Working from home has an abundance of benefits. There is really nothing better than being able to create my own schedule and work in the comforts of my own home. However, with the beauty of this freedom, there also comes the hazards of working in a space that is also your living space. There are always things that I could be doing that are not working. Working at home, they are all here at my fingertips. I could clean the bathroom or finish the last chapter of my book... it is sitting right on my bedside table. However, I know I need to concentrate on my work in order to be successful. Therefore, I have been working on ways to eliminate these temptations and focus on my work. I thought I would share them with you here!
This one is pretty obvious. Though one of the hardest for me. My life has been generally lived in a whirlwind of getting by through improvisation and last-minute dedication. This hasn't always worked for me, but I have survived somehow. Just ask the Immigration Officer who told me I wasn't allowed to go back to Canada because my visa had expired. She didn't think it was so charming that I was convinced she would give me an extension so I could get my immigration eggs in order last minute. But hey, she couldn't get me down for too long! I am legally back in Canada and awaiting my Permanent Resident card.
Therefore, I have had to do a couple of different things to organize myself. And, almost more importantly, keep up with that organization.
I have always loved journals. The feel of a fresh empty book is always laden with inspiration and potential. However, akin to my deeply unorganized self, keeping them has been a struggle. There always gets to be a point where I lose the motivation to maintain it. Usually, because it ends up feeling overly self-obsessive. I don't even want to read about all my day to day goings on let alone anyone else. However, I love the idea of them.
Which introduces my solution to both my organization problem and my journaling problem: Bullet Journals! Or Bujo's if I want to just get sickenly kitschy.
They are a way of organizing that is completely up to you. There are some great ideas out there and inspirational people like Tiny Ray of Sunshine and Boho Berry who are just creative goddesses. I like it because I can have a weeks itinerary set up and not regulated to a specific deadline. If I miss a deadline that I have assigned myself than I often will never get back to it. If I have it as a task that I want to complete during the week I am much more likely to get it done.
It also becomes a creative outlet that has continued to keep me coming back to it. I use it because I have an interest in it that isn't purely organizational. When I was a kid my mother, who is much more organized than I am, always encouraged having a planner. She'd give me a school planner at the beginning of every year and hope that I would use it. Even with good intentions, I don't think I kept up with it for more than a week. However, because there is something soothing about trying to come up with creative ideas --- even just simply coloring in my doodles--- I keep using it. It encourages me to keep up with my good habits and remains a great way to organize my work. There is something oddly satisfying about looking back on a week full of color and doodles that indicate that I had a productive week.
A Do Later List
One thing that I do and have found really helpful is having a "Do Later List". There are so many times that while working an idea will leap to my mind and demand to be resolved. It is usually something silly like "I should go get the mail" or "I need to look up that recipe for dinner". However, because it is so easy to convince yourself that doing anything but work is important the idea will dominate my brain until I resolve it. So now, instead of going down those procrastination rabbit holes, I will write it down on my "Do Later List". So I know that once I am done working, I can begin working on all those little things that need to get done that are not my work. Most of the time, the heavy importance of them seems trivial by the time the workday is done.
Break Down Tasks
One of the best pieces of advice that I was given was if I am avoiding a task because it is dauntingly big, just break it down into do-able tasks. So if I am planning on writing a large piece that has real research needed to be done it can feel daunting. So instead of thinking about it as one big task, think of it as lots of little tasks.
If I am still avoiding the little tasks, break it down even further. Turn the little tasks into even smaller tasks! So, if using the example of a long researched article I would start by looking at it as a whole:
One Huge Article!
Then break it down into smaller pieces:
Edit One More Time, Because Why Not?
if I am still struggling to get these done. I can break them down into even smaller tasks. Like, Research can be broken down into smaller bit
Read and Take Note on one Article
Repeat as needed
Evaluate Information: Summarize
See How it Relates To Subject Matter.
