Archive for the ‘Productivity & Time Management’ Category
Whether it is the current assignment, your new post, the kids or something else calling, there comes a time when we need to pull ourselves out of the bed, wash up and get ready for a hopefully fun battle that is a writer’s day.
It’s much harder to just respond to logic (“I need so much to do, and I can’t just wait for everything to be perfect to start my day!”) after a bad night’s sleep, when you have a cold or the weather is as bleak as in a post-apocalyptic movie.
It’s even harder if your body loves and/or needs a lot of sleep. Here’s all the weaponry I arm myself with to drag myself to my writing desk and chair: (Because I can’t be happier once I start writing away.)
Make sure you’ve slept enough!
I envy the lucky souls who only need 5-6 of sleep to start the day with full energy and working brain cells. I however belong to the majority that needs 7-9 hours.
Hell, I need much closer to 9. Whatever your magic number is, make sure you get your fill. Because even though you exercise and eat healthily to make up for the lack of sleep, tiredness and lack of productivity will creep up on you no matter how many cups of coffee you drown, and we both know losing count of how much caffeine you take is only good for sitcom characters.
Choose a Kick-ass Alarm Song
Sometimes an early meeting, a late night out with friends or just some appreciated after-midnight inspiration doesn’t allow you to wake up all energized. You need some motivational intervention to kick your body and soul into motion
And even if you wake up all energized, extra vigor and flare never hurt anyone. Now, I hate the typical beeping sound. So I set my alarm clock (aka my cell phone) to play a rocking tune (currently it’s Where the River Flows by Collective Soul) to let me know morning has arrived.
Roxette- Dressed for Success - She’s Got the Look
Bon Jovi – Everyday
Soundgarden – Original Fire
Ideally for 30 minutes, to equally vitalizing music. I prefer dancing, aerobics or a combination of both. Don’t forget to stretch before and after.
Even when you don’t have time, pick some good basics and do them anyway. 5-10 minutes is better than nothing.
Save the foamy, relaxing bath for later. Now you just want to feel fresh and awake.
Have a Healthy Breakfast
That, under no circumstances and in no universe, means black coffee on empty stomach! A whole-grain toast with some healthy cheese beats a bowl of cornflakes. Add some healthy yoghurt, some freshly squeezed juice to the mix if you can and you are good to go.
Yes, your nutritionist will know better. You know your body better than me too. But we both now a candy bar is not what you need. (Yes, I love those too. Life is just not fair.)
Make Sure Your Desk Beckons You
It’s your working environment, so how much you organize (if at all) and how you decorate is up to you. Take 5-10 minutes to create your ideal space, but don’t use it as a reason to procrastinate.
Type the Words Away
You made it! Happy Writing.
This is my favorite ritual, and things go a lot for better for my spirits (and writing) if I stick to it. Of course this is for a typical morning. If the weather is too hot to bear, this is the post you should check out: Productivity for Writers: Tips to Increase Your Productivity During Hot Weather
There is no doubt about the fact that 21st century made a writer’s job a lot easier. Maybe the markets became more competitive, but at least now it is so much easier to contact editors, submit queries without waiting for the post office to do its job or wait for a conference to be able to get the editors to notice you (although this is still a great method for this purpose. It is just that you can’t always attend all the conferences you want to due to time, money or place constraints.)
And there is so much that we need to do on the internet – from billing to sending e-mails, from researching the web to updating our blogs…It is so easy to get worked up when our internet connection fails us. Usually this glitch is temporary, and it doesn’t cause that much of a disaster-given that we’ve saved all our work, and we haven’t left anything to the last minute.
But whether the problem lasts for a minute or a day, and whether you experience it in your office or at your favorite coffee shop/co-working space, there is no need to lose your temper or patience. There’s so much you can do in the name of productivity and creativity while you are offline. From organizing your files to taking a break, from making a list of your goals to brainstorming, you can turn the glitch into a productivity fest.
