People often ask me how I get so many things done as a writer, fiber and clay artist, volunteer, etc. I usually respond, “Schedule, schedule, schedule!”
With more people either working from home (WFH), having children who may be doing school online, or those having the extra time to get those “to-do” lists accomplished, here are a few tips from one who has WFH for many years, first as a freelance video writer, producer and director and screenwriter, and later as publisher of a community newspaper and now as a fiction writer and artist.
For those of you tele-commuting for your company for the first time, your schedule may be similar to when you went to the office. Stick to it. If you were at your desk by 8, try to stay to that time. The positives include: your commute will be less, you may not have to get as dressed up, you will spend less on gas, lunches out, etc.
For those of you who suddenly find yourself with a lot of extra time on your hands during this COVID-19 virus pandemic, you can only read so many magazines, watch so much TV, etc. What else do you want to accomplish during this “social distancing” time?
Have a designated work area, whether it’s at a desk with laptop or on the kitchen table. Set it up with a good light, pens and pencils, your phone, chargers, whatever you need.
WFH does take a certain discipline, and a stick-to-it attitude.
Schedules are critical. So, first of all, use this time to move beyond the paper calendars that are heavy, have to be lugged around or are left at home on the wall! Join the 21st century and learn how to navigate the electronic world.
With so many user-friendly electronic calendars, it’s easy to set up your daily schedule. With “repeating” events, you can set it once and have it “never” end. These, such as Google or Apple calendars, will sync on your phone, your computer, your iPad or any device with one setting, so you can always see your schedule no matter where you are. You can even share these calendars with others in your family so everyone knows what is going on and when.
In addition to a calendar, you’ll need a to-do list. I am a firm believer that if an item is on my calendar, at a specific time, it has a very good chance of getting done. If it is not accomplished at that time, it’s easy to “drag” or move it to another time. If it’s not on the calendar at all, and only on a to-do list, it’s been my experience that it will take longer to accomplish – if it ever gets done.
In addition, with e-calendars, you can set notifications for your calendar items. I usually have a 30-minute and 15-minute notification sound, which alerts me to what’s next on my calendar, 15 and 30 minutes in advance.
You can color code items, which will also help you recognize what is coming up. For instance, doctor appointments or items of major importance, I put in red. For trips or driving time, I put them in green. For my personal items, they go in purple. Have fun determining your favorite colors.
So, first make your to-do list, and include everything on it, such as:
Clean junk drawer
Write cards to friends
Call or video chat with two friends a day
Work out, walk
Change kitty litter
Marketing for writing
Marketing for art
But it’s not enough to just have that check list. It’s important to take an item and estimate — or overestimate — how much time it will take to accomplish, and put it on your calendar. Plug in a noon time lunch hour every day. Add your workout time, perhaps 30 minutes, every day or 5 days a week or whatever. Laundry might be Saturday mornings at 9. Clean kitty litter might be at 9:30. Remember to make those recurring or repeating events. To clean out that junk drawer, you might allow an hour, perhaps at the end of the day.
For instance, I am usually up by 7, having coffee, reading an online paper, doing brain games and eating breakfast. I’ll get dressed by 8 or so, and try to get to my desk by 9 to write Monday through Friday for 3-4 hours. So my calendar item in purple is WRITING TIME from 9-noon.
Lunch and a walk is after that for one hour.
Afternoons might including book marketing for an hour.
Friday afternoons I allot “art time” from 2-5 pm.
For my friends who are busy at a “real job” but just never get the personal writing, memoir, poetry or fiction done: keep in mind I had a full-time job publishing a twice-monthly community newspaper, ran a contemporary art gallery that was open 6 days a week, and did fiber and jewelry art at the same time, and for about four years!
So, I challenge you to FIND ONE HOUR A WEEK and SCHEDULE IT IN RED on your calendar. Is it Saturday morning when the house is quiet? Is it Sunday afternoon when kids and hubbies are doing their thing? You might have to experiment to determine a time that works best for you, and figure out whether you’re fresher in the morning, or getting a second wind at midnight. The first couple of times just write ANYTHING that comes to you, because you are just getting into the habit of regular writing. After you’ve done about a month’s worth of regular writing, I firmly believe you will look forward to those times and will protect them as best you can, and the one hour will lead to two and more. Only then will you really add to your body of work and get the writing done you want to. C’mon, you can find ONE hour, especially in this “shelter in place” time!
Unfortunately, if you don’t schedule the time and stick to it, then you may fall into the category of “wanna-be” rather than “published” writer. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but you may want to stop talking about wanting to write, as I would think it is more disappointing to talk about something yet never get it done.
Good luck during this new and unusual time for all of us. If you have questions, please reach out. What tips do you have for WFH that work for you? Have questions about things that are not working? Please post below or message me on Facebook or email me at Laurie@ReadLaurieFagen.com.