When I was younger, I could tune out everyone around me in a crowded restaurant or coffee shop, but could not resist the small distractions of home. If I wanted to get any work done, I had to get out of the house.

I worked in restaurants all through school. School during the day, work four or five evenings a week. I would try to get some work done in between, but I was often up past midnight studying. But if I went home, tv or bed was too great a temptation. I spent many evenings at the local Denny’s studying or doing homework.

I knew the menu by heart and was on a first name basis with all the servers. One was even inspired to go back to school after watching me study there night after night. I developed my penchant for coffee shops not long after, and could spend hours lost in a book oblivious of all the chatter of the nearby tables.

Unfortunately, I have lost some of that ability to focus in a loud room.  My ability to shut out distracting temptations at home is a bit better, but only slightly. I live with two roomies and a small child, so it is easy to get drawn into the activity of the house. So I had to go to the “office” to get my writing done.

Starbucks was the most tempting, but I most often ended up at the local library to save money. It is only a couple miles away, and of course there should be librarians keeping the noise level down. Most of the people there were huddled around the computers up front, so I often had the tables in the stacks to myself. I could spend a couple hours a day there getting my words in.

I found some online help in case the going got particularly tough. There is a Chrome browser extension called Stay Focusd. You can set up hours you should be working, and if you visit selected (or all) sites online, a timer starts. After a selected online time has expired, you are blocked out for the rest of the day. If you try to visit anyway, a page pops up that says “Shouldn’t you be working?”

Another site is called Write or Die. Depending on the consequences you chose, when you stop writing a pop up will taunt you, an annoying sound will play, or the program will start unwriting what you have written. The desktop version prevents you from using the backspace key.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to go to the software nuclear options, but it was close.

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