The original version of this article was published on Freelance Switch and is called Freelance Tasks To Do Without the Internet.
Enjoy your list, and save it somewhere offline for a rainy an offline day. : )
You can leave your comment here or on Freelance Switch.
One advertising teacher had told me there was a word for people who were addicted to deadlines, and the adrenaline that last minute rush created. I’ve not forgotten the definition. Yes, I was pretty guilty of it when I heard the word.
The easier a subject was to study, the more I procrastinated. Oh, I procrastinated for the subjects that were hard for me too- I just did it a little less and gave myself a little more time.
For some reason, I just couldn’t focus or worry enough until 2-3 days were left before the exam. And if I thought I could pull it off, I’ve been known to start studying as late as in the morning of the exam!
Of course I made exceptions for term projects, theses, grades I needed to improve and while I was studying to get into university.
I’m much more professional and careful now. I take my assignment deadlines very seriously, and start the project almost as soon as I accept it. I also make sure I finish it a couple of days before the deadline so that I am ready for last minute problems.
And although my sense of professionalism has made me procrastinate less, it hasn’t eliminated it completely. Let’s take my first novel for instance.
Since it is my first, I don’t have an editor/publisher pressuring me to finish 5 chapters in 2 weeks or something. It is not that I don’t try to write as much as I can whenever I can. But when I get stuck with a scene, I let myself suffer from the writer blues, and sometimes it is hard to take back the inspiration I need for fiction.
Then there are the blogs I run, but I don’t publish as often as I’d like to because in between gigs, other marketing efforts, market research, and trying to squeeze in a novel, I sometimes lose more time when resting than I intend to.
But is procrastination purely evil? Or is it a necessary tool for innovation? Does it always make our lives worse? Or does it really help with productivity and creativity?
The two posts I read on it made me wonder. The first one was Melanie Brook’s article on Freelance Switch “The Pull of Procrastination”, and the second one was the article that inspired Melanie’s post “Procrastination Is Essential to Innovation” on Harvard Business Review, written by Whitney Johnson.
I was amazed at how successful Melanie was at not procrastinating, and I did relate with Johnson’s tendency to delay things she wasn’t familiar with – even though she needed to do them to promote the thing she was familiar with-her book.
Both Melanie and Whitney seem to agree on the fact that a little anxiety about an approaching deadline might be necessary. Desirable even. But too much of it is bound to decrease productivity and innovation.
I agree. Below is a list of when I find procrastination a friend or a foe.
It’s a friend when:
- It really makes you get off your butt. Yes, ideally we’d all start doing something about dreams and goals right here and right now. But this is where the saying “better late than never” comes in. Starting and rushing to finish is better than not finishing at all. But of course this goes more for first drafts you write for yourself and not for your clients.
- It gives you adrenaline that was missing for a long time. I don’t know about you, but some adrenaline does fuel my productivity, speed of learning and creativity. I remember promising to a friend that a story would be ready at a certain time. Guess what? It worked. She got the story – and a good one – at the promised time. I just didn’t want to disappoint a reader, no matter how hard and fast I had to work to get it done.
It feels great to find yourself reaching a productivity level you never knew existed.
It’s a foe when:
- It creates extra stress that you could probably do without. As freelancers (and/or writers) we are under enough pressure and stress already about running a one-person company, responsible for all the aspects of our business. And even if you are collaborating with others, it is a lot different from just being responsible from one or two tasks and leaving the rest up to your boss.
- It messes up your schedule and other tasks.
- It makes you enjoy the project less.
It all depends on what you are procrastinating against and how you procrastinate. How much damage are you doing to your work? To your peace of mind? To your career?
Or are you using your procrastination for inspiration?
Just like most things in life, procrastination lies in a grey area, and it is up to you to pull it to the white zone, or let it drag you to the black.
August already arrived and yet it is still typically very hot. Oh, I’m not complaining. I always take my summer wardrobe & weather over looking like an Eskimo and a bleak winter.
However extreme heat reduces productivity and the will to work. It might also cause you to stock on iced-drinks and face the wind/air-conditioner, and ultimately making you catch a cold, like the one I’m trying to fight off right now.
Fortunately, applying a few simple tips to your daily life can help you make the best of the summer, while managing to get all your work done.
1) Air- conditioners. Not every house has one, but it is unthinkable for any respectable coffee shop not to use them. If you don’t have air-conditioning in your living quarters, you can always go to the next Starbucks or a similar concept coffee shop where you can work.
You just need to make sure that directly under the conditioners as this will most probably cause you to get sick. Also make sure you bring a sweater with you just in case. After all, outdoors might be hot enough to walk around in your swimsuit, indoors might feel like the North Pole.
2) Fans. Fans are more affordable and a lot less complicated than air-conditioners. However, most of the time, they tend to be less effective. But then again, a fan is the next best thing when there is no wind outside and you feel like the heat is suffocating you. Just make sure you get the cool indirectly as fans can also easily make you sick. I should know, I’m a few hours from taking my prescribed antibiotics.
3) Beaches and pools. If you live near a sea or an ocean, take advantage. Not only swimming will help you get fit, it will also keep you cool and fresh.
And even if you don’t live near a sea, there are usually affordable pools around. Although some people don’t enjoy the pool experience, it is a nice way to energize yourself. For instance my university gym offers a reasonably-priced membership so I go swimming almost everyday. I can work for much longer and much more productively after I swim.
You just need to make sure you don’t get in the sun without protection.
4) Showers. It is all very well to save water and protect the environment, but you can’t restrain yourself from taking regular showers as this will help you cope with the heat, especially if you live in a city where the daily average temperature easily hits 40 degrees Celsius.
You can be careful about not wasting much water, but you can’t survive without getting under the water at all.
5) Cold drinks and lots of water. Drinking lots of liquids is always crucial, especially during hot weather when you lose a lot of water through sweating. Try to make sure you consume healthy drinks, though- such as water and freshly squeezed juices. As simple as this may sound, many people often neglect this or just try to fulfill their liquid needs through fuzzy drinks, which is not the healthiest option.
Try to apply these daily and you will find it easier to work in the summer.
Catching a cold can come at any season. You know the symptoms: dizziness, lack of energy and low fever. I typically get sick during unstable weather, through a combination of the temperature differences between outdoors and indoors, and the differences between indoors with air-conditioning and indoors with no air–conditioning. Combine it with all the open windows and all the others getting sick and voila: you have a writer with a cold, trying not to vaporize and writing despite a headache.
And while I unfortunately discovered that there is no way I can be as productive as my usual healthy self, there are still a lot of productive and not-so-exhausting things I can do. Here is how you can work through a cold if you want to or need to:
1) Facebook: Facebook is a great way to catch up with your friends. And since you are sick, it is OK to start replying to your received messages, as opposed to replying when you are totally healthy and supposed to be doing something else.
But it is not all. You can also promote your old & recent articles. If you are well enough to log on to Facebook, you are well enough for some mindless article promotion. And since you are already active there, browse through groups and fan pages, join the ones you like, join some communities. If you already have a bunch of communities you joined before, converse and leave your own relevant links that will bring value to the conversations. Also leave links in your messages to your good friends. And don’t neglect to copy paste your article links to your profile.
Worry not. There is no need to overdo anything. 3-4 article links to your Facebook profile/news update within some hours between them is great for exposure and give your friends time to digest and all.
2) Twitter:Yep, you can tweet about your sickness, but while you are at it, why not post some good links? It can be your old or new article links, friends’ articles, or links to stuff you are promoting. If you can turn on your computer and log on to twitter, you definitely owe this little activity to yourself.
3) Stumble and Digg: I suggest you get these sites’ toolbars so you can vote things up and down easily. Since they appreciate you being active and not just marketing your own stuff, this is a great time to promote both what’s yours and other things you like. And when you get better, you will realize you’ll have gotten rid of one your promotional chores for a while.
4) Registering and signing up for useful sites: You may have come across links to register for social media sites, sites that pay for your content, e-mail newsletters you find useful, etc… Registering to multiple sites take time. Since you have time now, use it to sign up for useful stuff.
5) Read blogs and articles: If you are well enough to read, take this time to read friends’ and other’s articles and blog posts. If you can comment, please do. If you don’t have the energy, just help spread the word about the article and let the author know you did this.
6) Check and clean-up your e-mail inbox: You may not feel good enough to study newsletters or apply tips that you are getting from them, but you can always clean out spam and other unwanted stuff. The cleaner your email inbox is, the more productive it will be for you to use it when you feel healthy.
7) Organize bookmarks: How many bookmarks do you have? The idea for this article came to me while I was trying to organize an enormous list of bookmarks. Most of the time, we run into a useful resource, we bookmark it so that we can come back to it later. But since this happens with a lot of sites, we barely ever have the time to go back. Sometimes it is even hard to remember we had a list of websites to visit in the first place.
Do yourself a favor by organizing them. Get rid of the ones you don’t need. If you run into some beneficial stuff, remember to stumble them up, and/or write them down on a Word document, so that you will remember them easily.
8) Take advantage of your entertainment. And if you do watch excess amount of movies and TV shows, remember to write about them later. I once devoured 7 episodes of Supernatural on one sick day. I later wrote a lot of articles on them.
If you have done general reviews for that movie/tv show/whatever already, you can come up with comparison articles, collection of best episodes, list posts and many more.
9) Jot down ideas. When you are physically inactive, your mind can go into overdrive. Make use of these ideas: write them down so you can use them later.
So above are things I do when I am not feeling well. What are your tips for “sickness productivity”?
Recommended Articles on Productivity & Time Management
Many books have been written and chapters have been monopolized for time management. One of the most popular,m aybe even the most popular, procrastination activity of all times is reading and sending e-mails.
Sure, you can do your best to avoid scam. You can warn your friends against sending you weird chain emails that mean well but end up being nothing but time-wasters. You know those emails. It can be a collection of funny cartoons or jokes, or much worse, an e-mail in the form of a story or a greeting card that urges you to forward to as many people as you can.
I don’t get those emails often anymore, and I immediately delete the ones I get. But managing your inbox doesn’t end there. You have work e-mails, e-mails from friends, newsletters, notifications, offers and more.
Ideally, your work e-mail and personal e-mail are two separate accounts. In this day and age, one email isn’t sufficient, especially if you are a freelancer.
But what about those newsletters? If you are working online, there is a big chance you want to keep up with the industry. You need to follow blogs. You updated need information. So you sign up for newsletters. You sign up for free e-books. But of course after signing up for 40 newsletters (it can and should happen if you are educating yourself in specific areas). But keeping up with the information you are receiving is a challenging activity. What you should do is to create many relevant folders so that you can store different things separately and you can return to them whenever you need.
Of course it doesn’t end here. You might also have chosen to be notified when someone comments on a blog post or article you commented upon. Someone might have commented on your article or blog. You need to keep up with these as well.
Timothy Ferriss is an established entrepreneur and blogger who tells you how to deal with all the distractions in your life in his book The 4-Hour WorkWeek. As the title suggests, the book is all about reducing your work week to a mere 4 hours. That’s right, not even your work day but your work week! It sounds implausible but he talks about everything in step-by-step detail. It is possible.
However, I am pretty sure I spend at least 4 hours a week, just checking and reading my emails. He suggests that you should only check your email only twice a day- once in the morning and once in the afternoon. And obviously he is talking about being done with the task quickly and efficiently. It is good advice but one we struggle at keeping. Surely, it can be done. But it does takes patience, effort, and an e-mail checking diet. After all, which writer doesn’t want to see if she has published her recent article or heard from that publisher?
