Don’t Kill Time: 9 Tips for Writing Workplace Organization

I’m trying something different–a guest blog! Freelance writer and blogger, Emily Johnson, shares tips for making your work space efficient. This is an essential tool for writers. (Learn more about Emily and her work in the bio below.) 

Do you want to be more productive with your writing?

A productivity boost could help you work more efficiently and, therefore, complete tasks in less time. It also means having time to spend with family, relatives, and friends. In short, productivity is a key to success.

Even though it’s hard for writers to measure a level of productivity, you should bend over backwards in order not to kill time.

In fact, it is easy to boost productivity. The first thing to do is to organize your workplace.

Here are nine tips for workplace organization. 

  1. Keep your writing desk clean.
  2. Provide a proper illumination.
  3. Use digital gadgets to increase productivity.
  4. Put in live plants to clean the air and boost spirits.
  5. Use stickers to write down useful notes.
  6. Upgrade your computer.
  7. Find an inspirational corner.
  8. Pick up an ergonomic office chair.
  9. Add some comfort and health.

 If you want to change your life once and for all, take a look at this infographic about writing place organization by OmniPapers. It is a step-by-step guide for organizing a workplace, so you can learn more nuances of about this art. Plus, the infographic is easy to save, print, and reveal key moments later. Don’t be greedy; share it with your friends and colleagues, as it might be helpful for all writers (and workers). 

There is no better feeling in the world than living a happy life. It’s not a tricky thing to boost your productivity and start a better life right now.

your writing cabinet organization

 

Bio: Emily Johnson is a passionate blogger and content strategist at OmniPapers blog, who shares tips and tricks with fellows, helping them improve writing skills. You can always find more works of hers on G+.

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Set Boundaries to Limit Distractions

“I enjoy writing in the desert. There are no distractions

such as telephones, theaters, opera houses, and gardens.”

~Agatha Christie

Boy can I relate to Agatha! “Life gets in the way” moments are overflowing the brim on my cup of life this month. Emails from former workshop students looking for quick answers, neighbors wanting to meet for coffee, community and building maintenance that either create excessive noise or inconveniences (such as needing to move vehicles or preparing for a water shut-off all morning), phone calls to change scheduled appointments (which disrupts everything else). The list goes on, but we all have these problems to deal with. Life happens.

Set boundaries and stick to them.

Set boundaries and stick to them.

The trick is in setting boundaries. This is difficult for writers, whether you are working your craft on a part-time, full-time, or “whenever I can grab the time” basis. If, like Agatha, you know you’re going to be distracted, then go somewhere to minimize those distractions. Okay, most of us don’t have the luxury of retreating to a second house or a hotel, especially for an extended stay. So, the answer lies in setting boundaries at home. This is as simple as carving out an hour or two of time to dedicate to writing. Depending on how you work, these don’t need to be back-to-back hours. Progress is progress and it adds up over time. I recently declared Mondays my “writing days” and I now focus first on my own project (before shifting gears to work on client projects). I allow no meetings or appointments on Mondays. When someone tries to set appointments for Mondays I apologize and inform him or her that the “slots are filled.” They are. By my projects.

Remember that when you set boundaries, you do not need to provide an explanation. Have the PTA president asking you to help with an event? Great, but as a parent you have a job to take care of your family along with whatever other hats you may wear. Simply say, “Oh, I’d love to but I’m not free at that time.” Yes, I’ve known some pushy people who might ask, “Really? Doing what?” Very rude, but you still do not owe any explanation (even if you were simply planning on taking a long soak in the tub)!

Consider your choices and choose a path.

Consider your choices and choose a path.

If you feel guilty, first remember that they want you to accommodate them, and second, what you have planned is important too. It’s about choices and you need to choose to take your writing seriously. You can always say you have an assignment to complete or a project to finish (because you do; your writing project). I had one pushy client who hinted many times that I should make her project a priority and even suggested I work on her computer at her house! I restated my unavailability until she asked to know about my other clients. I smiled, and said, “Now that’s not fair.” I paused and then jokingly added, “I mean, I suppose I could tell you, but then I’d have to . . .” (I didn’t need to finish that old cliché. She got the hint that it was none of her business!)

Guard the time you set aside.

Guard the time you set aside.

When setting boundaries, people often get upset that they are not getting their own way. This is okay. It’s part of the power struggle in maintaining boundaries. Their hope is that you will bend your boundaries to accommodate them. Think of young children who push to the limit to see how much they can get away with. As parents, we stand firm. As business people (and yes, you should think of your writing as a business), we need to stand firm, too. I have never made appointments with dentists or repair people when I could “nudge” them into a time that was the better for me. Whoever makes the schedule suggests the closest open time slot: “I have an 11:30 a.m. or, the next time on that date is 3:30 p.m.” I choose the time based on what’s available. We need to work with all the people in our lives to do the same and guard what little time we manage to set aside for our writing projects.

The effort you put into maintaining boundaries will pay off. During the guarded hours you create for your writing, you can ignore potential distractions, just as Agatha Christie did in writing in the desert. Over time, those distractions that are part of daily life will feel less invasive because you will see progress on your writing, and page by page you move closer to your goal\.

