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How to Stay Focused and Avoid Distraction as a Blogger

Ever sat down at your computer to blog for an hour only to find that when you get to the end of that hour you’ve done anything BUT what you sat down to achieve?

If so – you’re not alone. This video talks through some of the distractions that bloggers face as well as my simple 3 point strategy for staying focused. It’s not rocket science but as bloggers we need to be reminded of this type of thing from time to time.

See the video at full size here.

Video Transcription

I’ve had this video transcribed below for those who prefer to get it that way. The transcription provided by The Transcription People.

Hi it’s Darren from ProBlogger here.  Today I’m in the last stages of putting together a product launch and have been spending my day writing a sales letter for this particular e-book on my photograph blog and as happens when you have a deadline like this looming, it’s amazing the distractions that come your way.  All day I’ve had little beeps go off on my computer as people have messaged me on Skype, I’ve had questions coming in on social media, my phone’s been ringing, I’ve had all kinds of ideas for things that I could do, new projects, posts that I could write videos that I could record, and it’s just been quite amazing to see all the things working against me.  It’s almost like the world is conspiring to distract me from the task at hand.  In reality it’s probably a fairly normal day in that way but I guess I’ve become much more aware of these distractions as I feel the pressure looming to get this task done.

And so I’ve been thinking about and I’ve actually got most of the sales page written now which is great so I thought I’d just talk a little about this idea of distractions because there are so many and it’s one of the big challenges of bloggers, is that I find that we are so tempted to get off those core tasks that we have at hand, all day we are being interrupted and distracted.  Sometimes we’re being distracted by tools.  This week I got an iPad.  I’ve been so distracted by this new tool, this tool which has all kinds of possibilities but really none of them are really taking me towards my goals.  I can see potential for it to help but it has been a bit of a distraction so we’re often distracted by the hardware tools but also the software tools, the new tools that we can use on our blogs, testing new plug ins, new tool bars, that type of thing.

We can also can be quite distracted by ideas.  I am constantly distracted by ideas.  Ideas for new projects, big projects, new blogs, new forums, new partnerships that you can start, new products that you can start.  All these things are good but they can actually take us away from the thing that we need to do now, that number one thing right in front of us.  So we can become distracted by ideas.  We can become distracted by the tweaking, and it’s very easy to tweak a lot of things on your blog whether that be your design, your tool bar, even tweaking posts and headlines.  Tweaking your SEO, testing different alternatives on your blog, putting up new idgets, new logos, all of these things, and again they’re all good things and it’s worthwhile tweaking and a lot of good can come from that but it also can be an incredible distraction, and one of the other things that I’m often distracted by is networking.  Even now I just heard my Skype ping.  Someone’s trying to interact with me and that could be really great interaction.  The Twitter interactions that we have, Facebook, all of this networking can lead to great things but it can also distract us from those core things that we need to achieve today.

So the distractions they come constantly.  For me there’s probably three things that help to keep me on task.

The first one is to know and identify my goals, and to know them on a big picture so every now and again every six or so months I’ll sit down and I’ll write my goals.  I know my overall objections for myself as a person, but also my objectives for my blogs, and then I begin to do some strategic thinking about the things that I need to do in the next few months to achieve those things, and so having a bit of a framework for thinking about goals and strategies is really important because then as you’re playing with the iPad you can be constantly filtering, you know, is this actually going to take me closer to my goal?  As you’re tweaking your SEO you can ask yourself, “Is this actually taking me closer to my goal?”  It may actually be but then you need to start thinking about the priorities of your goals as well, and making a list of the things that you need to achieve.

So that’s the first thing; is actually having a good awareness of what it is that you’re trying to achieve.

Then it comes down to boundaries and boundaries around the core talks that are going to take you closer to your goals.  So one of the core tasks that I need to achieve every day as a blogger is creating content.  So even on a day when I’m writing a sales page I also need to be thinking about, “Okay, my next post, it’s due midnight tonight and I have a deadline, how am I going to produce that”, and so on.  I’m putting boundaries around that and I’m setting time aside to achieve those core tasks and creating content is one of those core tasks.

The other type of boundary that you do and this is what I do is actually creating boundaries around the distractions. 

You see it is good to have ideas, it’s good to play with tools, it’s good to do networking, it’s good to do all of these things that I’ve talked about which can be distractions, but it’s also good to limit them.  I could spend all day thinking about ideas, and that could be a good thing every now and again to spend a whole day doing that, but if I spend every day doing that, it would be become a distraction.  It’s not my core task, and so I need to create spaces in my life to do those things which are good but which also can be distractions. 

