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?


I used to think that once the kids were grown I’d be the queen of productivity, cranking out quilts and books left and right once I didn’t have little people who needed me 24/7. But I was wrong.

I’m behind on everything. Our two kids at home still need me, though not the way they once did. Having to move twice in two years also messed with my concentration. For a while I spent more time on realtor websites (first trying to sell our house, then trying to find somewhere to go) than working on my own. I’m still homeschooling one child, and people still need to eat, so I don’t have as much free time as I thought I would.

Ultimately, though, the problem is me. I think all the years of living with kids every day (i.e. constant interruptions to my train of thought) left me so scattered and easily distracted that I could no longer concentrate.

To make matters worse, I started hanging out on the Internet, which allowed me to look up anything I was curious about….ever. Once I learned about tabs, I soon found myself opening tabs, even while I was reading something else, whenever an idea occurred to me. I learned a lot, but I also trained my brain to skip from thought to thought like a hummingbird visiting flowers. I think the Internet made my attention span shorter.

It became clear to me that I’d have to make some changes if I was going to be more productive. Having spent almost my entire adult life homeschooling, I do have some information to share with other homeschooling parents, and I’d like to get it out there before I forget it! I’d have to find some ways to become more productive before it was too late.

The first thing I did was to give up the Internet on Sundays. While I had not worked on Sundays because of it being the day of rest, I still surfed, read and wrote email, and basically goofed off. But I decided that I spent enough time online during the week, so I gave it up cold turkey on Sundays. I’m happy to report that not only have I survived the shock of this, but I now do other things on Sunday, things I used to do, like taking a nap, reading for fun, hanging with the family and watching old movies.

Tomorrow: the other change I made.