Working at home is a double-edged sword; most people think they would love to be their own boss, to set their own schedule, to pursue their own dreams. But that’s just it: You have to be your own boss, and not let meetings, schedules, appointments, to-do lists and sundry responsibilities outside of work consume you; you have to set your own schedule and stick to it, or time will hijack it; you have to actively pursue your dream (and success usually comes dressed in work clothes), or it will never come true. It’s a lot like writing: Most people don’t really want to write a book, as they claim; they want to have written a book, and there is a vast difference between the two.
If you’re like me, you’re organized; we need to be, to keep work, tasks and schedules from eating us alive. Sometimes even with the best of intentions and plans, squirrels still come along… if you have no idea what I mean, just click on the link! To keep the squirrels at bay, I keep a book of to-do lists. I have one for my household tasks, telephones, repairs, appointments, administrative issues, etc. I have as many as it takes for revisions and the like for my current manuscript, as well as marketing lists, etc… plus writing blogs. Sometimes frankly they can all be overwhelming, and that’s where I need grace with myself. It’s times like that when having a boss might be preferable, telling me what to do next (I just have to remember the last two bosses I had, and that wistful thought vanishes pronto)!
Despite the long lists, I still need to find time and space to just “be”, and that is a challenge for me. Even when I’m sitting still, my mind’s going 1,000 RPM, percolating on a plot idea, developing a character or plot twist, thinking about what I’ll make for dinner – do I need to go shopping? – or what the schedule will be once others are home again. Leaving work at the office is more difficult when home and work occupy the same space. And, oh yeah, daily exercise would be a good idea too. I have periods each day that are what I call “limbo time” – too short or chopped up by others to dive into a larger project. I could fill the “limbo” time of my schedule with a myriad of micro-sized tasks; but I also need to learn to step back, take a deep breath or ten, and not be productive or feel guilty that I’m not being productive. Such recuperation time shouldn’t be relinquished to the edge of “micro crumbs” of time left over; it is just as important to schedule a time of rest, and should be taken just as seriously as any task, though it often isn’t (I’m getting better at it).
Some of the things I’ve learned about time management so far are:
- Know how your time is spent. If you don’t, it will run through your fingers like fine sand. In my article on productivity, I mentioned a few helpful apps; they help me track how my time is being used, and it helps me to focus. Even my breaks are scheduled with the Clear Focus app mentioned.
- Have a pad of paper nearby to jot down the random thoughts that come. I’ve found that jotting them down quickly helps clear my mind to focus better on the task at hand.
- Schedule down-time: Take a power-nap, or do something you enjoy like sitting in the sunshine, going for a refreshing walk, or creating something crafty.
- Create habits. One habit I have is a bit like “clocking in” at my desk: I set both my landline phone and my cell phone into a holder on the desk, and this little action signals to my mind that it’s “time to focus”. Another habit might be making myself a tea either before I sit down, or on a break.
How do you deal with balancing work and rest, real life and dwelling in the fantasy world of a writer? Have you developed any habits that help? Please share them below – we can all benefit, I know! The next thing on my schedule is – squirrel! – taking time to swing by others’ blogs, and be inspired. The squirrel is now caged.