What Hinders Your Productivity?

Or maybe the question ought to be – have you looked into what hinders your productivity? It’s something I think about occasionally. I’ll admit it probably isn’t often enough.

Right now I’m a stay-at-home mother. The writing is a side gig that occurs mostly when my little one sleeps. The SAHM gig is not to be regarded in any way less demanding or rewarding than other career options, but a statement that my time is claimed. Life hinders my productivity in domestic tasks, but I don’t tell my two-year-old that she can’t get out her toys, even if it does look like a war zone. We’re learning to pick them all up before bedtime.

More often we point our fingers to the obvious procrastination markers like Facebook or Twitter and try to justify them as promotion. I recently ran into an article saying how people ought to only check that stuff twice a day. I’m not sure how that’d work for Twitter, but Facebook would be easy enough.

Maybe the trick to becoming a productive moonlighting writer is to know why you’re writing and not just the things that are also taking up that coveted downtime. I write because I love exploring new worlds through fiction. I love stringing sentences together (even if they’re not very good at first) and sharing them with others. I enjoy the struggle to find the right words to portray something in my head. With that in mind, I crank out a lot of words.

Over 250,000 words since I began writing at 750words last May. I had no idea I could be so prolific. Sure, I’ve done NaNoWriMo and completed the challenge without breaking a sweat or trying to finish in the 11th hour, but I haven’t kept track of what I do normally. While the 750words site has focused me to write every day and not in the fits and starts I had done before, it also keeps track of what I’ve done since I joined.

I don’t have a full novel written there yet. My last project has morphed into something I’m not sure I’m ready to tackle just yet and I’m working on editing a young adult manuscript more than whipping a wayward work-in-progress into shape.

The other thing I really like about those kinds of statistics is it will track how long it takes me to spew out my words. Some days are a struggle, full of distractions and nearly an hour sessions spent trying to find words. Others can be as short as seven minutes to make the minimum word count. A couple have been spent with a timer and an idea and simply throwing out the ideas as fast as my brain can make it up.

Of the times when my daughter is asleep, I rarely wake before she does. So between writing during her afternoon nap and after she goes to sleep at night, I am much more productive in the afternoon hours and try to take advantage of that. I also shut down other distractions like Facebook.

Lately I feel like I’ve been just waiting, waiting, waiting for the baby to be born. [If you believe the computer, I’m due today. If you believe the 8-week ultrasound, I was due yesterday.]  That’s been hindering my productivity more than I like to admit. How much could be done while I’m not feeling the best but not as sleep-deprived as I soon will be? Another blog post? Another article read? Another chapter edited? Another story written? Another submission sent off?

I’ve managed to get my iPad mostly in order to be my productivity station on the go. I only have three games loaded on it. Mostly I have been reading a bunch of articles and keeping up through other social outlets. When the games become a serious time sink, I’ll have to let them go, too. It’s always good to have goals and keep them in view to know what can be achieved.

I believe goals ought to be flexible and intended to stretch abilities. When I see the goals I want to make happen, I work harder to keep those results at the top of my list. When I allow for life or other things to intrude, I make it more likely that I will stick with the goal instead of just throw in the towel. Take 750words as one example: I haven’t written every day since I joined on May 1. I’ve missed 12 days. Most of them were in a row during a difficult couple weeks. I’ve given myself permission to lose a day or two with the impending baby, though I’m trying not to use that.

Whatever hinders me is something I allow to happen. My choices lead me to where I will be next. Not everything has to be productive – not every moment, not every choice, not every little detail – but I manage to get things done. Maybe that’s just because no one’s sold me on a reason to spend 3000 hours on a WoW profile…

What do you think about productivity and downtime and how they affect your writing and your goals?

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Ready for the Holidays?

Whether I’m ready or not, they’re coming. I was able to wish my good friend a Happy Hanukkah before sundown, which also happened to be my (favorite) sister-in-law’s birthday. [It doesn’t matter that I only have one sister-in-law; she’s all kinds of awesome, and that makes her my favorite.] And Christmas is very soon!

When I was a child, holidays never stressed me out. It was a break from school, time to read as many books as I could fit into the time, and time to be excited about exchanging gifts.

