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  • [NETWORKING FOR INTROVERTS] 7 Tools for Blocking Distractions
[NETWORKING FOR INTROVERTS] 7 Tools for Blocking Distractions
Written by
Meghan Ward
February 2015
Written by
Meghan Ward
February 2015

Photo courtesy of Audio-Technica via Creative Commons

Today, social media is an important component of a writer’s life, but it’s equally important to know when to turn it off. For some of us, this is no easy task, which is why we need a little help to keep the distractions at bay. Here are a few really wonderful tools to help you do just that.



If you’re like me and have trouble lasting more than 10 minutes without checking your email, you need Freedom. Formally MacFreedom, Freedom is now available for PCs and is a steal at $10. I’d happily pay 10x the cost for the number of times (hundreds) that Freedom has allowed me to get a day’s work done when I otherwise would have been Googling and shopping and checking e-mail.


2. Antisocial

If you absolutely need to be on the Internet for research, Antisocial, another app by the man who brings us Freedom, allows you to block websites of your choice. For example, you can block Facebook and Twitter and Google+ while allowing yourself access to the rest of the Internet. This doesn't work for me. If I'm blocked from half the Internet, I'll suddenly remember something extremely important that I must do on the other half (today it was shopping for bookbinding supplies because, you know, I've been meaning to get back to that since 2006). And my feeling is that if I’m writing, I’m writing. I can do the research later, during my non-writing time. But it’s nice to have the option to block some sites and not others if you really must be online.


3. Do Not Disturb

If you have an iPhone and don’t want to be distracted by the buzzing of incoming texts and voice mails when your phone is on silent, you can go into your Settings where there’s a feature called Do Not Disturb. Turn it on, and incoming calls and alerts will be silenced. If you want to silence all calls except those from a particular person or persons, you can add them to your Favorites list and only allow calls and messages from Favorites to get through. You can also allow repeated calls from the same person within three minutes to come through while silencing all others. That way if someone calls or texts you multiple times with an emergency, you’ll hear their second call.


4. Turn off the e-mail on your phone

Again, if you’re an iPhone user, you can go into your Settings, click on Mail, Contacts, and Calendars, select the e-mail account you want to turn off, then drag the button next to “Mail” to off. That will temporarily turn off your e-mail. If you have multiple e-mail accounts connected to your phone, you’ll have to turn each one off separately, but that will take just a second per account. Just don’t forget to turn them back on again when you’re done working.

5. Noise cancelling headphones

Bose noise cancelling headphones are the Mercedes in this category. I don’t have a pair, but I know writers who swear by them. I’ve tried them, and they’re lightweight and comfortable and block most noise around you, so you can get work done on a bus or a plane or in your house if the kids are playing in the next room. At $299, they’re not cheap, but your sanity is worth it.

6. Construction earmuffs

These are heavier and tighter than Bose's version, but for $21, they’re a great low-cost alternative to expensive noise cancelling headphones. I had a pair and loved them. Then someone stole them, and I never got around to buying a second pair. Maybe it’s time.


7. Earplugs

I’ve tried a lot of earplugs, and the ones that work the best are the silicone earplugs that you roll into balls and seal over the outside of your ear. If you put them on right, they do a great job of blocking out noise and are much more portable and less conspicuous than construction earmuffs. That said, it takes me several tries to get them to stay, and throwing on a pair of headphones or earmuffs would be an easier, quicker solution.

What about you? Are you as easily distracted as I am? What tips and tricks do you use to stay focused?

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  • Susan Troccolo

    Very nice post Meghan, I appreciate your tips. I'll have to google Freedom because it's an app I'm not familiar with. Sounds perfect. I use Bose headphones and find them essential for sanity, even though I live in a very quiet place in Portland, OR. My editor recently suggested I get in the habit of only checking email a max of three times a day and I'm going to make that an aim. She said it also worked brilliantly to kind of "train" people not to expect immediate replies all the time. Brilliant idea although I'm not sure if it is so much other people as much as my own internal driver that feels everybody deserves an immediate response, all the time. What a world. Sometimes I wish I were a monk. Wish me luck! Best, S.

  • Valerie Bonham Moon

    I have a pair of the earphones, and, with the website Coffitivity, I'm able to concentrate on the writing.

    So far, though, the only way to stay off the Internet is to leave the house.  I spend time at libraries and, on nice days, time in my car at a local park.