Life of normal folks:
Put in a solid 8-hour workday at the office.
Head home, relaxing to some tunes on the commute.
Throw a quick dinner together (or order takeout).
Watch some tv.
Catch up on social media.
Throw in a load of laundry.
Go to bed and start all over tomorrow.
Life of a freelancer:
Wake up and shower.
Sit down with your laptop and breakfast.
Walk the dogs for the 2nd time.
Clean up your breakfast dishes.
Get the kids up and make them breakfast.
Walk the dogs again.
Check your email.
Start a new article.
Hear the dryer buzz and go switch the laundry.
Get sidetracked by more dishes in the sink. Wash them.
Get halfway through your article.
See an email come in that you need to address right away.
Dogs need walked again.
Remember that you wanted to sweep and mop today, so you stop and do that.
Then decide you better make the kids lunch. And yourself some, too.
Sit back down with your laptop and finish your article.
Dogs need to be walked again.
Look to your right.... and - wow, that shelf looks dusty. You dust the entire house.
Sit back down to your laptop and realize you should take something out for dinner.
You do that and then start checking your social media sites.
Back to focusing on writing again.
Then, BOOM -- its dinner time, spouse is on her way home, and the dogs need to be walked again.
Where does the time go?
And what got accomplished?
Bad follow through.
Working from home means that it is incredibly easy to get sidetracked. Whether its kids, dogs, cleaning, cooking... it is easy to feel like you have to have it all together. But, the truth is, you don't. If you worked in an office, you wouldn't be able to dust and clean and do laundry while you are working. I mean, it'd be pretty awkward if you did. Who's laundry would you be doing at work? Ew. Gross.
Anyway, there is a simple fix for this all-too-common scenario. Are you ready for it? In...
Set your office hours.
It is that easy. Treat working from home like a "real job" that "normal folks" have. Go to work and focus on work. Then, get up and walk into your living room and start cleaning if you want -- but only after quitting time has arrived. You just may be surprised at how much more productive you are in everything you do.
As a writer, I have been witness to a few different reactions when I respond to a question asking what I do for a living. Most usually come with a nod of the head and a slight, nearly-inaudible, hmm... sound. Others give a look of pity. And, then there are the very few who reply with a quick, "Oh, nice!" and move on.
It doesn't matter who asks, I nearly cringe every time I hear, "So, Michelle, what do you do?" Because the initial response is almost always followed up with, "Have you been published?"
Now, yes, they could be sincerely asking the question. And, they are likely not intending to do the damage they do. But, it happens. Every time.
The funny thing is that even when you are published, the feeling still holds true because you are still aiming to get your book published, increase your readers and platform, or find yourself published with a more reputable news source. It is always an upward climb (that often feels stagnant). In other words, its that ever-present writer doubt.
So, as a PSA, I am sending out the top 3 questions you should never ask a writer.
1. Have you been published? *see rant above. 'nuff said.
2. What do you write about? For most writers, trying to verbally put all the words in your head into a clear, concise, Cliff Notes explanation in order to properly answer this question is exhausting. If you ask it, and get a general answer -- don't press for details. Please.
3. Must be nice not having to really work, right? Wrong. Writers work. A lot. Even when it doesn't appear so.
From now on, when someone answers "I'm a writer," to the question, "What do you do?" Tell them awesome! Or, that's fantastic! Or even, I'd love to have your job. Something, anything positive. Writing is fulfilling a dream, but it is hard work - and it takes strength, determination, and courage to do it. It also takes time. Lots and lots of time to get to the finish line.
If you are a writer, then you likely already know when you are your most productive. However, if you are just starting out and trying to find a balance between your writing and the real world, you've likely faced a lot of frustration.
Have you ever taken your car to the mechanic and were told that your "simple repair" will take "about 30 minutes" - only to find that you are still waiting on your car two hours later?
No matter the profession, we all think that what we do will be finished faster than it really it is. Perhaps it is a good thing that we give ourselves so much credit. But - truth-be-told - it leads to a lot of aggravation when you realize you have over-scheduled yourself.
You know that anxiety-ridden overwhelmed feeling you get when you are staring at your deadlines.
Did you ever think that maybe you have been scheduling your time to write during your least-productive hours? Perhaps if you decided to write when during peak productivity times you will find that you truly can get your work done in the time you have allotted yourself.
Some writers love late-night writing after the world is fast asleep. Others prefer getting up early with the sun. As the world comes alive, so does the writing. Still, there are some writers who do their best work during the 9-5 hours.
It all depends on you. Spend some time experimenting and find what works best for you. The time when you find it the easiest you will notice an increase in your productivity. The sooner you discover this, the better your chances of succeeding as a writer.
When are you most productive?
You write something phenomenal -- and people read it. Then what? You just let them get away? You let them move on to the next article or continue strolling through their news feed?
NO! Make them do something. Make them want to do something.
A call-to-action, a.k.a. CTA, is a marketing technique used to get the reader to take action. It is an incredibly common tool, too - for good reason.
CTAs work wonders for getting potential customers to take a specific action. For instance, sign up for a service, sign up for a free trial of a service, sign up for a free email course or e-book, or even sign up to gain a free consultation. A CTA could also simply convince your readers to connect on social media.
Grow your network and transform your readers into future customers - all because of a little CTA. Sounds great, doesn't it?
So, if this technique works so well, why don't we use it for something good? (I know, I know, transitioning leads into customers is something good). But, I am talking about something good as in motivating and inspiring personal growth or something that leads to the betterment of mankind. You know, something bigger than just your personal desires.