So for me it’s about knowing your goals and creating boundaries both around your core tasks and the distractions.  How do you keep on task?  How do you keep focused and stop those distractions actually taking away from the things that you need to achieve today?  Love to hear your comments on that.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. wasim Ismail says:

    Hi Darren

    Very true, its so easy to get distracted, and if your not focused, before you know it, hours fly past.
    Thanks for the tips

  2. I find it super hard to stay on track when writing a blog post. Few tips I try to stick to is silence, comfy slippers and some green tea. Every time I set myself to writing a post, I follow my own advice and my brain automatically knows it’s time to work!.

    Green tea is key :).

  3. I talk about being remarkable on this blog quite a lot. In all honesty though, I know that it doesn’t really matter. Not if you want to make money with blogs, anyways.

  4. hi,

    i like to say that your saying that Concentration can easily be broken by new avenues and tools but then we have to always stay focused on our blogging efforts is a very good point.

    thanks metrogyl

  5. Dion Carroll says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more, Earning money from blogging is challenging enough without time constraints. I’m plugged in and ready to go when the spouse and children go to sleep. Sigh, so peaceful. I get soooo much stuff done uninterrupted. Great tips :)

  6. Hey Darren,

    Really nice post here. I like to think that sometimes we bloggers need to step back and think which are our priorities. And our priorities changes at different stages of our blogs. Its like the things you want to do for your blog is different for a new one compared to a seasoned one like yours. Keep up the good work!

  7. braculus says:

    Giving yourself a time limit for tasks is i think one of the best way for doing things. Yes there are things which distract us from doing our daily chores but putting a time limit to things probably minimizes the risk of the greater loss.
    thanks

  8. Darren,

    I very much enjoyed your post and one of my take aways is something that you implied more than directly stated.

    That is to be kind to myself when I get distracted.

    You said several times that your stray tangental thoughts are good things but when taken to the extreme they become distractions

    I tend to beat myself for “being lazy” when I get distracted. I’m going to change that to your model of validating the value of that idea or activity and then working on it – LATER.

    Best.

  9. Judy says:

    Fantastic post. I find that emails popping up are the worst distraction. It helps to turn off all notifications and only keep blog open so that you are able to focus.

  10. Ryan says:

    Great post, I think that focusing on your goals and thinking about the rewards you will receive from achieving them are great ways to motivate yourself back to work. Concentration can easily be broken by new avenues and tools but then we have to always stay focussed on our blogging efforts is a very good point.

    Ryan

  11. sesli chat says:

    Giving yourself a time limit for tasks is i think one of the best way for doing things. Yes there are things which distract us from doing our daily chores but putting a time limit to things probably minimizes the risk of the greater loss.
    thanks

  12. Ant says:

    Couldn’t have come at a better time. I was just thinking about the very same thing… thanks Darren.

  13. Shane says:

    Awesome post Darren!!! I stick to watch your video (was a little lengthy video for me). You’r right at your point, and very nicely provided your 3 simple step strategy for not being distracted. The points you mentioned for distraction are very true, this happens to me often. I’ll try your recipe for sure. Thanks Once Again

  14. Joe Boyle says:

    Great post, Darren Rowse!

    Whenever you are trying to write content, make sure you have everything else closed – Skype, Facebook, Myspace, AIM, Yahoo, Email, Twitter, etc – because they become unneeded distractions.

    I noticed, about two months ago, that if I turn off everything except for my WordPress window, I finished an article about 15 minutes quicker. That is enough time to advertise it and drive in a LOT of traffic!

  15. Sally says:

    I must admit, after having my baby (who is now just over a year old) my blogging slacked completely… only now am i starting to make an effort again. a good tip: allocate a specific amount of time eg, 1-2 hours and stick to it. (this for me, happens at night when the kids are sleeping.
    No one said it would be easy ;)

  16. me too have experienced this things like as you are concentrating making your blogs and your coping with deadlines, it was the time also that lots of ideas were popping to your mind that even how you tried to get rid of it, you cant! what will i do is to relax for a while even just a minute, then go back to work.

  17. That’s great,.. blogging myself. I recommend to anybody in the states reading this : make money with this: http://www.asantae-coffee.blogspot.com/ http://www.asantae-coffee.com/

  18. Santos says:

    It is good to know that I am not the only person suffering from distraction while working. I think that focusing on your goals and thinking about the rewards you will receive from achieving them are great ways to motivate yourself back to work!!

  19. andiero says:

    I’m a Indonesian blogger.
    I was greatly helped by your article.

