Controlling your day for maximum writing efficiency

In November 2016 my work in the ‘normal’ world of work was dealt a cruel blow. Working with a Christian charity, I was struck down with systematic and hard-to-control micro-sleep events. By the time I finally managed to get into a specialist to find out what was causing this my role had been cut short.

Leaving any kind of work is difficult. This was much harder. I loved the job and the organization. Making things worse was the problem of my health. There was no immediate solution to this, and in fact, as I write, this is still ongoing. Although, I did end up on insulin for diabetes which has given me 90% of my energy back.

Needing Work…and a Prayer

What do you do when you drop off to sleep at a moments notice? How do you even interview for work when you could fall asleep in the interview? How likely is an employer to take you on in these circumstances?

An uncomfortable reality dawned on me. I might not even be able to find any work. What do I do then? I still need to provide. I need money for medicine. I need to get my daughter to school.

Fortunately, a number of things converged to make my future much brighter than I felt it would be at that time. For a long time I had wanted to develop a writing sideline; not so much for the money (although it certainly could always help) but the challenge of developing a new skill to the highest possible level. I have always loved reading newspapers and magazines so I studied a short course in freelance journalism. This ultimately gave me the skills to launch myself into the world I now inhabit.

Going back several years, I had learned to make eBooks to help a business I worked with develop an email list. I had also used this new skill to write an eBook for businesses who needed to understand more about social media and how they could integrate social media into their marketing programs.

I met with my Pastor and we prayed into it. Privately, I sought the Lord in prayer; I got on my knees and asked for help.

Enter…Freelance Writing

Within two weeks my prayers had been answered!

Someone was paying attention. Out of nowhere I received an offer to help two businesses with their content marketing; writing blogs, email newsletters, and sales collateral. This has now become my business; one I can run from home, a coffee shop or anywhere. No longer would I have to worry about micro-sleeping on the job. I wouldn’t have to be concerned with my health getting in the way of work.

Slowly, my health is being restored. I can work normal hours again, and my original two clients are giving me much more work. I happily take-on extra work from other clients, filling the void and keeping busy — just how I like it.

Working From Home — A Blessing and a Curse

Working from home can be great. For one, there is no commuting; no foul car exhaust, no paralyzing traffic jams, and hardly any chance of having an accident — especially if your car is parked, locked-up, engine off in the driveway of your home. I am also enjoying not having to pay for gas. Just driving to work was costing me almost $100 a week.

There are some drawbacks to not going into the office though. You don’t have the opportunity to interact with others. What I miss most about that are those delightful moments where conversations on-the-fly can result in breakthroughs. As a business blogger these moments can be absolute gold.

In the home environment there are also some challenges. When you work from your home office every day people tend to think you’re doing nothing. They’ll want you do do unpaid work: “Drive me here,” “Drive me there,” “Go and pick this up.” It’s not difficult to lose four or five productive hours to unplanned and unpaid work. It can totally mess your day up!

If it’s not work, it’s socializing. I haven’t become a hermit just yet, however, if I am working (whether that is onsite or from my home office) I can’t come and play snooker and drink a few brews with you.

When I worked for one of the country’s most famous newspapers I never had friends ring up and ask me down to the pub for trivia and pints. Somehow, when you work from home you don’t have a schedule and it’s open slather.

Then, of course, there is the fair lady of the house. If you’re slaving away at the computer you look like you’re doing nothing. “Ah, ha! You’re home, so you can wash the car, vacuum the house, and mop the floor…oh, and don’t forget to wash and iron the clothes!”

Now, don’t get me wrong! I like to do my fair share of cooking and cleaning. I’m not whining about that (but I totally get that it might seem to come across that way). But, please!! Respect my time. My time is valuable, and unlike those ‘normal’ jobs, there is no payday for slacking off. Nothing finished, no coin!!

Protect Your Schedule

In any ‘normal’ job you are expected to run to a schedule. There are deadlines. You need to be at meetings. Then you have meetings about the meetings (no kidding, this actually happened to me). You need to be in the office by 8.30 am and leaving by 5 pm. In between, you’re expected to crank out the work.

Why should working at home be any different?

First of all, you need to make a roster or a schedule. Program your day so you know at any time what you are doing. Then stick to it. Like the gigantic waves of a stormy sea your schedule will be buffeted by one demand after another. But you need to stay strong. Protect your work time.

Others will eventually come around. However, it will be an education process. To help teach your loved ones to respect your work time create a typical day in a Microsoft or Google calendar. Email it to those close to you. Print it off and pin it to your office door, stick it to your fridge, and talk about your day — what’s coming up, who you’re doing business with, and the exciting projects you are working on. Give it life and let it live!

You will be glad you did. You will achieve so much more with your day.

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