Okay, first I’ll confess. As a writer who has worked at home for decades I’ve been somewhat amused by the problems those new to the work-at-home lifestyle are having during the Covid-19 work-at-home edicts. Until, that is, I remember how I had to train myself not to go back to bed once the kids we’re off. I did it by going out to breakfast with a legal tablet and writing. This was before laptops. I’d write then come home and type up what I’d written.
I’ll also confess that there’s something about the pandemic that is making time management more difficult for me even though I’ve had plenty of practice dealing with the isolation, as well as the joy of writing with minimum interruptions. Part of my angst at least comes from all this video conferencing.
Video conferencing is a time eater
On one hand, video conferencing a weekly formerly face-to-face meeting in theory saves me time because I don’t have to drive anywhere to get there. But now I’m doing some coaching and working with my writing forum by first Zoom and now FreeConferenceCall’s truly free conferencing tools. Our group has members from Barbados to San Diego. We’ve had dreams of meeting each other in person on either coast or in the middle of the country. It wasn’t until the pandemic that it occurred to us we could meet and see each other online. Duh! That’s morphed into a weekly meeting at a certain day and time that I didn’t have before. Then there are other meetings by video I’m involved in.
Plus any video platform takes extra time. If I’m the leader I have to set up the meeting. If I’m only a participant I still have to comb my hair and at least wear a clean t-shirt unless I want to forgo being seen. And there’s the whole business of finding the invitation and moving from my desktop to my iPad in the living room because the audio is so much better. (Don’t ask.) And if my current crush is going to be on the meeting, well I need to get almost as dressed up as if we were meeting in person.
Then there’s the fatigue that comes with all this video conferencing. I’ve read several articles that allows me to know I’m not alone in this. So far none of them really click with me. Somehow, for me and many others, video conferencing is a drain.
A productivity plan that I think helps
Recently I’ve been experimenting with Ivy Lee’s Secret: The Best To-Do List Method You Never Knew Existed This 100-year-old productivity hack is more relevant today than ever by August Birch, who writes prolifically right here on Medium. I love the way the hack results in a shorter daily to do list. I have to maintain a second list that lets me track the things beyond the four or five allowed for each day, but that seems to work. I do my lists on paper in a spiral bound notebook… the kind of notebook may change but do love writing my list and checking it off each day even if I only got started on something.
Protect your most productive writing time
Knowing and honoring your most productive writing time may be the best management tool there is for writers. I do my absolute best writing after some quiet morning time. I’m one of those who gets up at 4 or 5 because I so love the morning light. Not everyone’s cup of tea, nor am I recommending it. But my early writing, or any other project, goes more smoothly than trying to do the same thing in the late afternoon as I did when I started this piece.
Oh, initially I got started on this essay fairly early one morning but was interrupted by first a google hangout test for a major team meeting tomorrow. The test was a disaster; what should have taken 15 minutes took over an hour and we still didn’t get it together. I moved from that to my weekly MasterMind meeting, again on Zoom, late but worthwhile. I ended putting this essay aside for a week and had to make it my second priority in order to get it done. (Meditation is normally what I do first.)
This is an example of how I gave up prime writing time to setting up and using video chat. I rarely allow such encroachment but the pandemic demands it.
The lesson for me is that my writing must come first or it doesn’t get done.
My colleague in the team meeting writes best late at night. Sometimes he’ll wake me to work with him, with my permission of course. We both recognize our best writing times and work to make use of them no matter how odd our schedules seem to others.
When you work it home it first feels like freedom. Then life strikes. I remember how trying to adhere to my writing schedule when the kids were little seemed almost impossible. As they grew it became much more manageable.
I suspect that if the social isolation continues we will find ways to deal with it.