Since I have recently posted regarding social media with my book review of Are You There Blog: It’s me Writer by Kristen Lamb, I figured that I would stay on a similar topic and talk a little bit about how easy it is to get distracted when you write. I personally am like Hammy the squirrel when I write (sorry, just watched Over the Hedge). I have TweetDeck going in the background and continually get distracted by new articles and new shiny things to take my attention away from my story. Each of these distractions can take away precious writing time that I have set aside for myself.
With today’s forward advances in technology, it is easy to get pulled away from the tasks at hand. I know whenever my e-mails pop through on my Blackberry, the alert that my phone sends me forces me to check what it is. Now granted, I check because there could be an emergency at my dayjob e-mail that requires my attention, but it still pulls me away from the task at hand. My division manager has given us the task of reading a book by Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage, and in this book Achor talks about the 20 second rule. The 20 second rule basically states that if you put a barrier between yourself and your distractions, then your mind will not make the extra effort to go out of its way for the distraction.
An example of this explained in the book is trying to learn to play the guitar. Achor tested himself on his ability to form the habit of playing the guitar by trying to set aside time everyday over a 21 day period (the time it takes to form a habit). Initially when he began the test he had his guitar put away in his closet. Two weeks into the test he saw that he had only practiced for the first few days and then stopped, dropping back into the habits he had before of watching TV or doing other things. He then stuck his guitar in the middle of the living room where he could see it every day when he came home. He found that by simply moving the guitar from the closet into his line of sight, he formed the habit of playing on a daily basis.
Now, I don’t want you to go learn to play the guitar, unless it is something you want to do of course, but I think this principle can be used to show how easy it is to turn off our distractions. Put them in a closet, block them from your view, turn off your internet, turn off your phone, do something that makes it harder for your mind to fall into these distractions. Each second that you can add for it to take to get into these distractions, the less likely your mind is to wander and become distracted.
What types of items distract you when you try to write?