Habits Productivity Writing

Distraction-free writing? 6 writing hacks you can do right now

By Jon Rumens on 31 October 2018

It’s that time of the year again.

No, I’m not talking about growing a mustache. I’m referring to that month when hundreds, if not thousands, of writers create their own novels around the same time.

The National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is upon us again. And while creating a novel in a month is no walk in the park, just taking on the challenge of producing a beautiful masterpiece in a short period is a win in itself.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Before we can even close this chapter (pun intended), we’ll have to start magically weaving through a story. In 50,000 words. In a month.

Nineteen years of NaNoWriMo have found many writers facing the brain-wracking challenge of reaching the target number of words in 30 days.

But especially in today’s time, the trickiest part is getting that elusive thing called momentum. Hit it and watch thousands of words fly by. Get sucked into the black hole called Netflix or World of Warcraft and you can say goodbye to your day.

Distractions are all over. You can blame technology or lack of willpower. But believe it or not, it’s totally possible to type up x number of words – nonstop – without so much as a glance on your smartphone.

Want to know how? Here are 6 writing hacks that you can do right now for a distraction-free writing.

Writing Hack #1: Identify your monster and know how much time you spend on them. Use the FocusMe Time Tracker

You can’t solve a problem without knowing who the monster is. Ask yourself – what are your favorite distractions?

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Accept your distraction and if you have to, list them down. To help you get started, here are some of the common distractions writers face:

  • Technology. This can be as simple as the appliances at home, i.e. TV and Alexa, to something as ubiquitous as your smartphone, computer apps, and time-wasting websites.
  • Multitasking. Just Google the words “multitasking” and “productivity” together to see how this strategy isn’t the most efficient. When we talk about writing, always go for quality over quantity.
  • Anxiety, stress, and deadlines. Do you get anxious about being anxious? Can’t stop counting down to your deadline? We’ve all been there. Shush the noise inside your head and focus on the task at hand. (More of this later.)
  • People. Clients, family, friends, and chatters in the cafe can all distract you from writing. Think of ways on how you can have your “me” time, even for only a few hours.
  • External environment and noise. Honking cars and cute cats on your workspace can kill your train of thought. Isolate yourself from them and create your haven for writing.

Once you’ve identified the problem, plot ways on how you can avoid them. You can start by knowing how much you spend on them and easing off gradually. You can go cold turkey, but know that this doesn’t always work. So go easy on yourself and veer away from distraction, one monster at a time.

No idea how to track how much time you’ve spent on certain websites or app? Here’s how to track your website and app usage. This can be eye-opening and some writers who use FocusMe even talk about it as “life-changing!”

Writing Hack #2: Psych yourself up.


Concentration is key. Clear your head of any noise like stress and anxiety. Meditate by either going to yoga regularly or using meditation apps. Visualize your goal and keep your eye on the prize. Have a positive mindset and enjoy writing as a hobby.

Organize your space. De-clutter your immediate working environment. Put materials in front of you that can inspire creativity, i.e. magazines for catchy headlines or picturesque photos for your travel blog.

Make sure you’re comfortable. Keep your environment conducive to writing by setting the right temperature and getting ample lighting. Prepare yourself physically too. Get enough sleep the night before so your mind is in tiptop shape. Take a break and go for a run to see your productivity go through the roof. Before starting your writing marathon, go to the toilet and have your caffeine fix right next to you.

Writing Hack #3: Don’t forget to take a break. Use Break Reminders!

Did you know that you can set breaks that force you to stand up from your computer or laptop and get a glass of water? Check out FocusMe’s break reminders here.

You can also manage your time by using the Pomodoro technique. This technique allows you to break down seemingly large tasks into smaller ones (called Pomodoros), and take short breaks in between them. It’s not complicated at all! Just set a timer for 25 minutes where you’ll focus on a task and that task alone. When the alarm goes off, it’s time to take a break for 5 minutes! Rinse and repeat.

This technique works because it allows you to concentrate on your work in short segments, and reminds you to relax in intervals too! Sounds perfect for writers with short attention span or those suffering from writer’s block! (Find out more about the Pomodoro technique here.)

Writing Hack #4: Zone out. Shut yourself off from the outside world

Listen to music. Try those that are easy to the ears like ambient music, lo-fi jazz, hip-hop or classical music. Or try something totally new: tune into the Rainy Cafe. It might inspire you even more.

Headphones are your best friend. Noise-canceling headphones can help drown out the loud traffic outside, excited barks from your dog, or the dripping faucet in the toilet.

Give people a heads up. If you’ve been talking to them the past couple of hours, let your clients, partners, family, and friends know that you’ll fall off the radar in the next few hours. Otherwise, they may end up calling repeatedly, which could be an added distraction.

Writing Hack #5: Eliminate distractions. Schedule your “focus sessions” with the FocusMe Scheduler.


Move away from technology… other than your computer. Close all unrelated apps (and no – you can’t use Facebook for “research”). Use a distraction-free word processor that’s designed to hide all the other apps on your computer.

Switch off the TV. Completely ignore that voice in your head that says “Netflix binge now.” On the flip side, tell yourself that a reward – Netflix binge soon – awaits once you’ve written your target number words for the day.

Turn your smartphone on silent mode. Or better yet, turn it off. Your phone is the first and last thing you’ll look at today (just like any other day). So what’s a couple of hours away from it?

Plan your “writing spurts” in advance. Plan your whole week ahead, allocate times when it’s just you and your novel alone, and see how much you get done!

Writing Hack #6: If you can’t beat technology, embrace technology.


If you’re so tempted to admit defeat and surrender to the fact that you’re surrounded by technological distractions without any way of escaping them, let me tell you. There’s a way.

To focus on your novel you can lock yourself in a room, throw away the key and write all day, but you might need a drink or the toilet at some point and also it’s not very social. We are worried about your reputation – as a writer and as a human being. So, to prevent you from wearing diapers and having people thinking about you as ‘The Vampire’ maybe you could just download FocusMe to stop you from being distracted, freeing up time to write thousands of words each day. After installing the app you will turn into a crazy productive writing machine!

Now here’s a bonus for NaNoWriMo participants – you can use FocusMe for free during NaNoWriMo!