Time management is a struggle for anyone who works from home – especially writers. Last-minute deadlines, procrastination, and old-fashioned writer’s block are challenges that even the most productive of us face. It’s a tough beast to wrangle, but if you can manage your time effectively and treat your schedule as if handed down from a superior, the speed and quality of your work are going to improve markedly. While it’s never easy to be your own boss – much less a good one – that doesn’t mean you’re not up to the task.
1. Minimize Interruptions
Discipline yourself. In the digital age, you’re a constant candidate for interruption. You can surf news headlines on the Internet, check Facebook updates, and watch Youtube videos 24 hours a day. Access to information has changed the world, but it’s also created an obstacle to working effectively from home.
Set time aside every day to check email and social media, and resist the urge to haphazardly peruse the Internet until you’re done with work. Applications like StayFocusd let you create a list of “time-wasting” websites that you still want to be able to access, but with self-imposed time constraints. If you find it hard to discipline yourself, there’s nothing wrong with asking for a little help.
2. Create a Loose Schedule
A great benefit of writing full-time from home is that you don’t have a set work schedule. But this benefit can easily become a burden. Create a loose, generalized task list to give your work week an underlying structure. Include all your assignments and the estimated time it takes to complete them. Make sure you leave a cushion for each, in case you find one especially challenging. And adjust your schedule as needed during the week – if you find you’ve checked off a handful of assignments faster than you thought, you can get a head start on next week’s work.
3. Work When You’re at Your Best
If you’re most productive during the early hours of the day, schedule your difficult assignments first thing in the morning. If it takes you a while to get going, use the afternoon for heavy lifting and reserve your mornings for light brainstorming and finalizing the pieces you wrote yesterday. We all have different natural schedules; identifying yours and matching your workload accordingly is essential to a well-managed writing career.
4. Schedule Breaks
Scheduling breaks is essential to staying fresh and producing good work. If you function better with an hour-long lunch break, take it. If you need thirty mindless minutes before you begin your evening assignments to help get you focused, commit yourself to that. Eight hours of productive writing is better than ten hours of spinning your wheels.
Give yourself a solid half hour at the end of each day to simply unplug. Turn off your PC and mobile device, go to the gym or turn on the TV, and do something totally unrelated to work. Cleansing your mind and recharging your batteries is going to make for a more productive day tomorrow.
5. Utilize the Internet for Organization
Scribbling due dates and call times on a wall calendar or date book can get unwieldy. Consider upgrading. Google mail offers a convenient calendar function in which you can list your due dates, prioritize them by color, and re-sort them in the event of scheduling changes. Microsoft Outlook is an excellent tool for time management as well, and, like Google mail, it sends you reminders of upcoming deadlines via email.
When you find yourself staring at your computer screen hoping that your next idea magically appears, don’t wait too long – in most cases, it doesn’t.
Don’t be afraid to switch things up. Take five minutes away from your PC, go for a workout, or flip open a magazine. Even delving into a different project for 30 minutes can give you a fresh perspective on the roadblock you’re facing. The sooner you master the roles of both structured boss and competent employee, the more productive and successful you can be.