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Article Marketing Tips: 5 Ways To Avoid Getting Sidetracked While Writing
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Here are some tips for not getting sidetracked when you're writing...

It’s so hard to keep your mind on just one thing.

The kids are home from school, the TV is blaring, the telephone is ringing, there’s someone at the door, the dog is barking, the buzzer for the dryer is going off, and in the back of your mind you’re trying to figure out what to do for your daughter’s 11th birthday party next week.

Even if you’re home alone, the telephone, chores around the house, skype, Twitter, Facebook, and other distracting things on your own computer can lure you away from your writing.

Such are the joys of working from home!

Really, it is great to work from home, but there are some special accommodations that you need to make in order to protect your writing time.

This post will teach you 5 ways to avoid getting sidetracked while writing.

1 – Set some boundaries at home.

When you go to an outside office, there are automatic boundaries. When you’re working from him, you need to create some makeshift ones that will tactfully but firmly tell your housemates that you are not available. Have a definite writing time that is protected and some understood communication signals. For example, a closed door means that you need to be left alone for a while.

2 – If you can, go to a quiet, isolated place to write.

Some days writing from home is just too much of a challenge. Maybe there’s a lot of activity going on, or maybe your patience is running thin that day, or maybe no one is bothering you but your mind is still trying to creep away in a million different directions.

Try working “off site”. Go some place where it’s relatively quiet and where you can be left alone. The library is always a good choice. The cafe or coffee shop is noisier, but sometimes it’s easier to concentrate there than at home.

3 – Learn to write on the fly.

You’re in a dentist’s waiting room.

You’re sitting in the car waiting for your daughter’s tennis practice to end.

You’re at a restaurant waiting for your take-out to be ready.

There are all sorts of times when we find ourselves available to be doing something productive. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to whip out a notepad and start writing? Sometimes it’s not about protecting your writing time–sometimes it’s about letting your writing time creep into the other activities of your day.

4 – Eliminate as many distraction as you can.

Turn your phone off, close all other applications on your computer, turn your IM program off, close your email, along with anything else that might intrude in your thoughts. When you sit down to write, make it just about you and the sheet of paper or document you’re writing on.

5 – Create a sound barrier.

If you’re working in a setting where there are noises that are distracting but that you can’t do anything about (say the construction workers jack hammering on the street outside your office), it may help to just create your own “noise” to cancel out the noise that is irritating you.

You can try one of those white noise machines, or put on some of your favorite music (an iPod works great!).

Alternatively, you could also wear earplugs.


Writing takes intense focus along with creativity, and most of us struggle with getting sidetracked and distracted by other more demanding or pleasurable activities. There are some easy practical ways to help you stay focused, but it also takes some good old fashioned communication with those you live with and getting some boundaries around your writing time.

We’re going to cover a bit of a related topic in the next post–how to stay focused when working from home with kids in the house.

Next time I’ll share my tips on that. (Out of my four children, three have been born while I’ve been running my own business, so I have more than a little experience!)

Let’s save that for next time though. For now, let me ask you:

What are your tips for not getting sidetracked while writing?

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10 Responses to “Article Marketing Tips: 5 Ways To Avoid Getting Sidetracked While Writing”

  1. Sherloc says:

    Very good and extremely logical tips.

  2. Murali says:

    Being unfocussed is the best thing in creative writing . Once you are quite settled in the basic idea M argument or topic, let go . That would help in a free in and out flow of ideas, images,arguments,words and frames. Neighbour’s barking dogs, jolts of a ricketty carriage, shopping assignments knocking at the door are all welcom prods that can waft in unforeseen deftness , charm and lucidity to your writing.

  3. Debbie says:

    I have a blog-writing slot on a Saturday morning. I take my daughter to her Irish dancing class and I have exactly one hour in a cafe with a cup of coffee and my ipad.

    The day before, I set myself two or three blog titles to write during that slot then I sit down and rattle them off.

    The fact theat the slot is time limited makes it much easier somehow – I have nothing else to do , nowhere else to go, but as soon as that hour is up I have to go back to my family again.

    I have done a lot of my best stuff in little time slots like that.

  4. Cassie says:

    Hi, thanks for the article Steve. Working at home when the kids are on holiday and avoiding the exciting latest info on Facebook is not easy! Here are my tips for staying focussed:

    1. Always have a plan of what you need to achieve that day. Even 3 things jotted on a post-it note next to your desk. I’ve currently set myself a 90-day challenge and some of my goals are to write an article a day, 2-3 blog posts a day and to visit, contribute and comment on 2-3 forums or blogs a day. That keeps me pretty focussed as I know I’ll make money if I stick to the plan.

    2. Eat that frog. Do the least palatable task first. I find writing articles takes the most time so I do that first. I don’t allow myself to do anything else until I’ve written and submitted my new article every day.

    3. I make agreements with my kids that when we come back from a day out, and maybe before we go, I have an hour of uninterrupted working time. Once we’ve agreed that they are pretty good at keeping to it.

    4. Promise yourself a reward for when you’ve finished your 3 important tasks for the day. I might go and play with my dog for a while, take the kids out for an ice-cream or just sit and drink tea in the garden for a while. Make sure you take a break though, you’ve earnt it!

  5. Jurgen Wolff says:

    1. Unplug your router–the less internet temptation, the better.
    2. Decide at the start of the session exactly what you plan to achieve and set a timer.
    3. If you find you need to research something, just put an XX in the manuscript and go back and do that later.

  6. Sheila says:

    Great tips! I’m lucky in that I’m a night owl, so I work a lot late at night and the early morning hours. Less distractions at those times. But sometimes I have to remind myself to just take a break when I’m really frazzled. I think we all need to remember how important that is, just to refresh your mind.

  7. I have set goals for myself to post to 3-4 blogs per day, 3.4 forums per day and write an article. I have an office that I go into when I’m ready to start working on completing these projects. My family have been told that when the door is closed I am at work, and they are not to interrupt me.

    That works out well for me.

  8. Good article. We all have to live with life’s surprises. How we live with them changes us in a positive or negative way. I have chosen to keep it positive and things that need to be done are done by this one woman owner.

  9. Jacqueline Conte says:

    Great article…re-enforcing and confirming my approach as well. I have found it helpful to set a certain time each day (afternoon works best for me) to “go to work” just like when I was reporting to an office. It helps me get the rest of the day organized too.

  10. Jaylyn Huson says:

    Thank you so much for the excellent article Steve and to everyone for your comments. My kids are grown and not a distraction. My distractions are my animals and farm, something or someone always needs my attention. My writing is best early in the morning (4am) or late at night (11pm) with my 17 yr old cat purring in my lap. During the day, my writing is best done outside in one of my gardens or out in the woods. Yes writing on the fly is great. I always have paper and pen with me when gardening or on the tractor, especially then as my mind opens and the creative juices are flowing. Thank you for asking.

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