Are You Distracted?

Hi, SE Readers. Joan here today. I don’t know about you, but I consider myself blessed to live in the twenty-first century.

While I enjoy living a simple life, I’m thankful for modern technology, especially those things that benefit me as a writer. We have word processing programs and writing software. I can’t imagine writing an 85K word novel using a manual typewriter. For that matter, an electric one.

The internet enables us to conduct research from the privacy of our home. Not that many years ago, we would have needed to pay a visit to our local library.

Let’s not forget the era of self-publishing. We don’t have to be at the mercy of large publishing houses and agents. Anyone, with a little effort, can become a published author.

This is an era of instant information. We no longer have to wait for the evening news or the morning newspaper to know what’s going on in the world.

Long distance phone calls are a thing of the past. There are cellular plans that allow nation-wide and international calling. Need a phone number? No need for a phone book, just look it up on your smartphone.

Want to get a message to someone without speaking to them on the phone? Send a text or instant message.

Unless we’re in a remote location, we’re never disconnected. And therein lays the problem.

With all our modern technology, many of us struggle to meet our daily word count goal. Even though we discipline ourselves to spend “x” amount of time with email, social media, etc., we still come up short.

Often the things designed to make our lives more comfortable are the things that distract us most. One of the biggest culprits is our smartphone. For most of us, these little devices are never far away. We keep them on our desks and pull them out at restaurants.

In a boring meeting? Just grab your phone and visit Facebook or Twitter. Need to know something in a hurry? Ask Siri. We can get push notifications from any app including offers from your favorite restaurant, social media, and the latest news.

It’s so tempting to pick up that phone to view those notices. And if you’re a bit OCD like me, it’s hard to see those little red circles saying you have thirty new emails or ten new messages. The sad thing is once you clear them, they only start again.

Recently, I decided my phone was too much of a distraction. And while I often use it at work to text coworkers or communicate through fellow employees through a secured app, I don’t need it beside me all the time.

I turned off all sound notices except for texts, phone, and the hospital’s communication app. Rather than laying the phone next to my keyboard, I keep it on the credenza behind me.

Those annoying little circles? I adjusted my setting so they won’t show except for a couple of apps. That way I’m not tempted to open email or see what notice the local TV station pushed.

My writing desk at home is smaller, and while I do keep my phone close by, I often turn it upside down so that I can’t see those banners that flash across the screen. By doing this, I’m eliminating the temptation to check every little thing that comes across the screen. Even if I don’t read the latest news headline, checking the notice takes time.

Doing this umpteen times a day can cut into valuable time designated for writing.
The things I mentioned are simple steps we can take to help maximize our productivity.

We can decide which communication methods are best for us. My family knows to either call or text me if it’s something important. Even then, when I’ve set aside a time to write and don’t want to be interrupted, I’ll tell my husband not to call or text me unless it’s an emergency. And if we want to go completely off the grid, we can set our phones to airplane mode.

What about you? Is your phone a distraction? What methods do you use to maximize your productivity?

58 thoughts on “Are You Distracted?

  1. I’ve blogged (read as: complained) about this before. Completely agree. And I’ve removed devices, too. It’s a good call. (Har, I know. I’m hilarious.) There are already so many distractions in life and being surrounded by all this “convenient, time-saving” technology takes distraction to a new level.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We do have to train ourselves while having all the toys around us. It is so tempting to be in the middle of a scene and suddenly wonder who stared in last weeks episode of our favorite show. Meaningless trivia, news, texting and so on. We have to put on the breaks and remind ourselves our priorities.

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. This is an excellent post, Joan.I have one coming up next week about unplugging. It is so freaking easy to be distracted.
    I do keep my phone next to me on a regular basis, but I have very few apps set for notifications. I also make sure I “unplug” every weekend.
    I always think of our phones as a two-way sword—so needed, and yet such an intrusion into our daily lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mae, we must have been thinking alike. I look forward to your post. It’s important to unplug from those things that distract us. I agree about the phones. I remember the days when John and I traveled out of state a lot and would go camping. No way for anyone to reach us and his father wasn’t in the best of health. We made it a point to call home every couple of days. Now it’s hard to escape.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post. The Internet created more writers. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t bother if I had to use a typewriter and paper. I turned off all my notifications except text and occasionally the ringer. Only close insiders have those numbers, so they matter.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The only notifications I have on are texts and Slack (and only 2 of my 5 Slacks: SE and work)). I get way too many emails to keep that on. Family and friends know to call or text if they need something right away. I might not see an email for hours. But I need to stay available in case a loved one needs something. (Usually it’s my daughter, but even my husband has needed something during work hours.)

