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Top 5 Tips for At-Home Authors

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

One of the things that people tell me when they quit their day job to write (or shift to working at home) is that they spin their wheels and they don’t seem to do enough (or anything) done. They’ve had a structured day job for so long that they don’t know how to structure themselves. This happens to remote workers, to full-time freelancers, and to people who temporarily stuck at home for whatever reason.

1. Dress for Work.

You are working even if you can do it in your underwear. Until you have come to a workable system, I recommend getting “dressed for work” every workday. This doesn’t mean a suit and tie unless you need to have a Skype meeting with someone who expects you in a suit and tie. It does mean getting up, putting on (relatively) clean clothes, and grooming yourself. It does mean getting out of the kind of clothes you like to relax in. Dressing for work (even if is comfortable) puts you in the correct mindset to sit down and work.

2. Daily Schedules.

I keep a number of schedules to keep me on track. The most important is the Daily Schedule. What do you have planned for every single day this week? What is a priority? What can slip? What has an immediate due date? What is a huge project that you have to get a little done each day to succeed? Daily schedules allow you to be productive and to feel productive. They also get you back on track when you come back from playing with the cat or come back from a doctor’s appointment. It tells you what you need to get done. It also tells you how much you can get done on an average week. And once you’re done with your daily task list, you can walk away and go do whatever.

3. Monthly and Yearly Goals.

The only way you can get Daily Schedules written is if you know what you want to accomplish that month. Monthly Schedules are created out of Yearly Goals. Yearly Goals gives you a starting point to break down into Monthly Schedules. These are living documents. As new projects are added, you need to adjust your Monthly Schedule. I keep a running 6-9 month Monthly Schedule with due dates. My Daily Schedule comes out of the Monthly Schedule I’m in. I always know what is due went and who it is due to. This way, you won’t over schedule yourself

4. Get a Timer.

There will be times where you just don’t wanna. Don’t wanna write or edit or do anything you need to do. I have a 15 minute, a 30 minute, a 45 minute, and a 60 minute timer. Depending on what project needs doing, I set my timer and focus on just that one project for the amount of time I’ve bargained with myself. “All I have to do is 30 minutes. Anything else is extra.” Usually, I will do my set time and then continue on. I’ve gotten over the hump of “Don’t wanna.” and can get on with the rest of my day.

Conversely, I will give myself recess. 30 minutes to read. 60 minutes to crochet. 45 minutes to go walking. The timer allows me to set an amount of time to play hooky. But when that timer bings, I know I need to get back to work.

5. Isolate Yourself.

Sometimes, your biggest problem is all the shiny things around you. You  need to shut your door, close the curtains, and turn off all your chat programs. Sometimes, all you really need to is hunker down and get to work. A lot of times, this works best in conjunction with a timer. Put away all (or most of) the distractions and work.

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