Yes, it's true that most of us who work from home--not all--don't get out of pajamas until noon or ever. That's fine as long as your comfortable. No one really cares. I've been known to do a web call by pulling a dress on over my yoga pants--they only see the top, right? What we're talking about today is your workspace and your time.
- First up on the things to organize in your life is your editorial calendar. If you don't have one, do this right away. I use a regular wall calendar because I like the big square spaces, but use whatever you like best. If you have a blog, take the time today to plan out topics for the next month or more. Mine is scheduled for the rest of this year (and I have five blogs). Also on the calendar, right down any pending deadlines. Color code these if you wish so it's easy to scan to find what you're looking for. Don't neglect works-in-progress--give yourself a deadline for that first draft. An editorial calendar keeps you in check with what needs to be done, gives you a gauge to see if you're on track, and also makes it easier to plan your daily life. When you're not thinking of content ideas or struggling to meet deadlines that seem to have 'snuck up on you', your mind is free to create.
- If you're working from a desktop, clear it of anything that can be filed away. We creative types have our own idea of what is important, so evaluate what you need there and what you don't. A clear workspace means fewer distractions.
- Schedule personal time during the day--use an alarm if needed. Balance is key to keeping you from burning out and fueling that creative fire. Every four hours or so, give yourself a break. It doesn't need to be long, but it definitely needs to be done. When you take time to walk outside, make yourself lunch, play with the dog, or simply sit in peace, you return to the project with a fresh mind.
- Utilize automated programs like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to eliminate some of the day-to-day social media used to market your brand. These take a few hours to set up on the front end, but you'll save yourself hours a day once you're all set up. No, this isn't cheating. You can still check-in when you have time to be social, but you need to manage your time effectively. It's more important for you to be working on the next best thing than tweeting constantly.
- Limit networking with various professional groups to an hour a day maximum. As freelancers, we can get lonely working alone at home, even though we are grateful for the break from commuting. The idea of chatting it up with a 'friend' you made in that networking group for hours may feel like a good idea, but don't let the casual atmosphere of being at home in your pajamas distract you from the concept of 'professional contact.' Keep it short, to the point, and refocus on your agenda for that day. There's nothing like drama to sap your creative energy--maintain those boundaries.
- Set work hours and adhere to them. Remember that you're the boss of your career--your success or failure rests solely on your shoulders. During your scheduled hours, you're at work and no one has the right to call you unless it's an emergency, show up at your door expecting you to help them with their personal problems, or anything else. I have gone so far as to make a sign that I hang on my front door that says, "Working in Home Office, Do Not Disturb." Yes, I take my work hours that seriously and so should you to give yourself a set routine. People like to think that those who work from home aren't really working--it's something I don't understand but have definitely experienced. It's necessary to say, "I'm working and can't go until 4PM (or whenever)" to let people know that you take yourself and your career seriously enough to have an established set of working hours. This also gives you balance--if you have said you only work 10-6, then it's the perfect excuse to shut the computer down and end your work day.
Creativity actually loves routine. When you sit down at the same time every day, your mind automatically knows it's time to focus. Do you like music when you work or a candle or complete quiet or a cup of coffee within reach? Instill this into your routine before you sit down.
The important thing to remember is that organization isn't a dirty word for the creative professional. We have a lot going on in our brains--ideas bursting about at random intervals. We can better nurture those ideas if we have a foundation established that supports our daily routines.
Amber Lea Easton
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of nonfiction, thrillers, and romantic suspense. A professional editor and freelance journalist for nearly two decades, she created Mountain Moxie Publishing Services to assist authors in mastering the writing craft. Her memoir, Free Fall, is dedicated to spreading suicide awareness, has topped international best selling charts, and has been named by Dr. Prem as fourth on the "Ten Most Inspiring True Stories Everyone Must Read" list. Easton is also a speaker regarding parenting through trauma and suicide awareness. To discover more about Mountain Moxie Publishing Services, please go to http://www.moxiegirlwriting.com. For a list of all of Easton's books, articles and interviews, go to http://www.amberleaeaston.com.