Almost every day my Facebook feed and my blog list on Feedly have new articles telling me that “it’s okay if you aren’t able to work/focus/write”. Don’t expect too much of yourself in these times. We’re all under stress so the last thing you need right now is more stress of trying to actually get something done. Even the Washington Post chimed in!
And then Nathan Bransford wrote a blog “Being Productive Can Be Self-Care” and I nearly started screaming, “Yes! Yes! Finally!!” He advocates that writers write during this time. Set the kids in front of homework, workbook, computer, or television. Put your noise-canceling headphones on and power through!
To that I say, “Amen!”
I feel best when I’m working. I need to work. In my work, in my writing, I’m in control, which feels really good in a world where everything is out of control.
When I’m writing, I disappear into my world, the world of my book. And in that world I am god. If I think someone should go to a party and have fun, that’s what they’re going to do. If I don’t think someone should get sick, they’re not going to do so. I decide.
I recognize that some people are just having a great deal of trouble focusing right now. Their minds are all over the place with everything that’s happening and the 24-hour news cycle covering every single minute detail of this pandemic. To them, I say, Shut Off the TV! Turn off the radio. Stop opening your internet browser to the news, or just stop opening it altogether!
I also completely understand that a lot of people are having trouble focusing because they’ve got a small person or three all complaining that they’re “booorred.” Or fighting. Or screaming. Or crying. Or want you to play with them. Having kids at home is hard in the best of times. Having kids who can’t go to school, play with their friends and are being forced to play with their siblings because there is No One Else, is nearly impossible. I completely get that!
But in these extraordinary times, not keeping to strict screen time restrictions might just be your savior. Let them know that this is just for now and that restrictions will restart the moment they are allowed to return to school. But for your sanity and theirs, perhaps, allowing them to play that game for another hour or watch that movie for the sixth time might be a good idea. And then you can put in those fantastic headphones and get a little “you” time—and yes, by that I do mean writing.
Even if you don’t have children clamoring for your attention, maybe it’s work that is being disruptive to your life. We are working from home—some of us for the first time. When you’re working from home, does work ever end?
Why yes, yes it does! And you have to be very strict about that with yourself and your colleagues. Just like when you went out to your office, you need to set a start and end time to your work day. What were your hours before you were confined to your home? Keep to them now! If you got home at 6 pm, stop working at 6 and if someone from work calls after that don’t answer your phone!
Yes, you can do that!
But do be sure to let your colleagues know what you are doing—that you work until six and after that your time is your own, or your family’s. It is unreasonable for your colleagues, or even your boss, to expect you to work outside of regular office hours. Ask them to respect your time.
And finally, even if you are able to focus some, even if you don’t have children, even if you don’t have work intruding into your personal time, you still need to account for the fact that your focus may not be what it was. Set goals for your work day, but make them reasonable ones.
Make a list of what you want to get done during the day, and then, maybe, cross one or two things off of it and put them on your list of things to do tomorrow. Be kind to yourself. Don’t push too hard, but do push a little. If you normally write 2000 words a day, try for 1000. If you normally write 500, try for 250. If you write a scene a day, get the scene started, but don’t feel bad if you don’t finish it. Whatever you get done earns you a gold star.
Give yourself time when you should be working, but if you are having trouble focusing take some time to clear out your mind either through a few minutes of quiet meditation or, my favorite, journaling. Then, get to work.