    I would get sidetracked by the notifications if I had them on, but I don’t. My problem lately is more self-inflicted. I’m at a difficult part in my WIP, so I look for reasons to set my work aside and do something else. Wish they made an app for that!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My phone is always on silent. I have my notifications on, but I rarely look at my phone when I am involved in writing or with family and friends. There have been times when I use paper and pen and then transcribe into Scrivener rather than have my computer open. Especially if I know I will be checking social media.

    Like most everyone, I believe social media can be a huge distraction. We also have a rule at my house, no cell phones at the dinner table. In my opinion, we need time away from the electronic age of instant gratification.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I only text and other messenger notifications, so the other apps are forgotten unless I go looking. Once I don’t use daily word counts, I don’t worry about a check every page or two. My goal is typically a section before a certain event too, so I’m working with a timer. Can’t eat lunch or dinner until I’m done with one scene. Son will be home soon, so I can’t dawdle. Some extra sleep would be nice, so hunkering down. That seems to keep me going. Though I don’t have that kind of time these days.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. An interesting read, Joan. You are right, it is social media and internet that have changed the lives of writers who now have accept to so many wonderful ways to do research and marketing but these things do also distract. Fortunately, I am a fortress of self discipline so I have signed times each day for specific things like writing, blogging and instagram and the rest of the day I can ignore them completely.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. With my phone, I use the DND (Do Not Disturb) feature a lot. Whenever I want to focus on what I’m doing (or who I’m with), I turn on that feature. That way, only those listed on my Favorites list (immediate family) can reach me. Everyone else can wait until I’ve finish giving attention to what/whom is in front of me. My biggest distraction (for lack of a better word) is my son. I know that sounds horrible, but… When he was younger, his bed time was 7:30 p.m. That allowed me time to spend a couple of hours writing at night. Now, that he is older, from 7 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. is our special bonding time (which I absolutely cherish). Unfortunately, by the time he goes to sleep at 9:30 p.m., I’m no longer capable of writing because I’m exhausted (I have to wake up at 5:45 a.m. to get ready for work). So, I’m having great difficulty finding pure writing time. I’m trying to fit it in wherever I can, but it’s been a challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cherish those times. They’ll pass all too quickly. I understand what you mean about being too exhausted to write. My day job requires a lot of concentration and there are times I come home too exhausted to write.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. My phone is silent and away from me where I can’t see it. When I write I expand my manuscript page to fill up the whole laptop screen. That way I have no distractions. When I take breaks, then I let myself check for texts and emails. The struggle for me is not to take forever checking emails!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I realized years ago when I was at a work-related conference that I was addicted to social media and such. I couldn’t wait for breaks so I could check things. A couple of months later, we went on a cruise and I refused to pay international roaming charges. Most of the time my phone was turned off and in our room safe. I only checked when we were in Alaskan ports. It was quite refreshing not to have that distraction.

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  13. I also turned off notifications to everything besides email and Whatsapp. Otherwise, I can’t stand it when I see those red circles! I also put my phone on do not disturb when I’m writing. It’s a process but I’m checking it less and less while I work.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I only use my phone as a phone … calls and texts, nothing else. So that’s not a problem. When writing, I use Scrivener’s compose mode so that it hides any email notifications until I exit that mode. I update my social media and check emails as my first job in the morning, and then not until the day’s work/writing is done. My biggest distraction is when dear nearly-hubby is home, lol. I used to write in an evening (my most productive time), but since becoming two, I’ve had to switch to daytime, hence setting myself a daily word count for the first time on this WIP, and it’s helping! Thanks for a fun post, Joan 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good for you, Harmony! Sometimes I think we were better off before smartphones. I know what you mean about the hubby distraction. When mine was home recovering from his surgery, he kept the TV on. Hard for me to concentrate and write with that. Now that he’s back at work (evening shift), my writing time has been more productive.

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  15. Luckily my phone isn’t really a problem. My main distraction is that I live and work in a Retirement Village (I manage it with hubby). This means 24/7 awareness of what’s going on in the village, 7 days a week. My desk happens to be in the front room, right behind the bay window where I can see the community centre. This means, every time I look up, I see who’s walking past, who’s driving through, who’s in my village! Talk about distracting. I’ve taken to closing the curtains on weekends so I can get some writing done without the temptation to look out the window. 🥴

    Liked by 3 people

  16. The phone can be a huge distraction. I ignore it when I’m writing. My family would prefer I answer immediately, but i don’t. I love when i go somewhere where there is no cell signal. It is convenient but it takes up a lot of time too.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I figure if a call is important enough, they can leave a message. If it’s an emergency send me a text! Fortunately, my family doesn’t call often, so when they do, I know it’s important. Other calls I ignore if I’m writing.

      Liked by 1 person

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