How to be a productive writer while stuck at home

Since the end of March, I’ve been working from home while chipping away at all my writing projects. I’ve had to adjust to this new routine, but have learned some valuable lessons, and today I share some of the strategies I’ve used to maintain my productivity. I’d love to hear about yours! β†’

This year has turned out very differently than most of us expected. I doubt anyone thought we’d be confronted with a global pandemic that has forced us to stay in our homes for extended periods of time. Many of us have spent months in lockdown, and are facing several weeks or months more. It has been a strange time all round, and it’s impacted everyone in different ways. When I planned out my blog schedule at the start of 2020, it was my intention to post in July about how to juggle being a writer with a full-time job. Turns out this post, too, is going to be different from what I originally planned!

I am fortunate enough to have a stable job, and have now been working at home since the end of March. With my city back in lockdown as we face a “second wave” of COVID-19, it’s going to stay that way for the foreseeable future. Through it all, I’ve made a massive effort to keep working on all my writing projects, but I’ve also had to make adjustments. I’ve learned a lot. And heading into the second lockdown, I plan to implement these lessons I’ve learned. Today, I’d like to share them with you, and would love to hear about your experiences. How have you maintained your writing productivity while stuck at home? Come and join the discussion!!

Set realistic goals

Setting goals, and breaking those down into bite-sized targets, helps keep you on track and hold yourself accountable. Goals should always be realistic, but when you’re stuck at home during a crisis, that’s even more important. You need to compromise to ensure your wellbeing. Ask yourself:

  • What do I want to achieve? Make a list if that’s what works for you. Figure out what it is you want to get out of your writing time. Be as ambitious as you like when you do this, but also prioritise your list in order of importance.
  • What am I able to achieve? Make an assessment of what you are capable of doing. Factor in everything else going on (e.g. work, homeschooling, generally freaking out) and decide what you CAN do. Everything else can wait.

Determine the time of day you’re most productive

Everyone is different when it comes to the time of day you’re most productive and able to focus best. Use your period stuck at home to determine when that time is for you, and if your situation allows, put that time aside for your writing. Here are some considerations you may wish you make:

  • Morning: If you’re a morning person, consider getting up early and putting in some time for your writing before work.
  • Middle-of-the-day: If you have flexible working arrangements, consider taking a long lunch and writing in the middle of the day.
  • Afternoon: If the afternoon is your jam, use the time between finishing work and preparing dinner to get your writing in.
  • Night: If you’re a night owl, schedule your writing hours after dinner and go for as long and late as you like.

Make use of your former commute time

Pre-COVID, many of us spent a notable chunk of time each day commuting to and from our jobs. Now that we’re stuck at home, we’ve gained that time back, which provides us with a unique opportunity. There are a couple of different ways you can use your former commute time to improve your writing productivity, such as:

  • Writing: Most obviously, you could use your former commute time to do your writing or conduct other writing-related tasks. Depending on how far you used to travel, this could be a significant amount of extra time!
  • Completing essential tasks: If it suits you better, you could also use the time to complete other essential tasks that used to get in the way of your writing (e.g. cooking, cleaning). That then frees up space later on to write.
  • Self-care: Don’t underestimate the importance of self-care during this challenging time. Use your former commute to exercise, or practice mindfulness, or even catch up on extra sleep. This will only help your productivity.

Use short breaks to complete short tasks

When you’re stuck at home, and working from home, it’s important for your mental health to remember to take short breaks. If it doesn’t overtax your mental capacity, you may consider using those short breaks to complete short, writing-related tasks, such as:

  • Writing sprints: Get up, walk around, then switch your brain to the task of smashing out quick words in a limited period of time. This probably works best for first drafts…and those tricky sections that you just struggle to get through!
  • Planning: Planning and brainstorming are the kinds of tasks you can conduct piecemeal, one bit at a time, and are therefore well-suited to short breaks from your work. Make a coffee and a snack and jot down an idea or two!
  • Social media: Many of us writers spend a chunk of our time networking on social media. Short breaks are a great time to check through our feeds, talk with others, or else plan and prepare content for the future!

Move around the house for a change in scenery

I know a number of writers like to leave the house to write, whether it’s at a local cafe or somewhere in the great outdoors. So what do you do when you’re unable to leave the house? There are ways to change the scenery to boost your productivity, even when you’re stuck at home. Try these out:

  • Different rooms: Every room in your place of residence has different lighting and different contents and therefore a different vibe. Sometimes, simply moving from one room to another (or even outside) is enough to get those creative juices flowing again.
  • Different furniture: Setting yourself up on different furniture also offers different outlooks. For example, writing at a desk is different from writing on the couch, or at the kitchen bench. One of my favourites is to settle down in a beanbag in front of the fire!

Schedule in down time

Finally, it is essential to remember that down time is your friend. It’s easy to forget to take breaks from what you’re doing when you’re constantly stuck in the one place, but failure to do so runs the risk of burnout. So schedule in time to completely disconnect from anything related to writing. This could be:

  • Daily: Block out time from each day to just…be. Perhaps you could set a “finishing time” that you stop yourself from working past, or maybe it works best to simply constrain your writing hours. Having some time off each day helps keep your mind fresh.
  • Weekly: Set a day (or days) each week where you don’t touch your writing. Both weekdays and weekends are an option depending on what works best for you, but it’s quite the stress-reliever to have a day where you know you don’t have to do anything!

How has your writing been going while stuck a home? What strategies have you found useful for maintaining productivity? Are there any powerful lessons you’ve learned?

  One thought on “How to be a productive writer while stuck at home

  1. 21/07/2020 at 6:19 PM

    Great post, Rebecca! I’ve found sticking to a routine as much as possible keeps me on track.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 21/07/2020 at 8:31 PM

      Thanks! Routines definitely help. I’ve found them quite a bit more difficult to get into while stuck at home, when the only one around to keep you accountable is yourself. It’s a work in progress! πŸ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. 21/07/2020 at 9:22 PM

    Great post. My writing hasn’t been as productive as I’d like, though I feel I’ve been doing a lot more marketing online, especially on Twitter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 22/07/2020 at 8:51 AM

      Thanks Andrew! It’s definitely a challenge to balance actual writing with all the related activities. I’ve taken a little step back from social media and the likes while I focus on my writing and reasses how I can best fit everything I want to do into my life. If there was ever a year to explore these things and evaluate what’s most important, then 2020 is definitely that year!! All the best πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  3. 22/07/2020 at 12:02 AM

    I might be in the (un)lucky minority that wasn’t affected in this way – I still commute to work as I’ve been before COVID, only with an extra accessory in the form of a face mask. Most of the offices have 2-3 people at most, and they’re well enough more than 2 meters apart. The janitor (not sure if that’s the right word but whatever) was given an extra task to clean door handles and desks a few times a day.
    So, ironically, ‘how to juggle writing with a full-time job’ would be really helpful for me now as I’m still settling into it.
    How would I adjust if things changed enough to allow me to work from home? Well, that’s quite the question – and I guess it’d depend on what timing would I be given for the usual tasks.
    For those who had to adjust… good luck. You can do it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • 22/07/2020 at 8:49 AM

      Hey Tomas, it’s great to hear that things have stayed relatively normal for you! Honestly, I think some of these strategies would still be applicable to balancing writing with a full-time job. Routines and realistic goal-setting are very helpful, and it’s important to remember to take breaks. Looking for opportunities to integrate the writing life into your everyday is also an option: writing when commuting (obviously not if driving though), planning during lunch breaks etc. It’s just a matter of figuring out what works best for you!! Take care 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      • 22/07/2020 at 10:47 PM

        You’re right that looking for opportunities is a good idea. My commute’s quite short (jackpot!) so for now, I guess I need to figure when would be the best time for me to write. Sunday bursts seem to work if I can give it half a day, but I’ve managed to get something done spontaneously on workdays as well, sometimes right after coming from work, sometimes just before hitting the bed…

        Liked by 1 person

      • 23/07/2020 at 8:42 AM

        And sometimes you just have to play it by ear, too! Sometimes you’re just not in the mood and should give yourself a break, other times you’re ready and raring to go even when you didn’t expect to be!! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  4. 25/07/2020 at 2:12 AM

    Yes, I use most of these strategies. I think setting realistic goal, moving to a different space in the house and writing when I’m most productive are my favourite.
    Great post. And I hope things improve in your country soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 25/07/2020 at 10:12 AM

      Thanks Lorraine, I hope so too!! In the meantime I’ll settle for moving around the house to shake things up! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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