Wednesday, July 11, 2012

ADHD: Limiting Distractions on Your Computer

As I prepare for a new job today, I've been razor focused on not getting distracted. I've been pretty good about it, too. There was that moment where I headed off to and started hunting around for the 10th episode of Urakara, a Japanese program featuring Korean girl band, KARA. That wasn't too obscure of a distraction, was it? I mean, I'd hate to fit a stereotype. At any rate, I stopped myself before too much time was lost.

And now here I am, back on track! Blogging! Soon to be writing! Actually dressing! Maybe being on time to work! My potential for productivity is boundless!

There are days, though, where I am less than organized. Yesterday was a good example of that. It was my last day as a free man and one would have thought I'd make the best of it, but I couldn't tune out the kids' TV and the pandemonium and the unending interruptions and the nifty news links everyone kept sharing on Twitter. I eventually pulled things together and accomplished quite a bit of freelance work, but never managed to write.

Then I saw something this morning that reminded me I had already solved this problem before.

MacWorld has an article where they show folks how to turn their old iPad into a dedicated eReader. It involves modifying alerts to be less distracting or to turn them off altogether. It also details removing unnecessary apps like Angry Birds. (What? That's unnecessary‽) In the end, the entire iPad environment is fine tuned to be conducive to only reading. It may seem like a silly thing to do to a $500 portable computer, but if you have one lying about, why the heck not? For me, though, I need a conducive environment for writing, not reading. That's why I was surprised I had forgotten an old trick I had come up with.

Non-distracting environments are just a specialized user account away.

Instead of having a dedicated computer for writing, put your computer's ability to have multiple users to your advantage. I created a user just for writing. The desktop was empty of all icons, the dock had only writing apps in it, and I chose a desktop wallpaper that was a bit more interesting than a solid color, but not too interesting.

On the Mac, open up the Finder prefs and uncheck all the desktop items. Then make sure you don't stick any files on the desktop. They create clutter. Lastly, create a folder in /Users/Shared for all your writing files. That way you have access to them from your main account and your writing account. Most importantly, do not install social media apps in this account. Keep things very bare bones.

I used to use this account all the time when working on my book last year. I sort of forgot about it in the divorce. (Especially since one day on a whim I made the account invisible. Don't ask. It seemed like a great idea at the time.) In fact, it had been so long since I used the account I had momentarily forgotten the password. And the links to the apps in the dock were broken. But I had things back up and running in moments.

Why not just use fullscreen mode in your favorite writing app? That is indeed a good solution, and one that I often use. However, there are days when I need to get away from all the boops, beeps, and bouncing boxes I set up to remind me about what I'm supposed to be doing. Since those alerts are linked to my iPhone, I don't miss them and they don't pop up in my face while I'm writing. Besides, having an environment tailored just for writing helps keep my inner nerd in check. Oh, you thought I was kidding about that J-drama. I'm just lucky I caught myself before I headed off into the sunset looking for subtitle files.

Next time I find the commotion around me too much to filter out, or if I find the world inside my computer screen just too distracting, I'll open up my writing account again and get busy.

Thanks for all your support! I enjoy writing for you and love your feedback.