Somehow as adulthood approaches, there are more pressures. We want things to be special for the kids- and in my family we have a great 7-year Santa tradition that none of us want to miss. Each year since my daughter’s birth we’ve sent out pictures of at least her with Santa. This year’s holiday card had a picture of my daughter hugging Santa, plus one of the four of us (my husband, my daughter, Santa, and me).

My husband and I were super organized during our recent relocation, and we had the labels printed off before we moved as well as a short letter to explain our recent developments (baby due in January, promotion and move). We had the cards printed and ready to send out by 1 December, but it took me another week to buy stamps. Some years the holiday cards feel like such a strain to get them all out with everything else going on. Yet I love receiving them from others and seeing how others change.

Then there’s always the question of gifts. I love shopping and finding a great gift someone on my list will love. Because I’m due in less than three weeks and a little restricted for travel, it changed how we normally celebrate the holidays. Most of my shopping was completed Black Friday and most of our gifts exchanged on the next day.

This year also marks a change in my attitude. We moved for my husband’s job about a month ago. We’re in temporary housing so we didn’t have to worry about all that while the baby was imminent. There’s only so much we can do at once, right? But with these two moves (one to temporary housing, one to a more permanent residence), it has me realizing that it won’t be a permanent residence, most likely. Just a more permanent one.

That makes me more willing to part with items that clutter up our living space, and more selective on the things I want to purchase for gifts. So part of my daughter’s gift was a museum membership (that we’re already enjoying). My husband often asks for clothes, so it makes it easy to keep him happy and well-dressed.

One of the few things I’m not willing to part with, or even entertain a discussion about getting rid of, are my books. No, they’re not easy to move. They’re heavy and bulky and I have a lot of them. Many more than goodreads would have you believe. One day I’ll catch up with that, but it won’t be in the near future. I love books and reading and writing.

“I cannot live without books.” Thomas Jefferson

I have been modifying some of my writing techniques, but I miss my printer. I have been accustomed to writing in a digital setting for some time, but I don’t always have access to my saved copies. Most of it is again at my fingertips, but I’m still using different computers than I’d gotten accustomed to in my home office. Not to mention that lovely iPad 2 I got for my birthday and the bluetooth keyboard I (already) received for Christmas (from that favorite sister-in-law).

The questions become how to keep it all compiled nicely where I can find it, and also how do I bypass the print and edit/revise/proofread step(s). At home I had novels trapped in binders that I could take with me to writing groups or simply lend to a friend who wanted to read the one up for revision. But those paper copies make it so easy to mark notes in margins and replace words I don’t like.

My current issues are organization of my digital files and keeping tabs on the draft copy I’m revising. Once I moved I realized I wasn’t sure where my best copy of in-progress revisions were hiding. Oops. While that’s partly under control, it tells me what else I need to do in order to be more productive.

Yes, productivity and efficiency are at the bottom of everything, from holiday shopping to organization to making a new place feel like home. Or maybe my household is just practical that way.

Happy Holidays! May your new year bring in many wonderful things.

Productivity

Staying at home sometimes seems to be viewed by those in Corporate America to be a slacker way to go. I think it can be harder to stay at home and still get things done like I’d like, but I keep trying.

When you go to work, you often have set hours. You definitely get a scenery change. Someone sets goals and you meet them.

At home, I do all of that myself. I set my own goals and reach them. I set my own hours depending on what I need to get accomplished, but sometimes things like grocery shopping get in the way. Or the doctor appointment I expected to be out of the house for a total of one hour and ended up spending two hours only in the office.

Stress is an external factor at a corporate position, but it becomes much more internalized when I stay at home. If I don’t make my goals, there is no one to blame but me. I focus on what I want to achieve and try to find another way to do it in the time I have allotted, which is never easy.

I think the few who think I’m slacking by staying at home just don’t know how much work it is. Okay, I can’t keep up with my housework because I’m generally trying to spend that time writing. I also get a little leeway because I’m eight months pregnant. Sometimes I just have to accept that not sleeping all day is a pretty good goal.

Hey – I blogged today. What else do I need to do? I could rattle off the list, but most of it is baby-related rather than writing-related. Better luck tomorrow.