I’ve been working from home periodically for a while now. Recently I started in a new role which means a lot more of it. I’ve learned from experience that there are a few simple things that can mean the difference between getting a whole lot done, or wasting entire days. So I typed myself up some rules…
1. I must plan ahead. I must set (and aim seriously to meet!) clear targets. At this stage my work from home periods come in three week cycles. So I know pretty clearly how much work I have to do, and how long I have to do it. Three weeks worth of work can feel pretty overwhelming when I think about it all at once, so it’s essential that I break it up into smaller chunks. Of course, these daily targets will change. They’ll stretch, shrink or bend as I progress; some things take longer than I think they will, others take less time. But I must go to bed each night knowing how much work I need to get done tomorrow.
2. Work must be the first thing I do when I get up in the morning. Before I check my phone or email. Before I make tea or breakfast or get out of my pyjamas. Before I even pee. (TMI?) It doesn’t matter if I only type two or three sentences before I start my morning routine. If the first thing I do is write, it seems to set my brain up for the rest of the day. (Sometimes it’s really hard to force myself to do this, but it makes a huge difference.)
3. If I’m stuck at the beginning of a scene, I should start from the middle. Or the end. Or from whichever line of dialogue or big-print pops into my head first. Having to go back and fill in gaps is much better than being paralysed. And that tricky beginning is usually much easier to tackle once I know what the middle or end is going to be. If I’m really stuck, I should go for a shower. This seems like a waste of time, but it’s not. While I’m in the shower, I’ll inevitably think about the scene I’m stuck on and, almost always, at least a couple of lines will form themselves in my mind. And then I have somewhere to start from. (This rule is not so good for the water bill. I’ve been known to take upwards of three showers a day.)
4. I am useless in the afternoon. Useless. It doesn’t matter how productive the rest of my day is, those hours are a write-off. So I must accept that there are approximately three fewer productive hours in the day than I think there are. And I must allow for that. If that means getting up at 5am, so be it. In fact…
5. For some insane reason, my brain is extremely functional at 5am. I must get up early, rather than stay up late. It’s kind of painful – not to mention it makes me feel like an Old Person – but it’s worth it. I get far more work done that way.
6. I must not beat myself up if I fail to meet a day’s target. Shit happens. Things go wrong. And if I panic after a day turns out to be less productive than I hoped, that just leads to feeling bad about myself, which leads to moping, which equals more procrastination. I just have to get over it, adjust my next days’ targets accordingly, and get the fuck on with things.
7. Finally, but very importantly. I must not open Tumblr at all until I have reached my day’s writing target. (Twitter is bad too, but nothing kills productivity faster than Tumblr.) Sometimes I tell myself, “I’ll just look at one page. Maybe five pages.” But ooohhh no. Five so easily becomes ten. And ten so easily becomes HOURS WASTED. Once that daily writing target is reached, I can scroll through pictures of cats and nature and celebrities and high-larious GIFs to my heart’s content. But I must not kid myself: as soon as I start looking at Tumblr, my work for the day is over. So, I reiterate sternly for my own benefit: I must STAY THE FUCK OFF TUMBLR WHEN I’M SUPPOSED TO BE WORKING.
Everyone’s brain functions differently, and these rules wouldn’t work for everyone. But these are mine. When I follow them, I sometimes amaze myself with how productive I can be. When I don’t, I’m an absolute disaster. Self discipline – it’s boring as hell, but goddamn is it necessary.
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- mgm-kitten-t said: rule 7 is the best one
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