How to overcome Distraction Syndrome

When I started writing it was before social media and before every home had the internet. My parents never got the net while I was still living there and though I did get it when I moved out, the internet was a lot different than it is now.

Chatting with friends was done via MSN or AOL messenger rather than on platforms like Facebook.  Everyone used Yahoo as their search engine because Google wasn’t around.

If you searched for anything you got interesting web pages right on the first page.  Not tons of ads and some of the rubbish you get now that doesn’t even link to anything you’re actually looking for.

That being said I don’t hate the internet but I have noticed a change.  Both in its use and its effect.


Distract Me

Despite the fact I ran several busy Yahoo Communities and usually had about 10 chat windows open at once, in those early years I go so much done.  I could write well over 1000 words a day (even on days where I was working full time and maintaining my house).

It was nice to be able to interact with friends in chat or group IM convos together and have a brainstorm.

As the years have moved on I find the internet (among other things) has become a real distraction.  Not to mention an addiction.

I had a blog on OpenDiary that was private and set to allow about 10 people to view it. Again this became a small enjoyable community and I had a website that allowed me to meet some great people who became close friends.


Typical Day online

Almost every day I will check my emails.  Please note I CHECK the emails but I almost never reply to any or even file/delete any.

No, I seem to like the punishment of checking emails for about a week before getting overwhelmed with the amount in my inbox and spending hours clearing through.

I check my shop.  Understandable as it’s a business with orders to be processed and shipped.  But I check my shop a little too often and refresh my stats page more than I should.

I check my blogs but until recently was not updating them as much as I should have been.

I check deviantArt though I am almost never in the frame of mind to reply to all the comments.

I check the news.  I hate the news, it really depresses me and I could do without it every day.  But it’s become a habit.

I will then usually repeat all this, almost immediately (after all, I may have received a new email….that I am not ready to reply to!)

If I’m being good I will log in to my degree module I’m studying to check where I should be up to.


Attention Span?  What Attention Span?

It has been suggested that due to short bursts of programmes on TV (most 30min shows are actually less than 20mins when you remove the ads) that we are losing our attention span.

The internet also does this and worse, if your broadband takes more than like 10 seconds we are all raging.

We will open multiple tabs to check things all at the same time.  While waiting for an email to load we dive to another tab and check the forum…

Sound familiar?

I caught myself doing this recently and was shocked at just how bad I had got.  Locked in the obsession of finding something else to check.

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How often have you spent HOURS online without actually being able to clearly account for your time?

We jump from page to page, one article leading to another, the first barely being read before we move on.

For over a year my writing has suffered.  I find myself struggling to focus long enough to actually WRITE them.

This is affecting everything – writing, studying, my business, my full-time job.  I have a lot of balls in the air and am struggling to even focus on them, never mind keep them up there.


What Can Be Done?

Acknowledge the problem

Acknowledging the problem is the first step.  Think about yourself, do you do the above?  Do you jump between tabs, flit endlessly on the internet, check your phone every few minutes just in case a text message slipped through when you coughed?


Try and notice when you’re actually doing it.  When you realise, stop, pull back and wait.  If you are jumping between tasks and not giving anything true focus.  Stop. Shut all but one of your browsers, and focus on just one thing.

Wait or Step away

If you find things take time to load, force yourself to wait or step away.  Have a list of things to do away from the computer, that can be done while you’re waiting.

Make a list

Before you go online if you have actual things to do like checking emails, checking bank balances etc.  Make a list then do those things first.

Decide on your time

Do you want to spend 2 hours on Pinterest or Facebook or a forum?  If you do, fine but plan it!  Otherwise, limit your time to say 30mins.  Get a timer, put it on and go.

Switch off

If you have finished being on the computer, close it.  Don’t leave it “just in case” because you will find an excuse to go back online.

The same can be said for your phone.  If you aren’t expecting a call and don’t really need it, switch it off, put it on silent, put it in another room.

Understand you might fail

When you realise you are suffering from Distraction Syndrome your brain will fight your attempts.

You will find your mind flitting between tasks, trying to remind you of all the things you need to do.  Give your mind some quiet time.

A Day Without

If you can, try and go a day without the internet or your phone.  Even better if you can make this a weekly thing.  Or try a cut-off such as no internet except between 8pm and 10pm every day.


Writer’s Folly

We writers are living many lives.  Characters that are important to us are always beneath the surface.

Their stories, personalities, sorrows, joys are always present.  Add to that life’s responsibilities and everything else, then distraction can be very damaging.

After all, we need time and energy to release these characters, to tell their stories before we become weighed down by them.

Share your Thoughts image.

Happy writing

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7 thoughts on “How to overcome Distraction Syndrome

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    1. Hi John, firstly I am sorry this reply is coming so late. I lost touch with this blog when other things in my life became a little overwhelming. However now I am back on my feet this blog and its followers are getting my attention.

      I am so glad you found this post useful. I find with Distraction Syndrome it is almost a constant battle. We are just so surrounded by these distractions that we have to always be vigilant not get get sucked back in.

      I hope you were able to push back against your own distractions. 🙂

      In case you are interested, this blog is now being updated every Friday at 18:30 (BST). I have several posts already written and listed that are scheduled so this frequent updating will definitely happen this time.

      Also, if you have any questions do please ask as I am looking at maybe starting some mini posts called Ask the Writer for smaller questions that won’t fit as a full tutorial.

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