It is so easy to be distracted these days. We live in an age where unless you’re in the mountains a thousand miles away from civilization you are constantly assaulted with a hundred different things vying for your attention. Like this status. Watch this video. Buy this product. Read this article. Support this cause. Take this quiz. Hear this song. Follow this person. It goes on and on and social media has made it so that the torrent never ends.
When I sit down and try to write something, why is it that I find myself constantly fighting the urge to check Facebook? Sometimes I get to the point where I am utterly disgusted with myself for my lack of ability to shut off and turn away. I want to produce something, but with so many methods of consumption offering a quick dopamine hit it is a constant challenge to stay on task. I would rather write a new short story than read another useless click-baiting trash blog of Huffington Post. Have I become an automaton dancing to the pied piper of the internet? I shudder.
Often I think that it must have been easier for the writers in the age before me to create their works. When Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea, he didn’t have email notifications popping up every five minutes. But on the other hand, he also didn’t have computers which make the writing process much easier in a lot of ways when you compare them to typewriters, and I can research any topic I need to for my book from the comfort of home thanks to the internet. So are we really worse of? Who is to say, but wanting for the past is pointless. Pandora’s Box has been opened and there is no going back now.
All we can do is adapt. In the law of natural selection, only those who can adjust to their new surroundings are the ones who survive. The writers of our generation must develop astounding powers of concentration and focus to fend off the armies of distraction assaulting the front lines of our consciousness. I have come upon a number of techniques to help me stay on task, even though the internet wants me to look at more cat pictures. They are obvious, but I hope you find them useful.
I have only done this a couple times because it is an extreme measure. If you really want to get some work done, unplug your modem and shut off your phone. By temporarily going off the grid, you can simulate the feeling of being in a world before the internet.
I am currently writing my novel on a typewriter. I have always had a fascination with doing things “the old fashioned way”, and this is about as old fashioned as it gets. The main advantage about this is that a typewriter only does one thing: it types. No email. No social media. No phone. For two hours I do nothing but write, and it has allowed me to be more productive and get more deeply focused on the story. If you don’t want to use a typewriter, try getting a cheap computer or laptop with no internet connection at all. Nothing but Windows and a MS Word.
Download A Little Help
If neither of these options appeal to you, there is software out there that temporarily cuts you off from digital distractions and helps you get down to business. Check out Freedom.
Have Some Discipline and Resolve
Nothing beats good old fashioned willpower. You can’t be a slave to every urge an impulse that crosses your mind. Close your browser window and when you think about checking social media, don’t. Don’t allow yourself to do it until your work is done. Think of it as a reward. Self control is a virtue that will benefit you in every area of life, not just work.