Yay me! I just finished a big project (or at least the first phase of it) for which I will be paid actual money!
I am very fortunate/grateful that I am able to do freelance work at home, on my own schedule (mostly), using my education and skills, in my pajamas. Telecommuting is so way cool!
I can’t work an eight-hour day in an office any more (and likely won’t again). I can only concentrate for a max of three hours at a time, and some days not even that. Occasionally, if there’s a tight deadline, I can manage two sessions, or one and a half.
Of course motivation is a factor. Deadlines and money are two really good ones. But sometimes I have to force myself – or trick myself – into doing actual work. This was true even when I did work in an office.
Anyway, here are some of my techniques – work hacks, as I guess they’re now called.
Taking breaks. Now of course, I can take breaks whenever I want, from a quick game of Candy Crush to an actual nap. My brain and body let me know when it’s time. They just crap out.
When I worked at the office, I tried taking crossword puzzle breaks at my desk. But apparently smoking was the only permissible break activity. Hiding in the bathroom didn’t work. People were known to track me down and ask questions anyway. (“Do you mind if I wipe and flush first?” Sarcasm seemed called for.)
When I got twitchy, I walked around the third floor or even more than one floor until I calmed down. The trick is to carry a clipboard or a few manila folders and walk sort of briskly so it looks like you’re going somewhere and doing something. It works best if the office has more than one room.
Pretending to work. I developed this technique at the office, but it can also be used at home. I would say to myself, “I don’t know how to get started. I’ll just write one sentence, so if someone walks by my cube, it looks like I’m working.” It was surprising to find that once the first sentence was on the screen, I knew what the second one should be – or that the first one was horrible and I could revise it, which also looked like work. Once I built some momentum this way, I was rolling. I don’t have anyone looking over my shoulder now, but the idea is the same – one sentence is the minimum, then see what happens.
Bribery and rewards. These are actually more or less the same. If I do X amount of work, I can check my email or eat a cookie or call a friend. I get to feel virtuous for working and satisfied by the little treat.
Forcing myself. If I’ve got a really tight deadline, I have to apply some internal pressure, especially if it’s one of those I-don’t-think-I-can-get-out-of-bed-days. Everyone in this house likes to eat. (The cats insist on it.) My pay will cover the mortgage, so we won’t be living under the Third St. bridge next month. This is dangerous, because I am a great catastrophizer, but sometimes it’s the only thing that works.
Artificial goals and lying to myself. If I can just do five more pages I can quit for the day. I know I can make it to the end of this section (that would be the lying part).
Stupid work. There are a lot of fairly pointless tasks that must be done anyway, but can be done by rote – adding headers and footers and page numbers, alphabetizing, running spell-check (or typing-check, as I prefer to think of it), that sort of thing. To me, that counts as actual work, and some days it’s all I can manage.
Unfortunately, none of these are effective for housework. No one pays me for that.
Comments on: "Work Hacks" (2)
I have the same problem getting motivated and staying motivated. In fact, I still haven’t gotten started today yet. Great blog.
Nice post. I ‘pretend to work’ very well. 😉