Unless you live alone, and I mean truly alone, without even a dog or cat or other pet, you’re going to have interruptions when you’re writing. The trick is to find ways to have time to do your freelance writing.
Here are 10 sure-fire ways writers can stop those distractions in their tracks.
- Set your office hours. Having office hours not only helps you with the writing discipline you need, it helps the people around you begin to take your working hours seriously. Making office hours also convinces you you’re in business.
- Tell your household what you’re doing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a spouse, small children or just roommates, you need to let them know your office hours and request they honor them. The people around you want to support you; you need to show them how. For example, you might want to say that between 8 a.m. and noon you are not to be interrupted unless there’s a genuine emergency.
- Get your household’s help in establishing the rules you need to support you. Actually getting your family and/or roommates to help you decide what the rules actually are concerning your office hours will help them honor those rules.
- Explain to friends you’re working. Make it clear to friends that you need their help and ask them not to call or drop in during your established writing time. Real friends will be delighted to help you this way.
- Turn off the phone. If you turn off the phone it won’t matter if someone calls. Some writers even explain when they answer calls putting something like “I return calls at 11 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon.”
- Put a notice on your front door. This is particularly effective if you’ve got neighbors who drop in unannounced. It also may stop some door-to-door sales people.
- Close your office door. If you’ve got a home office that allows it, shut the door! It sounds unfriendly, but it’s an effective reminder. Adding a sign with your office hours also helps – or try a do-not-disturb sign.
- Make it clear that getting a cup of coffee from the kitchen doesn’t mean you’ve stopped working. You’ve got the be able to get a fresh cup of coffee or use the bathroom without it being a signal that you can be interrupted. You’ll just have to include things like this in your rules.
- Establish predictable breaks when your family can touch base with you. If you’re going to be in your office for hours and hours it may also help to establish breaks when it is okay for your family to touch base. For instance, you might want to share lunch time.
- Where a silly hat when you’re working. People can’t tell when writers are working. It’s obvious when we’re actually typing or actually doing something, but those times when we’re just thinking look like ideal times to interrupt to others. This becomes particularly bothersome if you don’t have a separate office. One way to make sure they have a clue is to wear a hat or a colorful scarf during working hours. A visual clue like that can help people respect your needs.
Ultimately you’ll have to enforce your rules. If you can do it gently but firmly so much the better. But you are the only one who can carve out writing time and make it work. These tips with people. I haven’t yet figured out how to make them work with my cat.
How do you make sure you’re not interrupted when you’re writing?