    Thank’s

  20. Luke says:

    I’m very new to this whole blogging thing, and I’m actually procrastinating right now! So hard to stay focused but as you say I find this site to be a tool so I am justifying to myself being here. I am going to have to give myself a strict goal time line to stay on I think to stay on track…

  21. thanks so much for this post. it’s very true. you’ve helped me refocus on just on thing.

  22. thanks darren.
    i was thinking about how to concentrate on one thing. I found the solution in your blog. thanks so much.
    gr8 work!….:)

    KEEP POSTING SUCH GREAT POSTS

    regards

  23. I get distracted by ideas as well, but one of the things I’ve learned through the execution phase is how to evaluate an idea.

    Now, I know with a fair amount of accuracy which idea is worth pursuing and which is not. That helps.

    I’ve also cut out on noise, such as blogs and social media so that I spend more time doing great work.

  24. Das says:

    Darren,

    Thanks ! Great presentation !

    I am new to blogging as well as to this site. You have addressed a major issue of our modern life. Everyone seems distracted while, driving, shopping or attending to customers. Not too long ago, I went to two restaurants in a row and got tired of waiting and left. People seem preoccupied. They are not present at the moment.

    Creative people are having a harder time because they are lateral thinkers. They exist as such due to their innate ability to switch between ideas without becoming attached / entrenched.

    I am going try the old method of blocking time for certain activities and practice focussing on one thing at a time.

    Das

  25. TechDubDoob says:

    With the ultimate time waster at your side, it’s certainly important to prioritize your time and effectively get done what you need to get done when it comes to your site/blog.

  26. Jimmy Liew says:

    I usually have a piece of paper right in front of my desk. The paper I usually listed down all the task I need to do today, I usually prepared it a day before, before I went to bed. I also separated the paper into 2 columns, one is for to-do list, and another one is daily calender (list down 8am – 6pm). From my daily calendar, there are task and appointment assigned at certain time. I have some buffer time for each task as well, it is reserved for unplanned activities. I always keep myself focus on task, and complete the most important and task which need 1 or 2 minutes to complete first.

    I found the template “The Emergent Task Planner” suit my need, design by David Seah (www.davidseah.com). Hope you enjoy. :D

  27. Das says:

    .

    Hello all,

    Great posts !

    There is nothing like honest feedback. It can help us see ourselves outside the context of our self image created through our own biased evaluation.

    Sometimes simple things can help.

    I have a freeware that tracks all activities on my computer. I don’t remember where I got it and it might be mac specific. I am sure there are many more like it. Mine is called active timer. Keep in mind that they track the computer and not the person – a key point. If you are a professional, you might already have a more sophisticated system.

    By tracking, you will be shocked to find … 1. How little time you have used for certain jobs (saved the client money) and 2. Sheer waste on other items.

    The issue is to isolate things into 1. Productive tasks and 2. Non productive tasks. The third one is “personal stuff” which includes having fun, entertainment, eating, socializing and what have you. Our new problem is that they all come at you at any given time. They can all be at the computer.

    To make it worse, companies advertise for multi taskers. That makes many multitaskers compete, etc. Perhaps the next generation of employers will get smart and ask for people who can concentrate on one thing at a time and do a great job. That does not mean one can’t be good at many other things. It means he/she can concentrate on one thing alone at a time and excell in EACH ! Yes, even fun can be intense fun if we can totally be into it.

    Hope this simple idea helps.

  28. Nunzio Bruno says:

    This is happening to me right now! I have a deadline looming and I just watched your video. That sounds like distraction in action to me :) I think my biggest distraction at Financially Digital is my setting boundries. My problem is that I want to be everywhere at once. I need to work on that. I get a little caught up in the planning I mean success day dreaming too…

  29. Nate Devore says:

    This post has helped me so much. Just the other day I stumbled across this video and it made me realize how to prioritize (or at least I needed to prioritize) my goals.

    So I went out an bought a cheap dry erase board and now I have a goal pool. I write down all my goals and move one at a time to the “to do list”. I take it one small step at a time.

    You see, it’s so hard to accomplish everything if you try to tackle it all at once…small steps.

    Thanks for sharing this Darren and as always, awesome blog!

    Nate.

  30. You…are…awesome! This blog is so great. I really hope more people read this and get what youre saying, because let me tell you, its important stuff. I never wouldve thought about it this way unless Id run into your blog. Thanks for putting it up. I hope you have great success

  31. Vantage says:

    Thanks for the tips. It certainly is way to easy to get distracted, even more so when you have kids at home, lol.

  32. I am the most guilty person in the world of becoming distracted. Blogging is the worst aspect of this. I hope that this post is helpful for me!

