Productivity, Schedules, and Rituals

The other day my husband turned to me and said, “I don’t know how you get anything done while you are home.”

I gave him a confused look because the statement just came out of left field so I asked, “What do you mean?”

So he explained, “I just don’t know how you do it. I tried to do my paperwork the other night and I couldn’t do it. It’s just the house is too overwhelming. All I had to do was copy things down from one paper to another and I kept finding myself distracted and would lose my train of thought. I can’t imagine how you can write a book with all that distraction around you.”

I breathed a sigh of relief because finally someone, SOMEONE, in this frigging house gets it! Our house, as much as we love it, isn’t conducive for structured, focused work. There is just too much, everything. Too much sound, too many sights, too much smells. Everything shiny, distracting, or interesting is always within reach in our small little home. The kids, the dog, the cat, the rats, the salamander, the 4 TVs, the PS2, PS3, the xbox, the Wii, the DVD’s, Netflix, Hulu, the 3 laptops, the 3 3DS’s, the home computer, the phones, and the iPad. It’s just completely overwhelming. Did I mention the kids? Because really those two boys of mine should really count as 65% of the distraction in this house.

As of right now while I’m typing this they are both lounging around my writing nook, one on the PS3, the other on his phone, the dog in between all of us. Noises, humming electronics, etc. And before I came in here I specifically said, “I’m going to sit down and try to do some writing.” That is apparently universal code for “Let’s all hover around mom, play loud games, and argue constantly. Oh the joys of having teenagers… Note the sarcasm.

So anyway, back to my husband’s epiphany. I told him. “Now maybe you can understand why I get frustrated on days when I tell you I couldn’t get any writing done. Or when I complain that I was only able to write 500 words before all hell broke loose and I haven’t hit my goal.”

He nodded in silence. I said, “We need a better plan, our house isn’t a good place to work and you have to study for your upcoming test.” He agreed, and so our new plan since he has a major certification test to take for work soon and I am learning HTML and still writing/editing/and writing some more is this: One day a week, probably on Fridays, since he’s off that day, I will pack up my laptop and notebooks. He will grab his certification books and paper and we will go to the library.

That will be our study day. I can work on code, or write. He can study. And it will be in a controlled, quiet environment. We both suffer from over-stimulation. Having so many flashing, noisy things just doesn’t help two people with ADD. And no matter how organized I make my house it will never be a quiet place. I am okay with that, I love my kids yelling and playing (the fighting not so much, but it comes with the teenage territory), my animals mean the world to me, and we love our electronics. So getting us out of the house will benefit both of us and let us enjoy the chaos of our crazy house without so much frustration over what we aren’t getting done.

Granted one day a week isn’t going to do much for my daily writing strategies, but I’ve got some other plans in mind for that too. Starting Monday I’ve got a couple of rituals I’m going to start:

My little writing corner

My little writing corner

  • Gather up everything I need for my writing sessions. Always the same things (so that my brain can learn to associate these things with “writing time”):
    1. tea
    2. snacks
    3. water
    4. notebook
    5. pen/pencil
    6. writing binder
    7. Noisli App on my iPad (background noise and color generator that I downloaded for free. If you like having background noise like rain, ocean waves, wind, nature, white, pink, or brown noise I highly recommend this app)
  • Next I’m going to make sure my kids (if they are home) are well aware that unless it is life threatening they need to entertain themselves. I mean they know how to feed themselves, so it’s not as if they are neglected.
  • Sit down at specific times during the day. I’m already pretty good at this. I take a daily walk at 8:45 every weekday, so I’m home by 9:30 and sitting down to write by 10.
  • Outline on paper what it is that I will be working on so that I have some direction and I’m not just staring at my screen wondering what I should write. I swear I waste more time on that than anything else. (Which is probably why I do much better during writing sprints because I don’t have time to dwell on things, I just have to write by the seat of my pants.)
  • Keep a log of the specific times I write for each session, my total word count during the session, and my words-per-hour. I have a table printed out for this.

So that’s my Monday thru Thursday plan. Then I have the Friday plan. And as usual Saturdays and Sundays will be reserved for family time and if I get to squeeze in some writing time that will be great, but if not I won’t beat myself up over it.

Do you have a writing ritual that helps you stay focused? Do you have a place other than home where you are more productive?

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