How to Write Full Time and Stay Sane is a three-part series that offers advice to full-time writers about how to stay productive and in good spirits.
Since I tossed in the teaching towel in lieu of a full-time writing career, folks have asked me, “How do you not stay in your pajamas all day?” Well, sometimes I do, but that doesn’t help me get my work done.
Working from home isn’t easy, but here are some things I’ve learned that help me be both productive and stay sane(ish).
You must have self-discipline in order to work from home. Just because you don’t have a dress code in your apartment doesn’t give you an excuse to look like a bum. What you’re doing is still a job–still building a career–so dress the part, even if your beagle is your only “coworker.” When all you want to do is crawl back under the marshmallowy goodness of your down comforter, a shower will wake you up.
Wash off the stink of a bad writing session. Scrub away the grime of writer’s block—of a bad review or a rejection letter. Lather up that loofah, and start anew. You will be cleansed, feel refreshed, and be ready to go about your day.
As far as getting dressed, I’m not saying you should wear a suit in your house, but at least change out of your pjs. While it might feel good once in a while, if you fall prey to that bad habit, you will begin to wallow in self-pity. “Why am I so laaaazy? Why can’t I get anything done?” Because you’re in your frickin’ pajamas all day.
Wearing actual clothes will put you in the mood to be productive. You’ve already made the effort to clean up and get dressed; now, what? The more you act like you are going off to work, the more ready you will feel to actually do work. You will be less comfortable (translation: sleepy) in regular clothes than in flannel pants and an oversized tee-shirt. I promise.
Structure your time.
This tip sort of depends on how nuts you are; and as you will learn, I happen to be very nuts.
It’s probably better if you’re a bit anal retentive here, because you will better be able to structure your time and stick a schedule if you are. For my ADD peeps out there, you’ll have to work doubly hard to discipline yourselves in this way, but if you can develop at least some Type-A personality traits, you’ll be good to go.
When I make a schedule, I not only like to write out bulleted lists of things I need to do, but I also specify times to accomplish these things. The more items on your to-do list, even if they seem arbitrary, the busier you will feel. You can cross things off your list like mad, and that will help foster a feeling of productiveness.
For example (yes, I am really this OCD when it comes to scheduling):
8:00-8:15—Awaken/Take out Molly/Feed Molly
8:15-8:30—Start coffee/Make Kyle’s lunch/Eat breakfast
9:30-11:00—Agent interview stuff
11:00-11:30—Break/Take out Molly/Call Mom/E-mail/FB/Eat
3:00-3:15—Break (if needed)/Walk Molly to mailbox
3:15-5:00—Edit manuscript or read/research for article
Geez, Ricki, it sounds like all you’re doing is fooling yourself into believing you’re getting things done.
True. Sort of. But bear with me.
If a little BS trickery puts you in a good mood and makes you feel productive, you’re going to be more apt to get into “the zone” when it’s time for the more substantial work on your to-do list.
Though it might seem a little crazy to designate specific times to catch up on e-mails or to check Facebook, if you can stick to the schedule, it will actually cut down on your distractions. Also, keep in mind that, if you are fairly accurate when allotting time to do things and if you only round to quarters of hours, you will most likely have some time in between tasks when you can do quick e-mail checks here and there…
…and when that happens, it will make you feel more productive as well. “Gee, I sent off the agent interview ahead of schedule. Now, I have ten minutes to do X, Y, or Z. I’m so productive.” (Pat on the back)
It’s all a mind game—yes, a mind game with yourself—but if you play it, you will stay positive and stay active.
More on structuring your time next post.