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« Coffee Break | Main | Setting Goals In Your Writing »

Avoiding Distractions While Working At Home

Thanks for your feedback about my goal-setting column last week.

From Roxanne Nelson, for example:

"I have a business plan, rather than goals. I do a variety of different types of writing, and my business plan has more to do with the amount of money that I want to earn per week, and the areas of writing that I want to break into.

For example, one of my goals this year is to start doing more corporate writing. I do have some weekly/monthly goals that I'm still tweaking, but they do include contacting XX number of new to me publications, businesses, companies per week."

Lynda agrees that the need to pay rent and similar goals is highly motivating. "I also find that setting goals to achieve consistent marketing of my corporate and magazine writing results in work which results in deadlines which results in The Fear. The Fear is a great cure for procrastination."

This week's Will Write For Column entry is about WRITERS OVERCOMING DISTRACTIONS.

I've found that one of the biggest challenges of being a freelance writer is learning to overcome distractions.

Distractions come in all many of shapes and forms, including:

- Housework. I'm generally not all that crazy about housework. If I've hit a tricky bit in a writing project, however, I'm suddenly overcome by a desperate need to vacuum and dust, go through an old storage area that has needed a thorough purging for months, or organize my workspace.

- The refrigerator. I'm big on "grazing," so resisting the lure of the fridge is a major challenge for me. I try to keep the fridge stocked with healthy snacks, and also try to have well-rounded meals so that I'm less likely to want to snack in between.

- Personal e-mail and non-work Web browsing. This can be a big challenge for work-at-home frelancers; I speak from experience! More on this topic in a future column.

- Phonecalls. Call display has become my saviour, though sometimes the caller id doesn't work and I'm forced to make an on-the-spot decision about whether or not to pick up the phone. I've started to purposely NOT answer the phone; I figure if the caller needs to speak with me urgently, they will leave a message.

Too often, I find that the caller is a telemarketer. I also try to avoid "chatty" phonecalls with friends during the workday. Beware of Time Vampires, especially those who assume that since you're not working in a "real" office, you have plenty of free time.

Happily most of my friends and family have been trained to respect the fact that even though I don't work in a regular office, I DO work; if they call during the day, the calls are short and to-the-point, and they aren't offended if I tell them I can't talk because I have to work.

Some tips on how to avoid distractions

1. Keep a work log. Try writing down how you spend your time each day, even down to the littlest details. It would be impractical to do this longterm, but even keeping this kind of log for a few days can be enlightening and occasionally horrifying.

2. Keep a weekly and a daily goal prominently displayed on or near your computer.

3. Use Call Display on your phone to screen calls. Or better yet, make a point to NOT answer phonecalls during certain parts of the day so you can focus on your writing. Schedule times during the day when you check your messages. Let friends and family know that this is what you're doing, and why.

4. If an unrelated task comes to mind when you're working on a particular project, write the task down on a separate sheet of paper or notebook devoted to that purpose and put it away until later. That way you know you won't forget it, but you also don't let interfere with your current work.

5. Keep your workspace as separate from the rest of your house as possible. At the very least, ask others in the household NOT to interrupt you during work hours and/or when you're at your desk.

Some useful online resources:

Secrets To Staying Focused In Your Home Office

Ways to Minimize Interruptions When You Work at Home

What kind of distractions are your biggest challenges? And how do you overcome them?

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