Just hear me out.
People want to feel good. Yes, they want free stuff, but they also want to feel successful and motivated to change. These people are your potential customers. Why not give them something to feel a bit inspired?
At the end of your blog, article or email, you could offer a CTA that...
Donates one meal to a homeless person.
Donates one bowl of dog food to a no-kill shelter.
Reminds the reader to hug their loved ones.
Asks for one good deed to be done.
Of course, this can be combined with whatever you are offering or with your subscribe button.
Its a simple dose of good. And its a simple way to offering a feel-good vibe.
The world is heading down a rough path - when it comes to politics, crime, and the like. Heck, CTA could stand for Crazy Times Ahead.
The world needs more good. Why not let it start with you? Together, we can make a difference.
What has been your best or most successful CTA? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.
It happens. No matter how much you try to stay focused on what you need to get done, procrastination quietly starts peeping at you from around the corner waiting for just the right moment to pounce. Sometimes, whether we like to admit it or not, we fall victim to it -- we become the procrastination's prey.
There is no sense in getting your knickers in a knot. When you find yourself in this situation, all you need to do is face procrastination head on. Look it in the eye and remind it who the boss is. (That's you -- you are the boss). Then, do something else for a bit until you can regain your focus.
Choose one of these 7 things to do while procrastinating.
1. Clean out your inbox.
If there is one thing that can get out of hand quickly, it is an email inbox. Moment by moment, 24 hours per day, this inbox is wide open for receiving. If you are overly efficient, then perhaps you have rules set up that automatically direct each piece of incoming mail to the proper folder. However, if you are like most of the population, that inbox can blow up in a matter of hours - leaving you scrolling and scrolling to find what you are looking for.
Cleaning out your inbox is a fantastic habit to get into. It keeps you better organized and reduces the risk of missing something important.
2. Go for a walk.
Walks (or any type of exercise) can help get the blood flowing, your endorphins released, and your breathing relaxed. When you find yourself struggling to concentrate and focus, go for a walk and then come back. This short break away may be all you need to get back on track.
If you sit in front of a computer all day, you should be doing this regularly, anyways -- but that's a story for a different day.
3. Update your social media pages.
Read this carefully: Update your social media pages. That doesn't say scroll, check out your best friend's activity, or read memes until you turn into one. Just update. Post an updated status, change up your profile picture, etc. In other words, help keep your pages active.
4. Organize your desk or workspace.
Some people work best when surrounded by a mess. Others, not so much. If you find yourself unable to focus on your task at hand because your desk or workspace is cluttered, then take some time to de-clutter and organized the space.
5. Listen to a podcast.
Depending on your industry, there are many reputable podcasts that offer up tidbits of knowledge, insider information, new ideas, and the like. Take a few minutes to listen to a podcast - letting yourself absorb something beneficial. You can even sit back and close your eyes while doing so.
Reading is part of learning and growing. This is something you can do just about anywhere. So, when you find yourself procrastinating on a project, turn your mind to a book, a blog, a magazine, something, anything, that can lead you down a successful pathway.
7. Write a blog.
Sometimes you just have words within you that need to get out before you can focus on anything else. Take a moment to release it so you can move on. Blog, journal, doodle, or whatever it is that you do best.
You can be productive while you procrastinate. Sure, the work you need to get done or have a deadline for isn't going to finish itself. But when you are not focused and find your attention straying, you have a choice. You can waste time or be productive.
What will you choose? What do you do when you find yourself procrastinating?
Being a writer doesn't mean you always find yourself sitting in front of your laptop. It is actually very easy -- and common -- to tell yourself that you can put your writing off until tomorrow and all will be ok. And, it may very well be, but only for the moment.
Take a moment to consider the effects of your procrastination: Your deadlines are pushed back, your client’s work is delayed, and you are keeping someone on hold from reading your impactful words.
So, is your laundry/ Netflix binge watching/ cleaning house/ lunch with an old friend/ ____________________ (fill in your poison) worth the outcome?
Life gets busy. Trust me, I understand this all too well. And, when you are working from home and for yourself, it is easy to get pulled in many different directions.
Put your delays and procrastination to an end. Now. Here are 6 ways that you can effectively get your work done AND do what you want to do.
1. Stay organized.
Get yourself a calendar (or a good calendaring app). Then, use it. Plan out your week – or month – in advance.
2. Leave wiggle room.
You should know by now that, in life, nothing ever goes as planned. Something will always throw a wrench into your plans. The only way you will truly be hurt by this is if you are not prepared for it.
3. Take time for yourself.
It is hard to find a few extra minutes to spare each day for yourself. However, if you pack your days so tight that you don’t make time for yourself, you will burn out quickly. Calendar at least 10 minutes each day for yourself to journal, practice breathing techniques, space out, etc.
This is something that you will need to get used to. You may feel overwhelmed when looking at deadlines or filling in your calendar, but as long as you prioritize your tasks – and stick to them – you should be able to relax a bit.
5. Treat it like a real job.
Your friends and family may be jealous of your working from home situation – and for yourself – but they won’t be for long if you don’t treat it like a real job. Otherwise, you may find yourself back in the employment line.
Take your work and your clients seriously. Treat them as you would your own boss, customers, or colleagues. Respect them.
6. Have fun with it.
You are a writer. You are working on your own doing exactly what you love – what you have always wanted to do. Don’t take the busyness of life so seriously that you forget to have fun and actually enjoy what you are doing.
Well, there you have it – the 6 ways that can help you find time to write. So, go on. You can do it. You can take care of your life and your writing, too.