5 Tips to Focus While Cohabitating in Quarantine

Whether you live with a family member, a significant other, or a roomie, cohabitating is no easy task during the pandemic. Alone time is much harder to come by, and nightly writing sessions might slowly morph into late-night TV binges or bad baking experiments. If your writing time has gone off the rails, don’t worry. There are a few things you can do to help build new boundaries and get back on track. 


1. Stagger your wake-up times (or bedtimes).

If you and your housemate typically wake up at the same time, consider staggering it instead. One of you would get, say, one hour alone in the morning; the other would get an hour alone in the evening. Use that time to read, write, or research and get inspired for your next writing project. Even if you don’t actually wake up or go to bed during those times, the dedicated quiet hours will make a world of difference. 


2. Make an appointment—with yourself.

When your schedule is wide-open, it might feel like you can always write later. A few minutes, a few hours, then a few days might pass by before you hunker down and write again. Rather than letting little distractions push back your next writing session, schedule a time for yourself, and put it in writing. You can schedule it on your phone, write it on a calendar, or stick it on a post-it note on the fridge. Let your housemate know you’ll be busy during that time. The most important part? Treat that block of time like you would any other appointment. Show up on-time, dressed, and ready-to-rock. 


3. Strategize your seating. 

Do you face the open room when you work? Or do you face a window or a wall? If you face an open room, you might be opening yourself up to distractions. When your roomie walks by, it’s tempting to strike up a conversation or just check and see what they’re up to. You could end up trying to multitask, writing for twice as long at half the speed. Instead, turn your workspace to face a window or a wall. This will keep distractions behind your back instead of in front of you. 


4. Design a soundscape. 

It can be hard to reach your flow state if the sounds around you constantly interrupt your train of thought. You might live with a musician, a gamer, or an enthusiastic opera singer, but it’s important to let them know when you need some quiet time. If quiet hours aren’t available to you when you want to write, tune out the world with a good pair of headphones or a white noise machine (or even just a fan). If music or nature sounds don’t work for you, some studies have shown that certain binaural beats (two sound frequencies played at once) can help you focus, relax, or even sleep. 


5. Change your writing space. 

If you always sit at a desk, but you never get anything done, consider setting up shop somewhere else in the house. Over time you’ll associate the unproductive spot with frustration and distraction rather than writing. However, if you find a spot that turned out to be successful—maybe a chair by the window or a cozy corner of the room—the opposite may be true. Return to your most productive place and turn it into your writers’ corner, where the only thing you do there is writing (and maybe a little reading). You may find it easier over time to stay focused in that spot than in other places in your home. 


No matter what tricks you use to hone your focus, remember that communication is key when you’re living with someone else. Let them know your goals and struggles so you can find ways to work together and support each other through this difficult time. If you’re open about your needs, be ready to meet some of your housemate’s needs in return.