  33. People do many mistakes which make there blog so ugly that sometimes it makes a plus for the UI, it is not true that always UI should be great, content should be great it all depends on your luck

  34. goldmen says:

    This is happening to me right now! I have a deadline looming and I just watched your video. That sounds like distraction in action to me :) I think my biggest distraction at Financially Digital is my setting boundries. My problem is that I want to be everywhere at once. I need to work on that. I get a little caught up in the planning I mean success day dreaming too… gold

  35. Great post Darren!

    I have discovered setting an agenda before even approaching the computer to write gives a more concise & focus when blogging.

    Using a time tracker in my browser & desktop helps as well. When you start seeing time “disappearing” by the seconds that helps shift your thought of life is forever. (FireFox has a cool Time Tracker Plugin)

    Checking emails only a certain time of the day 1-3 times can make a big difference as well in getting clarity and focus.

  36. Scott says:

    Hey, I usually find that i do get distracted by other things. I start working on a project then all of a sudden remember I have to do this and then go and do that it is honestly frustrating. But this post has clearly identified how to stop getting distracted and for that i thank you.

  37. farneville says:

    I should say wow you’ve just opened my mind. I’ve been feeling frustrated lately from work, home etc. and my blogging career although I am a newbie your right about those distractions that we encounter everyday now I realized I need to focus and know what I really need to do and accomplish because lately I’ve accomplished nothing…

    Thank you very much.

    I think I will write something about the importance of deadline

  38. That video was great, as usual.
    Thanks for the tips. It certainly is way to easy to get distracted, even more so when you have kids at home

  39. SurvivalBlog says:

    Hey Darren,

    This was a very helpful post, of course most are. If it wasn’t for the advice given here, I don’t think my blog would have been successful. Thank you.

  40. Florence says:

    My readers never allow me any time to get distracted due to any reason. They all keep in contact with me, and if they see me feeling lazy they poke me to post new stuff. (My non-English blog) is more famous among my readers)

  41. Revitol says:

    Bah! I sit on my laptop for around 15 hours a day, but by the end of the day I find myself cursing my commitment since it seems like only 2 hours worth of work.

    Happens, I guess. My eyes still hurt while I’m writing this. 15 hours a day is not good. More so without much to show for it :(

  42. Dave says:

    I think a lot of people have the problem of being distracted when working on the computer.

  43. I’ve been feeling frustrated lately from work, home etc. and my blogging career although I am a newbie your right about those distractions that we encounter everyday now I realized I need to focus and know what I really need to do and accomplish because lately I’ve accomplished nothing

  44. Mark says:

    Hi Darren,
    I am a blogging newbie, and I work a lot of hours in my job, so I have a small window of opportunity each day to write a post, let alone come up with something interesting and worthwhile.

    I really need to stay focused and on track if I’m gonna make this work. Your blog has really been an inspiration to me.

    Thank you!!

  45. Alban M. M. says:

    Hi,
    That was a good video post, and I’m glad to be here, you know I’m one of those who easily get destructed. And as you said focusing on the work in my hand is essential to achieve it successfully, but I often find myself destructed i. e when I get a email alert, just clicking on it, and that’s it. It’ ll take me so far away from it

  46. Sham says:

    Funny thing im sitting on a deadline right now as im going thru this blog, well i havnt really found a way to tackle this problem yet. but in the past it seems that procrastination always wins with me. But im aware of the dangers of making that a habit and will definitley take your advice into considerations. I watched the video by the way and i have to say very informative.

  47. Angie says:

    Actually I was trying to leave a comment on another post but comments were closed… WOW you have so much valuable info here… CONGRATS! I’m going to bookmark this site and refer to it often. The learning never ends so… thank you in advance for contributing to my future successes Darren!

  48. I’m glad I read this article, I really needed some ideas to be a little bit more focused on what I have to do right now and not get distracted by other things; what can I say…I guess it depends a lot form person to person, but I know the objectives thing will definitely work with me…

  49. Matt says:

    I enjoyed this video. I’ve been struggling to stay on task and maintain focus. I get easily distracted by Facebook, Twitter (Tweetdeck pinging all the time) and my kids running into the room. For me I just have to close the door for an hour, turn off the social media and get down to business. If I don’t do this I find myself constantly going back and forth between Facebook and Twitter. I love that you mention knowing your goals because that is so important. If you don’t know your goals then you don’t really know where you are going and it’s easy to get distracted.

  50. Jason says:

    Thanks, I really enjoyed the video! I get distracted very much. Everyday, actually. Thanks for the ideas anyways…
    -Jason