Distractions and How I Handl…SQUIRREL!

My procrastination skills are Olympic medal worthy. It’s a small miracle I ever finished a book, and kept my family clothed and fed. Miracle. I can waste a day without even opening a browser window, so when I do have internet access – I’m looking for the next squirrel to chase.

As an avid pop culture fan, there is always a TV show or new movie, or even the latest author meltdown to read about (seriously people – STAY CLASSY and DON’T FEED THE TROLLS). I have a constant stream of publishing news to follow – and sometimes I just need to google images of attractive men for writerly inspiration.

You get the point, dear reader, it doesn’t take much to send me chasing squirrels. While I think a little squirrel chasing is good for creativity, sometimes I actually have deadlines, so I’ve developed a few tactics when I need to buckle down and get work done (which is happening a lot more lately).

squirrelYou knew I was going to use this gif.

Set a timer. When I have a long list of tasks to accomplish, I give myself 30 minutes to work on each – be it to draft a blog post (like this one), search for the fun gifs to put in them, or respond to email. Having a ticking clock keeps me on task. I even build in some squirrel chasing time so I can watch that video of baby goats bouncing on each other.

Music. I have many different playlists – and creating them is its own form of distraction, but I find that if I have music playing, I’m more productive. Something switches in my brain that says “Time to get shit done.” This works for cleaning too.

Going full screen. That little alert that pops up when I have an email or Twitter mention is like Chris Evans running past my window sans shirt – I have to look. By setting my Scrivener or Word window to full screen, that little bubble is hidden. What I can’t see, can’t distract me. But if Chris Evans does run by shirtless, please let me know.

Get out. When I write at home, it’s easy to get distracted by housework (you know I’m really procrastinating when I start cleaning rather than writing). When I find myself tidying instead of working, I head to Starbucks. I don’t go to my favorite local shop, because then I’ll see too many people I know. I specifically go somewhere people won’t talk to me. And once I’m there, I feel the need to accomplish something to make the trip worthwhile.

Sweet Freedom. As a last resort, I use an app called Freedom. I think it’s only available for Macs, but I’m sure there are similar programs for Windows. In Freedom, I enter a length of time and the app cuts my internet connection for that duration. It’s the last resort method when I really need to get busy and find my self-control is lacking.

So, dear reader those are my tips for handling distraction. What do you do to stay on task? While I wait for your responses, I’m going to google some inspiration.


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Amy Reichert

Amy E. Reichert is the author of THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, July 21 2015), about food, love, and second chances, and where serendipity comes in the form of a delicious coconut cake. Find out more at amyereichert.com.

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This article has 13 Comments

  1. Great suggestions! I have to shut down the internet and silence my phone when I am writing. I like to have the tv on in the background. Not sure why-I don’t really listen to it. I also like to take quick walks around the neighborhood for about 10 minutes every 2 hours. I find it clears and organizes my thoughts and I can be more productive.

  2. Great suggestions. I have recently discovered that music does help me stay focused more. But Im really going to have to check out that Freedom App.

  3. This is so funny! And I totally relate to the “Squirrel!” thing. It’s so bad that it’s a joke between me and my husband. We do it in the hardware store all the time. Go in for gardening hose and get distracted by paint supplies, then one of us says, “Squirrel!” I’m going to have to get him to do that when I’m not writing.

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