One of the hardest things about being a freelancer is trying to avoid distractions.
And as I’ve started doing more and more writing for this site and doing some other things on the side as well, I’ve realized that distractions can often be the biggest detriment to getting stuff done.
And at the end of the day, if you want to be a successful anything, you need to have the power of getting stuff done.
I’ve been reading a compilation book of some of Napolean Hill’s writings and he says that one of the first things we need to learn in order to be happy and have success is to understand the importance of getting stuff done. Finishing the things that we start.
And distractions go completely against that.
Distractions make it so that we leave things halfway or a third-way done and then we lose motivation to go back and finish those things that we started.
And if you never get anything done, I guaranteed that you won’t ever have any kind of success and you’ll never become a successful professional freelance translator.
Now, let’s forget that and focus on the positive.
What can you do to make sure you minimize (at a minimum) and possibly even eliminate (best case scenario) those distractions?
P.S . If you’d rather watch the video instead of reading the article:
How to Eliminate Distractions
There a ton of different techniques and tricks that you can do to minimize or eliminate your distractions. One technique is not better than any other technique.
The thing to remember is that the best technique is the one that works for you.
Because what works for you might not work for me, and vice versa. So don’t get disheartened if one of these doesn’t work. Keep trying different ways and eventually you’ll figure out what you respond to.
And one more thing,
Don’t get discouraged if these techniques don’t cure your distraction attraction all at once.
We often relapse to our old ways and habits when we’re trying to improve ourselves. It could very well happen with this, too.
The trick is to not worry about it and move forward, trying to get better every day. If you do that, you will be successful.
1. Figure out what’s causing your distraction
The first tip for eliminating distractions is to figure out where it’s coming from.
In looking at my own previous struggles with distraction, I realized that the distractions I had were coming from one of two sources: either I was creating the distraction myself or distractions were coming from other people/sources that I felt like I didn’t necessarily have control of.
Let’s look at these distractions separately.
Creating distractions yourself. I don’t know which type of distraction is more common but there were definitely a lot of times when I did this.
These are the types of distractions that you bring upon yourself when you’re working on a goal or project or something else.
Let’s say that you’re trying to get a translation done but it’s hard to get into the flow for whatever reason and you’re struggling to get it done.
Instead of powering through it and finishing it, instead you decide that now is a great time for you to clean the bathroom, even though you just cleaned it yesterday.
Basically, you’re using any “credible” excuse to get out of doing what you’re supposed to be doing just so you don’t feel bad abandoning your project.
Here’s what some of those distractions look like:
- checking email
- playing a game on your phone
- checking your messages
- picking a hair out of your mole
- reading the news
- watching tv
- looking up sports scores
These are just some of the distractions that we tend to create for ourselves.
Do you do any of these?
Do you have any other favorite ones that you tend to revert to when you’re trying to avoid something? (Let me know in the comments below.)
Unfortunately, as if internal type distractions weren’t enough, we also have to deal with distractions that are not of our own making. Distractions that are brought on by other people.
These are the unfortunate distractions that seem to happen when you are in a groove. You’re humming along in your translation work. You’ve found the flow and are sailing right along when all of a sudden, the phone rings. Or the door opens and someone comes in and asks you a question.
You’re jolted out of your Zen-like trance and are forced to respond in some fashion. Typically, you’re annoyed and so you give a terse answer so that you can try to get back to your flow before it disappears.
But it never works.
It’s like trying to go back to that awesome dream you were having before you were suddenly woken up by a car alarm blasting outside at 2:30 AM.
You lay back down, try to get back into that state of your dream, but instead, when you finally do fall asleep, you end up dreaming about some nightmarish bastardization of your original dream.
Which isn’t pleasant at all.
Same thing happens when you’re translating in the flow and get distracted externally. Once you’ve taken care of that distraction, you try to get back into your translation flow but it just doesn’t happen as quickly as you want it to and so you start reverting to internal distractions and don’t finish what you started.
Thankfully, there are ways to deal with these different types of distractions once you know what kind they are. Let’s look now at some concrete steps you can do to minimize each of these types of distractions.
