Even when you're writing a book about avoiding distraction, you have to fight your own distractions. During the year I wrote The Distraction Addiction, I structured my time to minimize distractions. I'd get up before dawn to write, when it was too early to be social or check the news. I gave myself daily word quotas, and stuck rigorously to my outline, to reduce the temptation to meander down twisty but time-consuming intellectual alleys. In the evening, I'd stop working in mid-sentence to make it easier to start again the next (early) morning. Still, there were things that I had to fight every day.


SOCIAL MEDIA. Of course, Facebook and Twitter and email were always close at hand, beckoning for a quick check-in. I allowed myself a short visit in the morning and evening, and maybe a peek at lunch; but most days I'd use a program like Freedom or Anti-Social to block my access to social media sites, or the entire Web.


WORKISH DISTRACTIONS. There are all kinds of things you can do online that FEEL like work, but are really procrastination: seeing how your manuscript looks in this font rather than that, looking up yet another citation, going down what programmer-turned-theologian James Anderson calls "Wikipedia rabbit-holes." To deal with these while writing, I used Zenware writing tools. WriteRoom and OmmWriter Dana, with their simple interfaces and lack of extras, helped me focus by removing the temptation to reformat my chapters or convert footnotes to endnotes.


MY MONKEY MIND. When I asked Buddhist monk bloggers and videographers (yes, they really do exist!) how they deal with digital distractions, they turned the question around: why, they asked, do you assume that distractions come from OUTSIDE the mind? The undisciplined and unquiet mind, they argue, makes its own mischief; the untroubled mind doesn't crave the stimulation of YouTube videos or the tempting frustrations of Angry Birds. The monks taught me that when I wanted to tab over to Facebook when I needed to finish a tricky paragraph, I should examine my feelings and ask whether I really wanted to go to Facebook, or run away from work; usually, I'd let the moment pass, and get back to struggling with the words.