Many of us will kick off April 2020 in the comfort of our own homes. This isn’t a collective vacation, it’s the new normal as the world adjusts to coronavirus.
For some writers, this has been their way of life for years. For others, the initial burst of enthusiasm for working in their PJ’s, extra time thanks to no commute, and the freedom to write may have turned into frustration.
Suddenly, the ability to write at home has made you less productive.
I’ve fallen into this trap too. The one where you think you have the whole day ahead of you to pen some words, so it’s okay to spend the morning doing anything but. That then snowballs into bargaining to write after lunch, by 2pm, before you have to start dinner, after dinner, an hour before bed. Maybe in the morning if you remember to set the alarm? And promising to get it right tomorrow… and the next day, and the day after that.
It’s a vicious rinse-and-repeat cycle that stops you from doing something that might keep you sane for the next couple of months, so here are some tips on how to nail writing from home.
Keep Your Routine
Having a routine is the number one rule of writing from home. As much as you want to sleep in, spend the morning cooking a gourmet breakfast, or get those little non-writing errands out of the way first—all this will lead to is no writing at all. Trust me.
Treat writing like it’s your job, have a dedicated start and finish time, and stick to just writing during that time. It’s that simple (and that hard).
Write Down Your Tasks And Prioritize Them
Grab a scrap of paper, a post-it, your diary, or your phone and write down the tasks you want to get done for the day, in order of the most important. Then work through that list!
Keep it small if you think it’ll be too overwhelming, but have it written down and out of your head, somewhere you can refer to it regularly, and use it as your road map for staying on the writing track.
You should also find that ticking off a to-do list makes you feel more accomplished, which fuels the motivation to write more.
Work In Blocks And Add Breaks
Once you’ve worked out the hours you’ll write, and written down what you’ll work on, divvy up your tasks into 20-minute blocks.
Set a timer on your phone and concentrate on that one task for 20 minutes and see how much you get through. Keep going like that until the task is complete and/or move onto the next task.
In between all these productive 20-minute sessions, schedule dedicated lunch and tea/coffee/snack breaks too. It’ll help you stick to your routine, fuel you, and let you reset between tasks.
No one is saying you need to chain yourself to your desk until you get everything done, but you do need to sit down to work if you want to get anything done.
When you’re at home, the lure of TV, snacks on tap, gaming, reading, even cleaning, can become the more alluring option. If you want to spend your afternoon watching a movie, that’s fine, just get 500 words written first!
Bribe yourself with all the fun things as your reward. If that sounds like writing is a chore getting in the way of your fun, I’m sure you’ll find that once you sit down to write, it will be the best part of the day, and the reward you’ve promised yourself for doing it will be the icing on the cake (that you didn’t bake because you were writing).
Have A Dedicated, Organized Writing Space
Experienced work-from-homers know how crucial it is to have a space that is used just for work, like your own desk, or section of the couch/dining table. This is also crucial for writing at home.
Get yourself a dedicated writing space and keep it as organized as possible, and that goes for your computer too. Back up your files, have them sorted so you can easily find them, and in a system that makes sense, even if it’s only to you, so you can find what you need when you need it to get your writing done.
Shake Up Your Sitting
Writing is a sedentary beast, but when you’re writing from home, you’re more likely to have options to shake up your sitting. I’m short enough that my kitchen bench gives me the perfect standing desk. My 6-year-old laptop can last about an hour before it needs to be plugged back in, so I alternate between sitting at my desk with my computer connected and standing in my kitchen, unplugged.
Some days it’s a daring game of running back to the power plug before my screen unexpectedly goes black (my computer no longer keeps a correct notification of battery life), but that then counts toward my cardio for the day.
Alternate your writing sessions with sitting and standing, taking breaks to stretch, or throwing on a song and walking or dancing your way up and down your hallway before sitting back and digging into that next chapter.
How about you? Do you have any tips for staying productive when writing from home? Share your best tip and the one thing that distracts you the most in the comments. Mine is telling myself I can watch just one episode of a show during my lunch break.
— K.M. Allan