Insights on Aging from Charlie and Algernon

I’m plagued by thoughts of aging lately. Not so much in myself, though I’ll admit to moments of decrepit muscles and wormy memory. No, I’ve been shocked by changes in people around me. Perhaps it’s from having watched my father decline during the past year, but as neighbors return for “Season” I’m surprised that they seem much older and less spry. Because they are dressing younger and trying to act younger, my guess is they have aging on their minds too. It’s unsettling. I’ve always believed that you are truly as old as you feel and members of my family have been assumed much younger due to physical fitness and energy.

So where does this anxiety over aging come from? I’ve found clues in recently rereading Flowers for Algernon,  Daniel Keyes’ Nebula-winning novel. (Actually, the story has probably exacerbated my anxieties.) I had to read the novelette (which won the 1960 Hugo award) several times while in school. But I’ve finally read the novel, a goal ever since reading the book Algernon, Charlie, and I by Keyes about the writing of this award-winning story.

A writer's journey. Daniel Keyes shares insights about the writing "Flowers for Algernon."

A writer’s journey. Daniel Keyes shares insights about the writing “Flowers for Algernon.”

For those unfamiliar with the tale, the flowers are for the grave of a lab mouse named Algernon. Algernon was the successful subject of an experiment combining neurosurgery and a combination of enzyme and hormone injections to triple his intelligence. At least the researchers thought his results were successful. That’s when they decided to test it on Charlie Gordon, a young man with an IQ of 68. Within a few months his intelligence surpassed that of everyone involved in the research. Not until Charlie and Algernon are “displayed” at the annual psychological convention does Charlie realize a major flaw in the experiment.  By now his intelligence has peaked and Algernon is showing signs of decline. Charlie races against the time he has left to find a solution only to realize that the decline he will face is in direct correlation to the rapid increase in his intelligence. During the course of not quite eight months Charlie triples his intelligence and then returns to an IQ of around 70. The only problem is this time he holds a hazy understanding that the people around him whom he used to think of as mental giants are not as smart as he thinks they are. Unlike before the operation, he knows that when they joke with him they are really making fun of his low intelligence.

Award-winning story by Daniel Keyes.

Award-winning story by Daniel Keyes.

As I read this novel I considered what it must be like to go from docile acceptance and contentment in a simple life to super-intellect marred by an inability to relate socially or emotionally with others. One of several problems Charlie faces is finding no one to talk to since even the brightest could not sustain conversations with his font of knowledge. Yet, how is this different from aging? Not simply the mental decline which may show itself in senility, but even the slower response as an octogenarian gathers thoughts before responding during conversation. Or, the slower movements septuagenarians develop to maintain balance and avoid minor injuries.

Charlie begins to stumble and must “remember” to walk carefully to avoid tripping — “knowledge” he regains in order to survive again with a double-digit IQ. I also think of Charlie having a sense that he used to know things, such as remembering reading a particular book but not recalling what it was about and opening it to discover he recognizes only a few words. Do the elderly have such feelings? Do they also have a sense that they used to know about a topic but cannot articulate facts or add to a discussion about it? I believe I saw such realizations cloud the eyes of my father during the last year. Not that the elderly have below-average intelligence but those feelings of “knowing” they “used to have” sharper reflexes, better recall, something to add which is new and thought-provoking—those realities of aging must make them at times feel like Charlie with a sense that what he once had is lost and he knows it.

The most touching part of the story is watching Charlie try to retain his knowledge but watching it slip through his fingers. Like sand in an hour glass, youth slips away. We can do nothing about it, really, except perhaps slow it, try to make it move at a different rate than it does for others. In the end, aging is a natural part of the cycle of life. Whether we work hard, play hard, or both, we move through the process of growth and decline and are left with a “knowing” that we accomplished something, that we lived our life. For some, like Charlie, we can feel happiness despite not being unable to recall why.

It’s interesting that children want to age, be older. I recall trying to look and act older all during my teens. And then, when we finally have that wisdom and respect we seem to seek in our youth, we feel the need to try to reverse time’s influence by dressing and acting younger. This cycle of life is strange indeed. Thanks to both Charlie and Algernon, I think I have enough insight to alleviate my anxieties. Here’s to living in the present and enjoying the knowledge, wisdom, and physical abilities we have in this moment.

Summer Buzz

Yesterday was summer solstice–the longest day of the year. It was also the hottest day we’ve had. My AC ran continually and I actually adjusted the shades to limit the sunshine. (Anyone who knows me well knows I thrive in my bright, sunlit home.) The plants wilted and so did my attitude as I began calculating what was left of summer and the poor plans I’ve made to rest and recharge. It didn’t help in learning before I left campus that all the meetings and planning for fall will begin in just a few weeks. I felt as if time were running out!

So my brooding built and escalated with the heat of the day. The summer solstice concluded with heat lightning and severe thunderstorms. Again, it matched my mood until, like the denouement in a story, I took action to better balance my “life wheel” and make a few plans for R&R. That emotional storm changed the “heat” I’d been feeling.

