start eating at my computer and within minutes I’m searching the internet for recipes. I love finding new recipes to try. No more recipe searches while writing.
  3. Master Attention Management – I like this term. I haven’t heard it before. I get to skip the multi-tasking and concentrate on single tasking to manage my attention. Taking it one task at a time.
  4. Schedule breaks. But make the activity different to give my brain a break from writing. My dog will be partial to this one … walking outside has been a long-time favorite break.

Well, that’s the plan and it looks like a good time to start. Before I open my internet browser and search for dinner ideas. How do you manage distractions? Let me know so I can expand my plan.

Happy Reading! Hope the rest of your summer is distraction free!
Cari Lynn Webb

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  1. I have a separate computer for writing and so I can't start internet surfing without moving locations. That helps. But I'm good at zoning out on games, so I have to ration myself. Sometimes, if I'm not getting anywhere on one project, I switch to another, since I've always got several in progress. Ironically, I can sometimes focus on one that I've previously considered a lower priority (less pressure?).

  2. I like these tips, Cari, especially the Master Attention Management, which I must try as I’ve always been a big multi-tasker. Aren’t all mothers at some point in their lives? I also think setting timed breaks to move around is good. I find my house gets more cleaning done when I’m working on a book! :)

  3. I like the tips, too. As far as how I manage distractions, I just...oh, look, squirrel...

  4. Cari, LOL. The Wal-Mart story and the case of the stolen calculator? Dying... I also have a distraction problem of my own making. I like to schedule breaks but that doesn't always work out either. They have a tendency to, um, run long. Somehow, my allotted half-hour for lunch turns into two as I find all kinds of things that need to be done. The interruption/focus statistic is pretty sobering. I get interrupted/interrupt myself a lot. I like your plan. I think analyzing my own distractions is a great idea and a good place to start.

  5. I can be distracted and I live alone! But I remember how pulled I felt raising a family--this need here, that demand there. Work-life balance seemed so hard to imagine, especially working from home. But it's part of daily life now. Everyone talks about, but good for you for actually addressing distraction.

  6. Cari, I love this! One of my distractions is reading. If I allow myself a reading break after lunch, and I've been on a binge this summer (so many great books), well, there goes the afternoon. It doesn't help either to have my hubby at home. He's prone to wandering into my office for a chat--and breaking my concentration. Twenty minutes...or more to regroup, especially if I was in the middle of a scene when he appeared. I'm experimenting right now. My closed office door seems to help. A bit.

  7. I can relate. I hope you found the calculator. Sounds like you're getting a handle on the problem, though. Great tips. Someone recently mentioned she writes in 500 word chunks. When the 500 are done, she can take a break. I like the idea of chunks, particularly if I put the chunks on a to-do list and can cross them off. There's something very satasfying about crossing things off a list.

  8. I completely believe it takes 20 minutes to get focused again after a distraction. It's the reason I can't write when my children are in the house. I like your tip about mastering attention management. I learned a long time ago that I'm awful at multi tasking. It's too hard and makes me feel frazzled. Focusing on one task for a long period of time is such a pleasure.


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