Life Coach Magazine

The Evolution of Distractions (and Wasted Time)

By Writerinterrupted @writerinterrupt

The Evolution of Distractions (and Wasted Time)My distractions have evolved many times over the course of my writing journey.

At first they were obvious: toddlers. I had two kids under the age of two and clearly could not write while either were awake. This offered a crisply defined line between writing and everything else. Naptimes provided neatly packaged blocks of time dedicated to my craft – or at least what was slowly being molded into a craft. Full schedules force intention. I was deliberate and purposeful with every moment.

As the kids grew and changed, so did my schedule. They learned to occasionally respect my writing time (We had a rule that if Mama was working, you had to wait quietly by her side until the typing stopped.) and I, by necessity, learned to adjust my writing habits (For example, I couldn’t type for three straight hours when a trying-to-be-patient child stood at my side.). No longer did I have a built-in hour or two of quiet solitude every day. Instead I navigated preschool schedules and ballet classes with food allergies, speech therapy and learning how to raise two very spirited children with entirely opposite temperaments. All while being completely consistent (Ahem.) and grasping what remained of myself.

The latest evolution has proven most surprising. One would think that, when my distractions – I mean “children” started full-day school and I was granted six kid-free hours, five days a week, that my productivity would sky-rocket. One would be wrong.

You see, all sorts of other distractions, that I never had time for before, have now become unmistakably attractive. The horizon sparkles with hours and hours of free time making procrastination a perfectly logical option. A fifteen-minute break to play Scrabble on my Kindle Fire turns into an hour of Angry Birds or three hours reading a novel that has nothing to do with any of my current projects.

But never fear! Discipline does eventually show its saving face. It requires that I leave my Kindle upstairs while I work downstairs. Problem solved.

Well … until I check email and Facebook and Twitter. There I see at least twenty blogs that I must reference. Oh, those link to another twenty articles I absolutely must read and – Are you hungry? Hmmm … yes. I should get some food.

I can’t waste time just eating, so I’ll grab a book to read, which, of course, is on my Kindle, so I’ll bring it down just for lunch. After lunch, I dutifully hide my Kindle so I won’t be distracted. I check my email again. And then Facebook and Twitter and … by 2 P.M. I realized I haven’t done any writing. (Much less housework.) Of course, it’s almost time to pick up the kids and what can I really get done in just twenty minutes? I throw a quick load into the washer, finish the dishes and … well, I could check email again. Or just play Scrabble for a few minutes.

This all sounds pretty pathetic, I know. Those of you who must squeeze writing time between family time, community obligations and ten hours a day at a real job are probably quite annoyed at my posh, little, spoiled life here. But I’m not alone! In fact, one survey estimated that 45% of workers cannot go more than 15 minutes without being distracted. ADD is losing ground to “Online Compulsive Disorder.” Unfortunately, mobs of undisciplined people and learning disabilities do not make desirable company.

The good news: Just as my distractions evolve, so must my solutions.

SOCIAL MEDIA: I’ve decided that I am not that important. I worry that if I don’t check email and facebook and twitter several times a day, I’ll miss something critical. The truth is that whatever is there, will still be there tomorrow. If someone needs to reach me immediately, they can use the phone. (Most people remember what those are, right? And how to use them?) In essence, all this time-wasting is simply an inflated sense of self-importance. And I’m not that important.

NEWS, BLOGS & ARTICLES: I’ve also decided that checking blogs, forums and reading articles should never take all day. I choose an allotted time-frame, say one hour, and set a timer. When the bell dings, windows must close. Whatever didn’t get read or responded to, can wait until tomorrow.

EMAIL: Same thing with email. Unless I’m writing a vital message to an editor or client, I should be able to answer all the day’s pertinent notes without sweating over phrasing and punctuation. This should never take more than twenty minutes.

FRIVOLITIES: As for those real distractions — updating my Google background, viewing friends’ photos, shopping for a handbag I really don’t need, contemplating a truly witty Tweet — well, all those can be done while my kids tackle their homework.

My stopwatch may become my new best friend.

YOUR TURN: How have your distractions and solutions evolved over time? What are your favorite tricks to recapture wasted time?

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