Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Enjoying Some Time Off

This past weekend our family headed out to Spirit Mountain Casino to celebrate my mom's 50th birthday.  It was a great time both in the casino and hanging out in the restaurants and up in the rooms (Mr. Kawaii and I rented a suite for the night so there would be room for our entire gang to hang out in), and although the excitement of the weekend left us all exhausted it was certainly a perfectly timed break from working and writing.

Time and time again, Mr. Kawaii reminds me of the importance of scheduling time away from work; and time and time again he is proved right.  It is very easy as a stay-at-home worker bee to work constantly, and even easier to get burnt out when projects pile up and we get overwhelmed.  Taking a step back and living life a little helps to keep things in perspective.

To all of you - keep up the good work on your own projects, and celebrate your success by taking a day or two off!

One Armed Bandit Slot Machine Bank

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Separating Work and Life

I am a "doer".  It has been demonstrated time and time again that it is very difficult for me to stop working on projects, even when I know I need to take a break.  This blessing/curse has become exponentially more apparent now that I work from the comfort and confines of my own home, and Mr. Kawaii and I are constantly trying to find little ways to help me switch off at the end of the day.

Constantly being surrounded by work in my personal space makes it so easy to do "one more thing", remind me of a project that I wanted to get done today or give me ideas for new projects that I hadn't even thought of during my working hours.  Bits and pieces of our home business can be found in our home-office, our dining room, can be seen from the dining room and kitchen... all of the rooms that are most frequently used during the day for work and for rest.  It's as easy to get distracted by work when I'm checking my personal e-mail as it is to be distracted by it when making a sandwich.

A couple of things we have done are helping to keep my habit of continuous work in check though, and they are helping me to start paying attention to living life and taking a breather between projects.  Scheduling work-days with specific goals has helped a lot.  When I wake up in the morning I know exactly what needs to be accomplished during the day and once those goals are met I have permission to walk away from work.

The other new addition to our workspace was the installation of an OPEN / CLOSED sign that hangs above our desks.  When we're working, we flip the sign to Open and get to business.  At the end of the day, we switch the sign to Closed and shut down any work related programs on the computers or shut off the lights and leave the home office altogether.  It may seem silly to have a "We're Open" sign hanging in the house, but it is a great visual cue to help me remember when I'm off the clock.

U. S. Stamp & Sign Reversible Business "Open/Closed" Sign, with Suction Mount, 13 x 5 Inches (4246)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Coming Up With New Ideas

Possibly the single most difficult part of being a writer is trying to come up with fresh ideas.  This is particularly difficult for me sometimes when writing for the internet because I'm essentially battling with billions of other bloggers, freelance writers and technical writers for creative space.  For me, inspiration comes in waves and I've learned that I need to capture ideas as they come in order to keep up a pace that continues to build momentum on all that I've already done.

About once every few weeks as I am sitting on my bum cruising the internets, or sitting in the DMV waiting area listening to the workers drone on as I wait my turn, or picking up groceries at the store, I have a sudden burst of great ideas for things to write about.  The lightning bolt of inspiration comes at random and it's very easy to miss it if I'm not paying attention or don't have a piece of paper and pen handy.  But when the stars align and I realize what is happening in this brain of mine, I start writing a list of things that I intend on writing in the next 4 weeks.

I do my best to only grab enough of these bright ideas to fill a month's writing because I've discovered that if the list gets too long, I can't decide which ideas to write about first or which ones just seem like good ideas at the time but are actually giant turds.  Even if I'm extremely motivated and every idea is a jewel, chances are that if I've got more than 10 ideas on paper at a time then Murphy's Law indicates that with so many great ideas all in one space I'll inevitably lose the list and be back at square one.

... And before you ask, yes I do live with an abundance of technology and conceivably I could make this list in an e-mail to myself on my netbook or text it to myself from my smartphone but for me there is something about furiously jotting things down on a scrap of paper that makes me feel like I'm actually working and that my thoughts are becoming tangible ideas that I can see and touch.  Call me old fashioned, but it works for me.

Still Currently Reading:
Free Food for Millionaires
I'd like to note that I am enjoying this book, but the main character and many of the supporting characters smoke throughout the story... and as an ex-smoker who is trying to not again become a  pack-a-day smoker there is only so much smoky reading that I can do at a time before I want to light up myself.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Deadlines, Deadlines.

My writing has taken off this past year, and although I won't go so far as to say that I'm a writer "in demand", I have somehow begun to amass a long list of deadlines and due dates.  Now, I'm not complaining - having a list of writing assignments and requests makes me feel useful and respectable in a way that is incomparable to any other job/career I've held.  But it does make me pause during the first week of the month when I write all of the deadlines on the whiteboard above my computer and when I'm done the board runs over with colors, bullet points and underlined important projects.

Managing deadlines can be tricky, especially when other opportunities pop up mid-month, a family member falls ill or the sun comes out and calls to you through the window.  It's probably the most difficult task I deal with on a week to week basis, and I have to force myself to not push things out "until tomorrow".  Some of the things that help to keep me on track are:

- Having clear and defined deadlines and goals.  Once the deadline is satisfied, erase it from the board and move on!  No sense fretting over whether or not the editor is going to send something back for revisions when there's a new project waiting to take its place.

- Pre-plan article and blog topics when able.  Although I can't predict what nodes of wisdom I might collect over the next few weeks, I do have an idea of upcoming events and holidays that can be fodder for writing.

- Fill the board, then say "no" or "can it wait?" to projects that come up mid-month.  Getting overambitious causes me to become overextended and feel burnt out pretty quickly.  Not to mention that if you say "yes" to anything, people get the impression that you are just sitting around all day playing Pirates Ahoy and waiting for something to do.  I might be playing Pirates Ahoy all day - but I'm doing it because I need a break, not because I'm desperate for work.

In managing myself, I've discovered that I'm both my best and WORST employee.  I am also the best and WORST boss I've ever had.  It's a constant struggle to stay on task, but then, I suppose that's just a small price to pay for being able to work in my pajamas.

Currently Reading:
Free Food for Millionaires