geared towards people who work at home, especially writers
I have been called plenty of things in my life, but I don’t think “lazy” has ever been one of them. Workaholic, anal-retentive, perfectionist, slave-driver, and bossy? Sure. Lazy? Not so much. Say what you will about that—and I’m sure you could pin this personality trait on plenty of unhealthy things—but in the end it serves one purpose splendidly: I get shit done.
So I thought I would share some of my principals and tricks with you guys. Turns out, I have a lot! So this will be in two parts for a total of 12 tips that make me a busy and productive bee.
1. Make goals.
Omg. Seriously? This tip isn’t new. I’m not saying it is, but here’s the thing: it works. Especially for people who work for themselves, like most writers. Every single time I find myself floundering for a week, drifting from project to project, or wasting entire days doing nothing but rechecking Twitter, it’s because I’ve forgotten to set new goals.
I’m not going to talk about what type of goals to make or how (well, not much anyway), because, dude… google it. Besides, most of us have had at least one teacher along the line make us fill out a worksheet about short-term and long-term goals. We get it. And most of us believe it, but that doesn’t mean we remember to make like Nike and just do it. This is especially crucial when you come to the end of a goal. So you actually finished your first draft when you said you were going to—awesome! But now what? Time to set the next goal.
2. Prioritize those goals.
This is actually something I learned from my husband. One night I asked him to help me set up a schedule for the next day, and the first things he asked me to do? Make a list and number them in order of importance. Factors that affect importance are 1) deadlines 2) productivity and 3) desirability. In other words, editing a certain short story might not be a priority this week, but if it’s due next week it will become one then.
After I did this, I gave Hub-a-dub the list and he made me a schedule. Did I like the schedule? Hell no! He made me do all the hard boring stuff first. (I had been instinctively checking off the more fun or repetitive tasks first as a way of procrastinating. More on that later.) Turns out that was one of the most productive days I’d had in weeks, and now I try to schedule every day this way. Which brings me to…
3. Make a plan (schedule) to reach those goals.
Making goals is all fine and dandy, but in and of itself just isn’t enough. You have to take steps toward achieving them. Which means… *dum dum DUM* a schedule.
Scheduling is one of those things that you just have to DO. *There’s isn’t really a shortcut, as far as I know. You sit down with your goals prioritized in a list + the hours available in your day, and punch them into timeslots. Remember to schedule food breaks and stretching breaks between long, tedious tasks.
4. Make a contingency plan.
Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes our goals are overzealous. Sometimes incredible and unexpected opportunities pop up. That’s okay. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t hit your goal on your projected date… unless you have no contingency plan and therefor beat yourself up and have an emotional breakdown.
Instead, make a back-up plan. Shift things around. Take a look at your prioritized list and push back the bottom items. Think of this like a long-term diet or health plan. If you fall off the wagon, don’t go crazy with it. Don’t start all over to punish yourself or give up entirely and go on a binge. Just continue on the next day as if it never happened. You’ll feel better about yourself and waste less time.
5. Procrastinate like a boss.
(The kind that’s slang for awesome, not the kind that means employer.)
My mom called a couple of weeks ago and asked what I was doing. I said, “Procrastinating.” She said, “I’ve never known you to,” and I tagged on, “Well I’m procrastinating productively.” My answer was misleading, but only on the surface. Explaining this long-time practice of the “right way to procrastinate” to her helped clarify it to me.
Fact: It is in human nature to procrastinate. Lesser-known fact: You can use this to your advantage.
Sometimes there are tasks that loom above us like mountains so tall the peak is engulfed in storm clouds. The best thing to do, when you can manage it, is tackle that bitch. Get started, small steps, and you’ll feel less overwhelmed in no time.
But let’s get real; sometimes that just isn’t going to happen. So when you feel that siren call to put off your MegaTask, do what I do: procrastinate by doing something else that’s still productive.
Example: Suzy set herself a goal of rewriting a highly emotional scene in her novel today, and she’s dreading it. She knows she won’t be able to make herself do it today, so instead of giving up and watching TV until she can’t feel her eyeballs, she edits an old short story and sends it out on submission. Or she catches up on her website’s much-needed updates. Or she reads. (That’s part of writer’s job too, you know.) Or if all else fails, she does chores. Hey, who hates a clean house?
If the MegaTask is daunting enough, you’d be amazed by the number of menial, odd-end jobs you can get done in the meantime. I do it all the time: use the fear of one task to spur the productivity of a bunch of others. Eventually, you’ll either have your whole life so in order that there’s nothing left to do but MegaTask, you’ll hit the deadline that forces you to face MegaTask, or you’ll realize MegaTask is something you don’t actually have to do and rearrange your priorities.
*Is there an interest for a daily schedule template for writers? It would be a free document at The Organized Writer. If yes, let me know in the comments below.
Part 2 is coming next week! Hope to see you back then. Don’t want to miss it? You can subscribe by email or RSS at the top of my sidebar, or follow these instructions to specify which types of posts you’re interested in.
So, which of these 5 tricks work for you? Have you tried them? What are the areas that you most need to improve on?Share this: