how to boost productivity while working from home

How to be Productive When Working from Home

Working at home is a risk in more ways than one. You’re not only responsible for finding your own sources of income, you’re also your own taskmaster, which means you have to be self-motivated and productive enough to deliver what you promise to your clients.

how to boost productivity while working from home

This has never been an issue for me, really—but it’s more of challenge to also make sure I deliver on the things I promise to no one but myself—my fiction, my blog posts, my platform for wordhaus, and other efforts that have been floating n the back of my mind with nowhere to go for so long.

My first few days working from home, the entire day, every day, seemed like a blank slate, filled with as many distractions waiting to ensnare me as a game of Mousetrap.

Now that I’m a couple weeks in, I’m much more confident that I can stay on top of my priorities. There’s always room for improvement, and I”m learning some lessons along the way, but here’s how I’ve averted total disaster as I kick off my new freelance career:

Sticking to routine
Some friends looked at me a little strange when I told them I’m still waking up at 6 a.m. every day, and am in front of my computer by 7. I work from home now! There’s no boss to care when I show up! Why not get my beauty sleep?

But the truth is, I’m terrified to sleep in. Those morning hours are prized fiction writing time, and the later I get up, the less writing I’m likely to do. Worse, I fear that sleeping in will disrupt a trusty routine that’s proven productive for years—even if it was forced on me by a job.

As I settle into new routines, I expect I’ll get more comfortable letting go of the old ones. But for now, if it’s not broke, I’m not fixing it.

In other words, you’ve got to know what matters, what doesn’t, and mercilessly draw the line between them.

I have a lot of goals. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I can’t tackle them all at once, even if I am working from home. The only way to make meaningful progress on any of them is to pick a few to focus on first, then build from there. For now I’m focusing on finishing my novel, getting a few freelance clients, getting in shape for a half marathon in November, and integrating more peace and mindfulness into my life with regular yoga practice.

And obviously, prioritizing is key on a day-to-day level too. Every morning I identify my to-dos for the day. Crossing them off my list as I go is a reward in itself.

Understand your flow
I always do my fiction writing first thing in the morning. This is in part sticking to my routine and prioritizing, but it’s also largely because I know my mind does creative writing best when I’m fresh. Other tasks like new business pitching and research I do best at the end of the day. I don’t know why, I just know it works for me.

Finding and understanding your optimal work flow comes from experimentation. Try new things, and pay attention to what feels good and what get results.

Schedule breaks
Periodic breaks have been proven over and over to improve your focus and productivity. So chill out and enjoy them, okay?

I write my breaks right into my to-do list. This lets me mark my break times by accomplishment. I like this better than breaks by time period because when I step away I have the satisfaction of knowing I’ve ticked off a to-do, and it helps me relax to know I’ve got one less thing on my plate. It also makes sure I actually take a break. I use most of my breaks to get away from the computer and do something active—walk my dog, practice yoga, go for a run.

And when it’s over, I’m rewarded by getting to scratch it off my list along with my work tasks.

how to boost productivity when working from home

These basic principles of productivity have kept me moving forward in my first few weeks of freelancing. But maximizing my productivity is an ongoing project for me. As I experiment with some productivity models, I’ll keep sharing what I find.

What are your best productivity tricks?

And Now for Something Totally New

Hi there. Yes that’s right I’m still alive and all that. I know, I’ve been remiss in my posting responsibilities for a while here.

Things just got crazy for a while there. Not a very good excuse, but it’s the unfortunate reality, all the same.

transition to freelance
My new coworker, Pippi the Min Pin

The good news? I can finally tell you what’s been going on over here in Emily-land. Because it’s big.

I believe I’ve mentioned here before that my husband’s work was taking him to Florida. For over a year we did this back-and-forth thing where he was in Florida two weeks and then back home to DC, or I’d go visit him there, and so on.

Why live like this? We both loved living in DC. We loved our neighborhood and our neighbors. We loved all the options that beautiful crazy city held for us. I loved my job in DC. I was not ready to give up those thing so he could take a good job opportunity for a few years (and neither was my husband, really).

But. Well.

All that alone time leads to a lot of thinking. And we started to realize something. Going to Florida could actually be a huge career opportunity for me, too.

Because of the details of the support my husband’s work is offering during his time in Florida, I could pretty painlessly transition to freelance writing if I wanted. And as it happens, writing from home has been a dream of mine for many years.

Even so, it took me a long time to finally accept that I could do this, or that I should do this. It meant walking away from a life I was happy in, with great coworkers, and a very comfortable life.

Also, the real opportunity to freelance meant I had to take a hard look at the realities behind the dream. What if I didn’t get enough clients? Or any clients? What if I don’t have enough to show for myself at the end, and made myself unhirable when it was time to go back? What if I poured all that time into my fiction and got nothing but a pile of rejection letters for all my effort?

I’d end up staring failure right in the face, that’s what. Even the vague concept of it hurt a little bit.

But on the other hand, failure itself was pretty controlled in this situation. Financially, we’d be okay if I never made a single cent. The only risk I faced was a harsh reality check. And I really hate to let fear make my decisions for me.

So I bit the bullet, and here we are.

I have some big plans, and there’s a lot to do. But I’m pretty pumped up for it.

Among those plans, there will most definitely be some changes to the blog. Short term, that means more frequent posts. Long-term, that probably means a shift in focus for the Juicer, or perhaps even a new blog altogether.

But I hope you’ll stay with me along the way. And hey, if you’re curious about my freelance services, check out my website.

Boldly Go: 5 Quotes from Leonard Nimoy to Inspire

5 Quotes from Leonard Nimoy to Inspire Creativity
Image by Gage Skidmore

Most of us of course know Leonard Nimoy for his iconic role on Star Trek as Mr. Spock. More recently, I loved him as Dr. William Bell, a mad scientist who is friend and nemesis of lead character Dr. Walter Bishop.

But Nimoy was much more than an actor. In fact, he pursued many creative endeavors in him life, and particularly loved photography. I didn’t know this before the eulogies started cropping up, but it gave me a new perspective and deep admiration for the man behind the Vulcan ears.

In his memory, here are five of my favorite Nimoy quotes:

“The miracle is this: The more we share the more we have.”

“Art, if successful, needs no explanation … each viewer sees what is there for him,
depending on his frame of reference.”

“I’m touched by the idea that when we do things that are useful and helpful, collecting these shards of spirituality, that we may be helping to bring about a healing.”

“When you let me take, I’m grateful. When you let me give, I’m blessed.”

“You know, for a long time I have been of the opinion that artists don’t necessarily know what they’re doing. You don`t necessarily know what kind of universal concept you’re tapping into.”

For more from Nimoy, take a look at this excellent collection of Nimoy’s photography on Buzzfeed.






relaxStop everything.

Just for a minute.

Take a pause and think about your now.

Your breathing. How your body feels. The emotions. The possibilities.

It’s easy, especially as an artist fighting to get a creative outlet into your day-to-day, to lose sight of the contentment of now under the flood of desires and hopes and challenges and plans pushing us into tomorrow.

But we need to pause and soak in the now from time to time. You know, just take a deep breath and relax into the contentment of the moment.

Don’t let this opening month of 2015 pass without taking a pause to take it all in.

Inspired by zen habit’s recent post The Contentment Habit–read it!

How is your now? What do you have in store for 2015?

War as Entertainment: Ethics of “American Sniper”

“Most of America is tired of hearing about Iraq. But now, they’re at least open to being entertained by it.”

—Paul Rieckhoff, Iraq War veteran and activist, in a Variety guest column

Chris Kyle, American SniperThe statement sounds pretty harsh. But as I sat in the movie theater this weekend watching American Sniper’s tense war scenes and homefront personal struggles, I had to question myself about why I was there, and if it was okay to make real, current events into entertainment.

To relieve some of the tension you’re feeling. Rieckhoff himself says he’s okay with it: “It’s tearing open a shameful national boil of a discussion that’s been bubbling below our collective skin for far too long,” he wrote. “And with that, it performs an exceptionally important public service in a way only film can.”

Whew. Right? I’d rather piss off Michael Moore than a veteran any day.

However, there’s still a serious question in play here—is it ethical for the entertainment industry to mine horrific real-world events like wars for box office hits? It is ethical for me to hand over my money for the pleasure of partaking this kind of entertainment?

I’ve wrestled with this many times, and I’ve come to take issue with the word “entertainment” when applied to movies like American Sniper more than I take issue with the film itself.

Movies—especially popular, box-office-hit movies—blur lines. We call them entertainment, and most of the time they are. Heck, it’s the name of the entire movie-making industry.

But movies are also art. And good art does not “entertain” so much as it engages. Good art forces our eyes and minds to wrestle with things we maybe would rather not. It forces us to see things we would not see on our own, and then think about what this new thing means.

And this is something American Sniper does well. If you haven’t experienced war, if you haven’t struggled with a loved on returning from a tour, or struggled with PTSD, your eyes are forced open a little wider by this film.

So is it okay for “entertainment” to take on something “serious”? It’s not just acceptable, it’s a responsibility.