Thursday, August 26, 2010
Many writers work at home. This seems like a big perk, you know, to be able to work in fuzzy slippers, with chocolate at your fingertips. But working at home is not without its distractions. They lurk in every corner (think dust bunnies) or hit you in other ways (a knock at the front door). Some distractions are understand- able, like family situations or emergencies. Others need to be dealt with.
I've had my share of distractions in recent months, from my Mom's extended illness and passing to other varied and interesting situations. The phone calls alone from these events would cause my days to evaporate, with nary a word typed on the computer.
I had to come to grips and realize that sometimes these things just happen and you need to go with the flow. But other times, not so much. Distractions try to poke their way in everywhere. Like for instance...
Okay, yes, I admit, I've fallen prey to the distraction of email and social media.
Oh look, an email!
Hey, someone commented on my Facebook page!
Like the latter falls into the emergency-must-respond-this-instant category. Okay, I suppose it could, if an agent or editor decided to contact me via FB. Emails? Well, those are more acceptable kinds of interruptions, you know, because they really could be from an editor. But usually the newest email is from your long lost second cousin's uncle's brother-in-law's mother, who wants to tell you that there is a billion dollar fund waiting to be transferred to your account. I suppose it could happen, but it probably isn't worth interrupting the writing time over it.
So enough time has been spent, I'm thinking, stressing over distractions. I decided to make a list of ways to deal with them. Some I've used off and on over the years; others I'm working to apply to my oft scattered and hectic days. The list might be a little randomly ordered, but see what you think:
1) Schedule the day.
I fare much better with even a rough schedule in place. Mornings, for example, might include exercise, devotions, appointments, laundry, phone calls and catching up on blogs or emails. Afternoons are dedicated to writing time. Easier now with the miscellaneous items out of the way and not clamoring for attention.
2) Monitor phone calls.
Some think that because you work at home you are available 24/7. Inform friends and relatives that you have a writing schedule, and you are not available between certain hours. Turn the ringer off, the machine or voice mail on, or at the very least screen calls.
3) Set daily goals.
Big or small, it helps to feel productive by checking things off a list. Even if I know a day is going to be crazy, I set small goals, like catching up on visiting blogs, sending emails, writing three paragraphs, or paying a few bills. Measure the day by the absolute necessary items on the to-do list in balance with the rest of your life.
4) Allow reasonable breaks.
It helps to know a break is in sight. Get up, stretch, grab some chocolate and a beverage, and then head back to the computer for serious writing.
5) Fill the jar with the big rocks first.
You've probably heard the story about the professor telling his students to look at life like filling a jar. The big rocks need to go in first, for if the jar is filled with all the smaller rocks first, it is likely that there will be no room for the big rocks, or the important stuff, in life. Attack that WIP, article, or guest blog post first before all the little time grabbers of the day come and steal the hours.
I've found this theory to be true, like when I've spent time skipping about the internet, visiting blogs or doing peripheral searches, only to find an hour or two has expired and now I need to race to meet an article deadline. The blog visiting and searches may be important, but maybe they need to be revised or done more efficiently after the big rocks have been plunked carefully into the jar.
6) Take advantage of little pockets of time.
I take a notebook and pen everywhere. Not only am I ready, then, when an idea hits, I also have the tools to use while waiting at an appointment, or when meeting someone, or when other unexpected bits of time are available. I also try and avail myself to random time pockets - dinner preparations are complete, but I'm waiting for the roast to be done - I grab a few minutes to start a blog post or an article, or research a character for the WIP.
7) Get organized.
I am usually a neat and organized person, but you wouldn't always know that by looking at my desk. Scattered projects and files, bills to be paid, items waiting to be reviewed, books about writing - my desk often whines about all the hats I wear. The solution? I budget time to get organized. I haven't perfected a system I like yet, but am getting there. When I've taken the time to neaten my desk I feel like I've got my head together and can breathe easier.
Okay, so in a perfect world these suggestions are nearly foolproof. My theory is to use these as guidelines to preserve sanity and get stuff done. I add a liberal helping of balance and flexibility, and of course, trust for divine wisdom, and go from there. Not everyone's situation is the same, but maybe one of these ideas will strike a chord and lend you a hand.
How do you fend off distractions? What challenges do you face and what solutions have you used? Please share, your input is greatly valued!
Happy weekend and happy writing with no distractions! :)