12 Tips to Limit Distractions and Get More Done

The writer’s life gives you the freedom to spend your time as you like. For many, this is a dream come true …

No longer having to miss or even be late to your children’s activities.

Being able to care for elderly parents or family members that need extra care.

Taking the afternoon off to do whatever you want.

But there are challenges—like distractions you didn’t have when you were working outside the home.

You can have family wanting help with a chore or even just asking a question. Friends might call to chat.

What they don’t understand is that you’re working, even when staring at your computer screen. In fact, you are just about to come up with a grand idea.

Here are twelve tips for keeping distractions and interruptions at bay so you’ll get more done:

  1. Create a signal for when it’s okay to interrupt.

    An easy one is an open or closed door to make clear when it is or isn’t okay to interrupt. If the door scenario won’t work, come up with a different signal. A framed $100 bill (the first $100 I ever made copywriting) hangs over my desk when I’m in the “making money mode.” A “do not disturb” sign could work too.

  2. Ban housework during the day.

    It’s easy to get distracted by chores like laundry, not to mention family members asking you to help out cleaning up. You wouldn’t do housework during the day if you worked in an office. So let your family know that housework is off limits during your freelance business hours.

  3. Have a set schedule.

    Set business hours so your family and friends know when you are working.

  4. Leave the house when distractions are too much.

    Make a plan for the times when you really need to get things done. The house of a friend who is away all day, the library, or a coffee shop could work. Some libraries even have private rooms you can reserve.

  5. Use headphones.

    Play music that won’t make you want to sing along or dance around the room but can drown out noise.

  6. Find help when providing 24/7 care.

    If you have a family member who requires extensive care, set up a plan with other family members or with people in similar situations in which you timeshare duties. If a family member is sick or needs extra care, respite services may be available. Some even offer free or low-cost care for families with seniors, as well as handicapped or seriously ill family members.

  7. Schedule everything you do.

    Every day when my son comes home from school, he immediately shares the highlights of his day. Some days, it’s the touchdown he scored during recess. Other days, it’s a problem he’s having. I block out that time each day so I can be there when it’s most important to him. It’s only 10-15 minutes. However, before I scheduled this time, it sometimes felt like an unwelcome interruption. Scheduling also helped when caring for a family member dying from cancer. Set medication times and other scheduled tasks kept me from being distracted. Scheduling eases your mind when you’re writing so you don’t have to worry about forgetting something.

  8. Use a timer.

    This keeps you focused and helps family members see you are working. They should understand not to disturb you.

  9. Focus on one thing at a time.

    While multitasking may seem to save time, research shows that it actually makes you less efficient. And it causes stress.

  10. Shift your schedule.

    Many freelancers shift their schedule to times in the day when there are naturally less distractions—such as before everyone is up or after kids have gone to bed. For more ideas on how to balance family and business, check out my article 11 Tips for Achieving the Right Balance Between Your Freelance Writing Business and Your Family Life.

  11. Set up a win-win.

    Make a deal with your kids to take them somewhere they want to go where you can also work, like the park or the library. Let them know you’ll be sitting nearby. They can play as long as they don’t interrupt you. You’ll be able to focus on work while they focus on playing.

  12. Have an “emergency stash” of toys.

    Keep wrapped gifts hidden for those times when you absolutely need to get something done and can’t get away. Give your child one of the surprise gifts to entertain and distract them when you need it most. A movie, game, or a new toy works. But old favorites that haven’t been used in a while will do in a pinch.

As a freelancer, your success is determined by the amount of work you can bill each day. Implement these strategies for keeping distractions at bay, and you’ll find you are less stressed, more focused, and can get more done. As a result, you and your family will be happier. And you’ll be more productive and profitable. Let me know what works for you by dropping me a note below.

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Published: July 19, 2011

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