You’ve heard of Alien vs Predator.
You’ve heard of Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus.
You might even have heard of Kramer vs Kramer, if you’re old enough.
Now introducing: Distraction vs Freelancer
Rewind your mind to Monday last week, and jump into the terrifying depths of my brain…
I need to write a blog post. But it’s Monday morning. And it’s sunny outside.
Aaaand we’re off! Sunny outside? Distraction takes an early lead at 1-0. In fact, make that 2-0. I did just spend ten whole valuable minutes looking up films with ‘vs’ in the title, after all. What a great start.
I know. I’ll write about how utterly distractable I am today.
Is “distractable” even a word? Apparently not, but I’ve used it before, and it should a word, so it’s staying in. 3-0…
Things are looking good. I’ve written a whole 116 words (and rising). Perhaps I’ll try the ‘just keep writing and the momentum will set in’ approach.
Woohoo, I’m starting to catch up! 3-1
The ‘just keep writing’ thing is working.
I’m on a roll.
And then… it stops. Maybe it’s lunchtime. Is it lunchtime yet? It must be lunchtime.
Right. Keep it together, Megan. You can have lunch in a bit. You need to write a bit more first.
I look out the window at the birds flapping on the roof opposite. Tuning into nature is good for the soul, right?
OK, OK, OK, FOCUS.
Right. So what’s the blog going to be about? It can’t JUST be about being distracted.
Maybe it should be about ways not to be distracted. That would be relevant to my own day AND useful to other freelancers.
Our post has a purpose, people. Let’s go!
5-2. The gap is closing.
If you’re reading this, you no doubt know that distraction is a struggle most freelancers deal with on a daily basis. It’s not just freelancers, either. Everyone struggles with it.
But arguably it’s a bit harder for a freelancer who works alone and is meant to be in charge of their own productivity. I mean, if nobody’s going to have a quiet (or not so quiet) word about you sitting on the sofa watching kittens on YouTube for 6 hours of your 8 hour work day, what’s to stop you?
Ooh kittens. 6-2.
Distraction? Or lack of motivation?
For me, distraction and lack of motivation occupy similar places in my brain, but not the same space.
Those days when you just can’t get started? I’d say that’s lack of motivation winning out, rather than distraction. After all, if you can’t get started in the first place, you’re not being distracted from what you were doing, are you? I think it’s (lack of) motivation that’s at work when you sit down and just stare at the blank computer screen, gaze off into the distance, or go back to bed. And it’s also when you purposefully find other things to do so that you don’t have to work. Washing the dishes can be great fun when it’s stopping you from doing something else.
To me, distraction is different.
It’s when I want to work and I have the motivation, but my brain is distracted so easily by other things that I lose my focus every 20 seconds.
*spots bumblebee buzzing around outside the window and watches it, fascinated, for five whole long minutes*
But I have actually written a few paragraphs so let’s call it 7-3
There are plenty of articles on ways of dealing with lack of motivation (here are a few ideas to get you started!), but distraction is a trickier beast.
It helps if you can understand your distraction.
Sometimes you’re distracted because you’re tired (even worse if you’re hormonal). Some days you just have too many other things going on in your life. Other times it might be that your environment is distracting you.
Or it might just be a distractable-brain day with no real reason behind it.
The point is, if you have a think about what MIGHT be contributing to the distraction, you stand half a chance of dealing with it. Take a nap, cut yourself some slack, silence your phone, change where you’re working (or shout at the kids to turn the telly down), spend some time focusing on whatever life worries are dragging your brain away and write down some ideas.
It might help. But if not…
Make friends with distraction.
Rather than fighting it, embrace it. See it as a useful part of your personality, especially if you’re in a creative role like I am. Distraction is just your imagination running away with you, it’s your brain doing overtime and getting overexcited about every tiny movement out of the corner of your eye or getting lost in thinking about random things.
Imagination and ideas are invaluable in ANY job.
Wow I am ON FIRE now! This must be at least 7-5.
Hang on. I’ve been sitting at my desk for at least 30 minutes, and sitting is the new smoking when it comes to Bad Things That Will Kill You. Better get up and go for a wander around the room. 8-5.
Try mindfulness, if you’re open to that kind of thing.
Yes, it’s a kind of meditation, but there’s no chanting, no incense, no mantras and no nonsense. It doesn’t involve anything like this…
I find mindfulness really useful, when I can motivate myself to sit down and take the time to do it. It helps me find focus, most times at least.
Checks phone. Ooh 2 new Slack messages, 5 twitter notifications, 2 emails, 1 Linkedin message and 10 likes on Instagram. All in half an hour! Must keep on top of this… 9-5.
Makes tea. Which extends into lunch. 10-5. Oh dear. I was doing so well.
Actually, having lunch has made a world of difference. Let’s crack on. 10-6.
Take a break!
My lunchtime break was proof that it works. Sometimes, allowing the brain to be distracted for a while is all it needs. Distraction might simply be your brain’s way of asking for a pit-stop. Allow it to rest, and it’ll focus again for you when you sit back down at the keyboard.
So there you have it.
A whole blog post. Completed.
That’ll be 10-7, thank you very much.
Not only that, but distraction helped me on this occasion by giving me something to write about.
Make it 10-8.
AND I’ve managed to edit and proof it without getting distracted again.
I think you’ll find that’s 10-9!
Pictures found. Post uploaded. Ready to press publish.
I couldn’t have hoped for a win but we’ve come out evens so I’m happy!
Although… I was meant to be writing a completely different blog post. Got a bit distracted by this one though.