More on Productivity

Picking up from yesterday…….

The next change I made really drove up my productivity. It all started a few months ago when I saw a job ad for an editor in the corporate office of a well-known business, an office that just happens to be 10 minutes from here. I had all the requirements, including a journalism degree, but the job only paid $10-12 an hour. I debated about the job, but not for long because it was quickly snapped up. (Shows how bad the economy is!) But I got to thinking about it and realized that if I devoted regular hours to my writing, I could earn more than that and wouldn’t have to leave home or buy new clothes.  :)

So I began having regular business hours for my writing. Each weekday I’m holed up in the office (doors closed) writing from 1-5 pm, with a brief break at 3 for a cup of tea. (While I’m in here, my husband is with our son, who cannot be left unattended.) During these hours, I do not check email. In fact, I don’t go online at all unless I’m fact-checking something. I don’t do any business-related work either. Nor do I run down to the basement and start a load of wash, or quickly make something and throw it in the oven for dinner. All I do is think and write and think some more and write some more.

And it’s working! It’s amazing how much writing I’m getting done during these 20 hours per week. It hasn’t been easy, though. After the thrill wore off, there were several times when I faced an enormous temptation to just jump online to surf for a few minutes’ break, but I didn’t give in.

Then that passed, and I found it was real work to just stay with one topic for four hours. My attention span had disintegrated to the point that four hours on one subject was torture. I remember being in college and getting a precious “stacks pass,” which meant I could roam about the stacks of the enormous U of I library, reading anything I wanted. I spent hours there, sometimes having to be kicked out because they were closing. I sure had an attention span back then, reading books straight through. Now I couldn’t even concentrate on one project for four measly hours.

But I kept at it, and I’m slowly getting over that hurdle. Now the four hours passes in no time (most days, anyway), and it’s much easier to stay on track. I’m finishing up a book about preparing our kids for the new economy, as well as a Bible study I designed for my daughter when she was a young teen. I’m working on one book four days a week, and the other one day a week. We hope to have both of them out this year. But I don’t think either of them would be in the works if I hadn’t started having office hours.

Here’s a question for the veteran homeschool moms who pop by this blog now and then: Have you had trouble concentrating too? Or is it just me?

9 thoughts on “More on Productivity

  1. I don’t consider myself a veteran (homeschooling for only 7 years so far) but I can tell you that I have zero attention span. This is me, right here, all day long: “…I run down to the basement and start a load of wash, or quickly make something and throw it in the oven for dinner.” I’ve grown to really appreciate books with short chapters! Looking forward to the day I have bigger chunks of time. My kids are not quite there yet. Thanks for the encouragement that it’s on the horizon!

  2. Yes, Barbara, I have problems with concentration. Your post is very timely for me as my new prayer has been, “Lord, please, just keep me productive.” I was nearly in tears when I prayed that the first time. I have homeschooled 4 children, youngest is 16 but does everything on her own now, and some days I stand in the middle of the room and look around aimlessly. I feel like I should be doing something, but I’m not sure what anymore. I keep up with dishes, laundry, and cooking effortlessly now. I did start and finish an afghan for my son who will be married next December. I thoroughly enjoyed that. I started another one for something to do!! Have considered learning how to sew better. This transition is unnerving as well as happy, incredibly sad and confusing! Any books regarding these changing days for me? Barbara, I have often thought there should be a book entitled “My child graduated from homeschooling. NOW what do I do??” or “My child graduated from our homeschool. WHO told him he could do that?!” I love your blog and am very thankful for it. God’s peace to you and your family.

  3. As I said yesterday, I’m right with you. Thanks for the encouragement. I try to have regular office hours, but how do you convince the rest of the world (family) not to bother you?

  4. Congrats on the ‘new job’! I envy your self discipline, and aim to set some hours for myself too. Have had extended family illnesses and whatnot for the past year, all a long distance from here, and that phone time has consumed a lot of my time and energy. But when I set my mind to it, I can get a lot done. Thanks for the insight and input!

  5. I too have a hard time concentrating. I think it’s partly due to being older, but also due to homeschooling-induced ADD. (As if I didn’t start out life with enough ADD as it was!)

    There’s one thing I don’t understand about the office hours. I struggle with the laundry and the cooking and other duties being a higher priority than paid employment. Maybe that’s because of the season of life I’m in? Maybe it will change in another couple of years when I’m homeschooling only one? I’m trying to figure out how I could convince myself to WORK for 2 or 4 hours daily without being distracted … because those distractions are necessary right now to serving my family. I’m not satisfied with the way things are now, and yet when I’ve tried to change them, I find that I’m less satisfied because I seem to shortchange my family. It sounds like you’ve found a way to avoid that problem.

  6. Margaret, I think the zero-attention-span thing is an occupational hazard of being a busy homeschool mom!

    Oh Judie, it is hard, isn’t it? I’ve actually got a file of notes for a book on that very subject, but it has to wait until we get a few other projects published. If I were there right now, I would give you a hug. Believe me, you are not alone!

    Carol, I am blessed with a husband who runs interference for me…..handles the phone, keeps our son busy, and even moved his computer into the living room so I can have the office to myself in the afternoons. He is a gem! Also, my adult kids don’t generally call during the day because they’re at work (they live in other states), and our 18 y/o has college classes in the afternoons. It’s all coming together so well right now that I feel like this is what God wants me to do for the time being.

    Karen, that phone can really mess us up, can’t it?

    Susan, see my comment to Carol above explaining why it’s working for now. If we move again, or if my dh finds a job, everything will change……but for now, the biggest hurdle is my ability to concentrate for long periods! :)

  7. I so agree with your Barbara! I think it is just the result of homeschooling for so many years.

    There was a time when I was productive all day long – multitasking many activities/schooling….and I remembered everything. Ha – those days are gone!

    I can’t wait to hear more about your new books!

  8. I am so excited for you that you are getting your powers of concentration back! I think that being a mom has the most to do with losing mine… then add on homeschooling and, hello. Concentration fractured to the nth degree, as was necessary for that time.
    My son is in college now and I too, am trying to find a rhythm that works for writing. The best thing for me has been scheduling ‘writing dates’ out of the house with like-minded friends. We get together at coffeehouses or the library (reserved room), chat a bit, then set to work on our individual projects. There’s just something about being in a room with another human being that helps me get over the hurdle. And out of the house for me… less distractions.

    Congratulations on jumping your own hurdles and getting on the page more. I’m a big fan of your writing. Keep up the great work.

    Best, Maureen

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