We writers do in fact have many work-related and significant reasons to have a love affair with our email accounts. But we can and should work on cutting the habit and maximizing our productivity. Organizing our e–mails, and not spending more than enough time on them, are good starting points to stop the e-mails from turning us into procrastinators.
Procrastination means delaying your actions. Everyone does it. It’s not all about laziness. Some things just always get in the way of a productive day. Sometimes it is your kids, spouses or other relationships. Sometimes there is a chore or an illness. And sometimes you just feel stuck, blocked or tired. So you feel like doing anything but working.
Yes, the Internet is full of articles on how to beat procrastination. But the truth is, we all always procrastinate, one way or the other, whether we can help it or not. It is human nature. I am pretty sure sometimes the motivation is wonderfully great that delaying doesn’t even cross your mind.Take Jake Gyllenhaal for instance. Does it look like he procrastinated when it came to muscling up for his leading role in Prince of Persia? But then again he received an extra 2 million dollars just to build the muscles. Give me that money and see if I ever procrastinate when it comes to dieting…
Below, Jake Gyllenhall as Prince of Persia.
But hey, for us the regular folk, the motivations and the payouts aren’t always great. So instead of getting depressed and feeling guilty about all the hours and minutes taken from your work, take all those moments and turn them into something useful.
Taking Advantage of Procrastionation: 7 Tips for Writers
1) Movies. Movies are a great method of relaxation. And everyone loves a good movie, right? So lay back and watch it. Enjoy the film and write about what you think about it afterwards. Put it on your blog. Turn it into a research idea. Make that movie count for both fun and some bucks.
2) Music. Almost anyone has a favorite genre. And music is something that is integrated into in our lives and we can create many topics revolving around music. Write about it.
3) Diet breaching and procrastination. Yes, you had sworn you’d never eat that much. But you were upset or happy. Maybe you were just hungry and lazy. Fine. Go ahead. Write about it.
Diets never lose popularity. If you can manage a nice a little angle with some edge, you can query fitness magazines. You can post it on your blog if it is a related topic.
You can even review a diet book you were supposed to follow. Post it to wherever you feel appropriate. In fact, why not make some money with it? Register to Amazon’s associates program and get the link for that book. Place the link in your review.
Now, you have a second income possibility and another reason to promote that article. If it is an e-book, go and look around Clickbank. See how it is doing. And while you are at it, you might decide to write about those books, see which ones you are tempted to try. And then…That’s right. Then you write about it.
4) Out with friends: One of the most popular procrastination method of all times. While you are already out and away from your computers and notepads, just let go, recharge and come back.
5) Hour-long phone conversations with your friends. I suspect this happens more to women than men. Your friends might call to rant about their relationships or just spill their guts about their newest crush. And right there, you just got some nice material for posts on relationships and dating. We all have experience and go through some annoying yet hilarious phases in our lives. I am not saying you write the conversation down as it is and expose your friends. But you might very well use it as an inspiration point. You might not go overbroad as Sex and The City’s Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) and base a whole column about it, but you can count those hours as brainstorming sessions and get something out for you.
6) Magazines. Whether you like fun lifestyle magazines or stuff about your hobbies or industries, blindly going from one page to another, why don’t you pay more attention to the headlines? The editor’s note? The masthead? The topics? What got your attention the most?
You never know, you might (and should) try to pitch that magazine someday. Even if you don’t, it is an excellent resource to keep in mind when it comes to take notes on how to grab attention and make more sales.
7) Books. There is quite nothing like a page-turner. Books that make it impossible for you to put it down don’t come out that often. So, don’t put it down.
But keep a (mental) note on what parts you like the most. You can choose to review this book, or you might want to study what made it into a seller. Also look at the publisher. After all, you might have a book manuscript belonging to a similar genre. And now you know at least one other publisher who might see that genre as relevant.
You see, any procrastination method is not to be feared but to be enjoyed and taken advantage of. This way you will have to worry less about your productivity levels. This attitude might even seriously prevent your writer’s block.
But of course if you procrastinate all the time, there is no way you can benefit from it.