All of these smaller tasks can be done in one sitting and it doesn't feel like I am devoting my entire day to the process. They are doable and manageable. Which means they are more likely that I will do them and do them well. No more rushed jobs and all-nighters for me. My college days are over. And while I loved them, I am so glad I am not in that mindset anymore.
These are my main organizational tools. I am always curious about how other people organize themselves, so please let me know in the comments what you do!
There are some procrastination pitfalls that I fall into fairly easily. Some are the ones that a lot of people have to combat. Facebook, Reddit, Instagram... the dark, mindless tunnel that can be social media. I don't even have a whole lot of emotional investment in social media but I still find myself scrolling through endless feeds. Pretty much for the sole reason that it is something other than what I am supposed to be doing.
There are others that I barely notice that I am doing. I find myself coming up with questions about what I am writing and then looking but articles to explain it. Normally when I have a question I can answer it easily. Google is incredible with the amount of succinct knowledge it holds. Now that I am working at home though, I find myself reading endless articles about a subject matter that barely holds relevance to what I am doing.
I was writing a quick DIY tutorial about how to set up a guest room. It was for an HVAC company that wanted the main point to be that your guests should have their own personal heating and A/C unit. I ended up reading multiple scientific studies on the effect of temperature on sleep and sleep disorder. Did you know that the optimal temperature for sleeping is between 60-67 degrees? I didn't until I wrote this article!
Probably my biggest distraction is Ozzy, my cat. Which, I know, sounds like the biggest crazy cat lady admission I have made yet. However, it is the truth. Having a living, moving, creature that demands attention for the majority of the day can be a big time sink.
We're figuring out a good balance though. He usually hangs out on my desk during the day but not directly in the way. Though sometimes he still tries to sit directly on the keyboard.
Having him around, though, is so good for my mental health. Sometimes sitting at home alone can be taxing. Especially if there is a long period of refusals, rejections, or no answers. These are real aspects of this industry so being able to deal with them well is just part of the job. The best cure for dejection is cuddling with this furry little beast, even if he is trying to get away from mandatory-cuddle time.
A more human-centric answer is working with others. Which, is probably a lot more healthy than getting emotional support from a clueless quadruped. Finding other people to work with is bolstering in many ways. Not only are you more accountable for your actions you get the emotional support of social interaction and solidarity. I spend far less time making myself cups of tea when other people are around, that is for sure.
More than that though, it is inspiring working with people who are succeeding in their freelance careers. Especially as I am still trying to get my feet firmly wedged into the door, knowing that others are making careers out of their freelance work is heartening. These are not just faceless people I can read about, either, they are friends and peers. This inspiration really instills the belief that I will be able to do this.
Just Do It
The most straightforward thing to avoid procrastination for me is to just do it. I can work myself into a tizzy about avoiding work or jumping into a certain project. Once I start though, it really isn't that big of a deal. I can get a bunch done just by working steadily even when I am not feeling especially inspired. Forbes talks about this in their article about procrastination avoidance in a couple of manners. There are ways to kind of trick yourself into starting a project. For example, telling yourself that you are going to work on it for 5 minutes. Doesn't seem like it is a long time so you do the five minutes and then realize that you can keep working on it until it is done or at least a sizeable chunk is finished.
Personally, I base my days on this. If I have in mind that I am going to start with a creative piece that is raw and personal, I never start. I'll do anything but settle down to work. However, if I start the day right at 7 o'clock with a quick iWriter assignment I can start easily. The content for iWriter at the base level is usually articles between 150-500 words that take minimal research or knowledge. They are usually pieces that are just filling out content to be more attractive on a website. Nothing remotely stressful and therefore easy to get done. Once I have finished one article it is easy to jump into the more intensive writing that I want to accomplish that day.
If I still can't focus on what I want to be doing, there are always other things that I can be working on. Blog posts, research, writing out things for a longer novel, short stories, poems, writing anything is better than falling into avoidance techniques or cruising the internet for mindless drivel. All I have to do is sit at my desk, and just do it. So, on that note, I should probably wrap up this blog post and get started on my work!
What are your ways of avoiding procrastination?