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Five tips for writing productively from home

As coronavirus cases continue to rise and social distancing becomes the norm, you’re probably into at least your second week of working from home. But if you don’t work from home at least occasionally, it might be difficult to write productively while sticking to stay-at-home guidelines.

As a solopreneur, I’ve run my content writing business from home for 13 years. Here are some strategies I’ve developed that can help you get in the writing groove when your home suddenly becomes your office.

1. Create a bright, comfortable workspace

The most important consideration for the home-based writer is creating a proper workspace. If you don’t already have a home office, choose an area that’s separate from the bulk of your family activity. That might be a spare bedroom (with a door to close for privacy), a kitchen table or an enclosed patio. A room in a finished basement might be an option, but choose a well-lighted area (and with good Internet connectivity). A dim workspace and artificial lighting are usually not conducive to productive writing.

Keep your work area organized and free of clutter and materials unrelated to your job. And since you’ll be sitting for relatively long periods of time, try to use a comfortable chair. Your back will thank you.

2. Dress for work

Unless you videoconference frequently, you might be tempted to work in sweatpants or a hoodie. Avoid this impulse. You’re still working and need to dress appropriately to maintain a sense of normalcy. This doesn’t mean you have to wear a suit or fancy dress to work at your kitchen table. But pajama bottoms and T-shirts don’t set the tone for productive writing. And if you have kids at home, going super casual sends a signal that you’re ready to relax, not work.

3. Stick to a schedule

Keep consistent working hours to maintain a daily routine. In addition, create boundaries by letting others in your home know you’re not to be disturbed during “work time.” Build structure into your day by taking time for breakfast, lunch and dinner—same as you would while at the office.

If you write frequently, you probably already know when you write best. If you’re most productive early in the morning, transplant that activity to your home working hours. Need to catch up on emails? Set aside a block of time to do so apart from your peak writing hours.

4. Take breaks

Outside your regular office setting, it might be difficult to keep track of how long you’ve been sitting in place, staring at your laptop. Just as your body needs a break, so does your mind. Few writers can work productively for hours at a time.

Try writing for 30 or 45-minute blocks. Use a timer to track the minutes, then take a quick break to stretch and attend to a small matter like throwing a load of laundry in the washer, giving the kids a snack, or replying to an email or voicemail. These short breaks can help free up your mind and recharge your batteries for another burst of writing productivity.

5. Minimize distractions

Optimally, your workspace will be set apart from your dining room, the kids’ play space or another noisy, high-traffic area. This helps avoid distractions and will allow you to get down to some serious writing.

If noise is an issue in your work area, try listening to music through ear buds, use ear plugs or add some white noise like a fan or an air purifier.

Silence phone notifications and avoid the temptation to constantly check your emails. These distractions can seriously disrupt the flow of writing.

Make sure your family members know you’re working during set hours and not on a “stay-cation.” If you have young children at home, ask your spouse or partner for help, if possible. You might set up a rotating schedule that frees up one adult to tend to the kids while the other continues working.

Working from home may not be optimal for everyone, but it comes with certain advantages. After all, you don’t have to worry about commuting and all your amenities are under one roof.

Do you have more writing-from-home tips to share? If so, please post them in the comments below.

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