Today is a fresh day, cleansed by the rain. Today I’m tending thirsty plants on the lanai and listening to the buzz of insects. I love this part of summer. I love the sounds, which change during midday because it becomes too hot for the squirrels to chase each other through the trees. Too hot for the usual sounds of dogs or people. Even the splashing from the pool next to my building ceases for several hours.

But I’m tuned into the sound of the summer buzz. The whir of the insects intensifies and grows slightly louder with the heat. (One of these days my curiosity will draw me into investigating exactly what/how that sound is made and by which insects. For now, though, I focus on fiction over nonfiction.) With each cycle of the whirring insects, I am transported to the scenes from my W-I-P. What sounds does my character hear now? What does she smell?

Later I’ll also visit the created worlds of two clients and ask the same questions about sensory details. Today I am focused more on sounds than on other senses because the insects have guided me to notice sounds.

All that matters now is that it’s summer, I love the heat, and story ideas are buzzing through my thoughts. This is happiness. This is one way I want to spend my time. This makes summer wonderful.

Summer on my Time

 

 
It’s summer. Time for teachers to regroup and other occupations to slow down, vacation, reorganize. Since I juggle teaching with writing and consulting, summer for me means doing things at my pace, on my time.  Well, most things. I’m scheduled to teach both condensed sessions for summer term at the college where I’m an adjunct. Also, writing workshops filled and one was even extended, so I’m teaching later into the summer than usual. 
   I usually spend my summers reorganizing. “Season” here in Florida, which for me is ultra hectic with writing workshops offered at various venues, has ended. So, by the time May arrives, my office is trashed. (I tend to dump workshop supplies or book bags and files on the extra office chair or on the floor in front of my desk.)
   I review handouts and weed extra papers from folders before I finally refill them. I note activities or discussions that worked, and those that didn’t, along with ideas to try next time. I also clean and sort craft supplies, paper, and pencils to store until next season. 
   All of this generally happens in fits and starts. I might begin sorting or weeding or filing and then get distracted with an article idea. A growling tummy or parched throat sends me to the kitchen where I end up creating something yummy to eat and hours later return to whatever I’d started in my office. Sometimes I simply take a break on the lanai and notice wildlife. Wonderings lead to wandering the web for help in  identifying a bird or something in the pond. (Did you know there is fish that looks sort of like an alligator? They are placed in some of the ponds to clean and eat algae. They’re called alligator gars.)
   Of course I do have days with appointments so I mind the clock then and cannot indulge in this “on my time” sort of life. But THIS summer MOST of my time is scheduled. As I mentioned, I’m teaching both Summer A and Summer B terms and, for some reason, they are back-to-back. Not even a day off between them. 
   I do have a day each week without anything scheduled (usually Fridays) but I’ve been spending that time reading–or grading papers. So, the book bags and files and supplies are piled neatly out of the way in the corner of my office or under the window. 
  Eventually I’ll get to them– in my time, after I research alligator gars. After I write that story scene. After I read the new book I bought. I need to create an “on my time” schedule. After all, this is supposed to summer break.  
 

Gift of Time

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

I cannot believe it’s nearly the end of another year. I’m grateful I survived the past four months. That’s how crazy this autumn has been! I’m looking forward to ringing in a new year, though I cannot say that the busyness of the fall semester has been all bad. (I’m anticipating a lot of good things to come out of all the effort.)

Still, it’s been so long since I’ve had a chance to post on either blog that I can barely navigate my way through the dashboards! I have managed to croak out a tweet or two and post hurried statuses on FB,  but truly, how sad is that?

Though I’m only halfway through my online training for this new course I’ll be teaching, I decided I needed to give myself a holiday gift:  down time! I plan to read, refill the creative well, and write some of the scenes and story bits that have been fogging my dreams. The training and prep for the new semester can wait a week; allowing myself some needed time cannot.

Here’s wishing each of you a merry holiday and a safe and peaceful new year! (And, consider gifting yourself a little time. It’s free!)

Plugged in again!

After much prodding by friends and fellow writers, I’ve taken the plunge and relaunched my blog. It’s been quite a long time (roughly 5 years) but I’ve been getting plugged in again, so why not share with a wider audience in every electronic way?

Around five years ago I became overwhelmed with how electronically I was. Since writing requires a lot of time and energy for tasks other than placing words onto paper, I found myself struggling to keep up with the demands of all those devices. I overreacted–and unplugged. I dumped the Palm Pilot (remember those?) and the cellphone (for awhile) and left all the listservs and online groups. I focused on writing. I loved dealing just with the words. I moved from magazines to books, and then to a masters program. I began spending much more time in classrooms working with my readers (mainly elementary and middle school children). And I was in love with my life againl!

Slowly I’ve been getting sucked into all the incredible things happening in cyber land again. And I’ve been attracted to the gadgets, the time-saving electronics, the devices! With these cool things came features and sites and methods to communicate. But I’m actually enjoying it this time around. I’ve learned how to balance doing all the things I love, so I actually make time for my writing. I’m enjoying it!

I look forward to sharing my “wonderings” about the things I love (books, writing, grammar, words, coaching) and my “wanderings” as I balance everything I do for a much happier me.

It’s good to be plugged in again!