2. Isolate Yourself (External)
OK, so let’s first look at some ways you can minimize or eliminate external distractions. One of the best ways to do this is to figure out how to isolate yourself.
External distractions (by their very name) come from someone or something on the outside.
However, if you can isolate yourself to make it harder for that person or thing to reach you, then you can effectively eliminate that distraction.
Those external distractions can come in the form of pets, coworkers, family members, spouses, kids, friends, etc.
You first need to realize who or what is causing that external distraction or interruption before you can put a plan in place to isolate yourself from them.
If you work at home and family members are interrupting you, maybe just closing an office or bedroom door where you are working will be enough to discourage the interruption.
However, it could be that a closed door isn’t quite enough. In that case, you’ll have to take more extreme measures like locking the door.
If you think those measures are too drastic, maybe instead of working from home, you go work at the library or coffee shop (although each of those places certainly have their fair share of distractions as well).
Physically removing yourself from the location of the distraction is often all you need to be able to focus on your translation work.
Finally, if you don’t have any other places to work from except your house and it’s difficult to isolate yourself enough to get your work done, one thing to think about doing is to wake up really early before anyone else gets up or stay up later after everyone has gone to bed.
3. Tell People to Not Bother You (External)
OK, this suggestion seems rather silly on the surface but you’d be surprised by the number of people that are unwilling or too afraid to voice their complaints/concerns/issues with other people, to include their own family members!
What I’ve found through many times of doing this is that most people don’t actually realize that they’re interrupting or distracting you.
In their eyes they are being friendly and we’re taught to be friendly to others. They’re trying to do good in the world by what they’re doing. Their perception of what they’re doing is their reality. It just happens to be a different reality than the one you’re dealing with.
So talk to the person.
Explain your situation.
Help them to understand your concerns and issues and engage them to help both of you come up with a solution that will be beneficial to both sides.
Most of the time you don’t want to burn any bridges. You don’t want to ruin any relationships with anyone merely because of a misunderstanding of each other.
It’s really not that hard to do.
4. Work in Short Bursts (Internal)
OK, now for a couple of solutions to internal distractions.
One of the reasons that we tend to lose focus is because we tend to lose mental energy as time goes on. This is especially true when we are engaged in a single project, looking at the same screen, for hours on end.
The way to combat that is to work in short bursts.
I’ve read different studies and seen different “experts” talk about the ideal amount of time to work before taking a break.
I tend to be able to work about 2 hours straight before I start to lose focus and need to step back from my work to get recharged.
Other people can work longer.
Still other people need shorter times, like working for a one hour burst before taking a ten minute break.
You’ll have to decide the length of time for your “short burst” of energy.
As you work in these short bursts, you’ll begin to realize that you can concentrate more fully and be really engage in your work for that hour or two hours or whatever time it is. Your work will tend to be better (and more consistent) because you’ll have devoted all your energy to your work during that short period of time.
5. Develop an Everyday Habit (Internal)
OK, last suggestion.
And this is probably the most important suggestion for minimizing and even eliminating distractions.
And that is to develop a daily work habit.
It’s much easier to get work done and avoid the distraction attraction if you know in your mind already what it is you need to do everyday and have the same plan for accomplishing it every single day.
I know some freelancers that tend to have a harder time with distractions. One of the issues that I see in these freelancers is that they tend not to be organized and they don’t have a plan of action of how they’re going to accomplish their work that day and every day.
On the other hand, some of the really successful freelance translators that I know are highly organized. Not only that, they approach their day the same way every day.
They wake up at the same time.
Their morning routine is the same every day.
They work in the same location every day.
They take the same breaks day in and day out.
In essence, their routine is such that they don’t even have to think about what they’re doing or what they need to do.
Instead, they rely on habit (some call it a type of muscle memory) to do the heavy “thinking” for them.
When you do that, you free yourself from having to deal with “random” distractions because you’ve already eliminated them in your planning and organization phase.
You’ve done the work once and now don’t have to do it again.
Distractions are a real danger for freelance translators. But once you understand what kind of distractions you’re facing (whether they’re internal or external), you can begin to implement these suggestions to minimize and eliminate them.
P.S. If you want more tips on how to become a successful freelance translator, buy my book!