Shovelling snow -- one of the necessary distractions from writing. But can we solve the problem of needless distractions?

Distractions

Snow makes for winter wonderland, doesn’t it? I just wouldn’t want to have to shovel it!

Er, wait…

Snowblowing is a huge time-suck. It cut into the work day at least 12 times in January. I estimate that I spent about 32 hours total in the driveway. If you subtract a third of the month’s hours for sleep, that amounts to over 17% of my available time shovelling that beautiful wonderland. Then add in the hours of driving kids to and from school when the bus is cancelled, hockey tournaments, sickness, and a few dozen other little things that always come up. It’s amazing how much time those eat!

I’m not complaining – we all have time sucks. But I’m realizing in my quest to write mindfully that there are some distractions that are unavoidable.

Learning to Accept There Are Only So Many Hours – and Distractions Demand Many of Them

Prioritizing helps. If it’s going to be a snow day, then that is the first priority. I organize the day around that, including transporting kids, clearing snow, etc. Assuming no other emergencies come up, work is the next priority to ensure I get my minimum hours in.

Planning also helps to keep focus. It’s not rocket science, I know, but writing mindfully also means planning mindfully…!

However, it also means that some priorities, like working on the novel, just won’t get done some days.

I’m starting to accept this. My original New Year’s Resolution was to adjust my time management and be more efficient in the day. Easy, right? The both pleasant and unpleasant surprise is that time management isn’t my problem, necessarily. There has been improvement through mindfulness (I’m coming to that), but better time management can’t compensate for necessary distractions. As someone wise once told me, you can only do what you can do!

Making the Best of the Hours You Have by Limiting Needless Distractions

There are necessary distractions, but there are also needless distractions. Playing “Minesweeper” (which I haven’t played in 10 years or so) or checking the news to see if the world’s blown up yet (which I can do too often) are examples. Social media is another one, though thankfully that isn’t too much of a problem for me as I’ll explain in point #4 below.

I’ve come up with a few tricks for mindful writing so far that have really helped:

1. Lists. I’ve used lists off and on, and they’re effective. Some say that scheduling your day is even better, but I haven’t been able to do that yet. Lately, most of my work has been highly deadline oriented, i.e. stuff that needs done today. So, for the most part, it takes as long as it takes. But a list does help me keep focussed.

2. Turn off email. This is a classic one that everyone says, but that I’ve never done before. I used to be able to shift my concentration from one thing to another quite easily. Not so much anymore. So, if I close my email while I’m working, I focus better on the work in front of me, ultimately making me concentrate more deeply and work more efficiently. I check emails between list items.

3. Wear headphones. I listen to music when I’m novel writing, but not when I’m doing day-job writing. However, just putting my noise-cancelling headphones on without music helps me focus. My office is already quiet, so that’s not the issue. With headphones, it’s sort of like when you’re underwater and everything gets muffled and close. I find it’s easier to get into my head.

4. Leave my cellphone in my room. I’ve been doing this for a while, but it’s worth mentioning here. I don’t use my cellphone for work, so unless I need to be available for the kids or something, I don’t have it in the office. I do all my social media from my phone, so the bonus is that I avoid this, too.

I’m still playing with other ideas for mindful writing, so I’m sure there will be more to share later.

The Edits Update – Social Grooming for Higher Primates

People often ask me how the editing process is going. I tell them great – when I have the time to do them! (Please see the 700-odd words above… lol)

I am about two-thirds of the way through so far, though I expect the last third will be a little faster going. Thanks to the great feedback I got from my beta readers, there were a few changes that required major plot and character revisions from the start. Those deep changes aren’t quite as necessary in the last third.

Plus, the style and tone of the first half needed a lot of work. It was an experiment that wasn’t resonating with most readers, so part of what I’m doing is smoothing it out so the tone is more like the second half.

Assuming we get less snow in February (another storm is coming tonight as I write this, so we’re not off to a good start), I should be able to get a lot more editing in.

Total editing time for the month of January: 13.5 hours, which works out to getting down about every second evening. Not bad considering!

Until next time – keep writing!

~Graham

(Speaking of distractions, take a look at this TEDTalk video below…)

"Escape to Budgie" with Me!

Subscribe to the blog and never miss a thing.


* indicates required

I take your privacy seriously and will not share your email with anyone.

Comments 5

  1. Looks like today is another one presenting a distraction outside of your control there’s new snow on the ground this morning, and more to come.

    I like your strategy of checking messages between items on the list. I don’t shovel snow but I do respond to the dings on my phone all too quickly sometimes.

    All the best for mindful snow clearance…

    1. Post
      Author

      Yes — the snow keeps on coming, doesn’t it? Been out three times already, and another one or two to go before it’s over. Still, I managed to finish work (or, I will be soon enough) and I may actually get to some novel editing tonight! Plus, some posters…

      ~Graham

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks Autumne – it wasn’t ever a conscious decision, really — I usually leave my phone down unless I’m going out. But the few times I brought it to the office with me made me realize quickly what a useful strategy leaving it *out* of the office really is.

      (You know, when you’re as popular as I am, the damn thing goes off all the time… lol!)

      ~Graham

  2. One of the “benefits” of climate change seems to be we’re either in the grip of a drought or getting just as much precipitation as before — but more of it’s falling as rain instead of snow.

    Still, I feel your pain. When it snows, I burn a lot of hours moving snow. I’m not sure if I’d label it a distraction or simply an unfortunate reality. You decide.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *