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! →
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!