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  • Hadley Cottingham

How I stay productive at home

Updated: May 30

Freelancing in and of itself can be challenging, working in your sweatpants and deciding when, where, and how long you work for sounds like a dream until you do it. Working from home has a funny way of making you feel like you're getting absolutely nothing done, no matter how long you spend in front of your computer. That's why I usually opted to do my freelance work at a coffee shop, a library, or my campus's newsroom. But throw in a pandemic, and suddenly all those tricks for avoiding the place I felt least productive feel useless.

As a journalist, I'm in more demand than ever. There's something new surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic every hour to report on, and with Now Habersham slammed, I need to be more productive than I am on a good coffee shop day to help keep our publication relevant. And so far, this new thing I've got going is working.


Staying inspired

I'm a very visual, aesthetically-motivated person. If my notes aren't pretty, I won't study them. I have a Pinterest board for everything. If you're anything like me, finding the motivation to do the things you love can be near impossible if you don't feel like they look right. My first step in staying productive at home is to stay inspired.

I try to fill my social feeds with creators that give me something to strive for, from healthy eating to building beautiful routines. I only watch Youtube channels that inspire me to keep working towards my goals (Rachel Aust has been my number one through quarantine) or fill my space with the kind of positive energy I need. The things I see every day influence me more than just about anything else.

Where I'm working has a significant impact on my inspiration, too. I've learned that if I work somewhere without a lot of natural light, or somewhere cluttered, I tend to get tired faster and lose motivation to work. When you're working from home, create a space you love to work in; fill it with colors you like, lots of light, scents that keep you on your toes, and sounds that help you focus. Your environment makes a massive impact on your work.

Plan, schedule, and set goals

I don't just say this because my planner is the love of my life-- I say it because it works. Having a plan for my day, week, and month is so helpful when it comes to staying productive at home. At the end of the month, I set goals for myself in the upcoming month, like how much content I want to create. On Sundays, I set up a loose plan for my week, centered around knowing what I need to get done. Each night, I make my plan for the next day. Those to-do lists are lifesavers.

I have a block schedule for each weekday day, with my Saturdays and Sundays for cleaning, planning, and rest. My block schedule consists of a designated four hours every day (from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm), where I work. I put my phone on do not disturb, turn on my Pomodoro timer, and hunker down.

These four hours during which my Pomodoro timer is running are my most productive hours of the day. This time is when I plan interviews for stories or work calls. If I get all my work done, I work on my website, I create blog posts, I work on Instagram content-- this scheduled work time is sacred.

Self-care

When you think self-care, you might think facials and bubble baths, and while those are great ways to show yourself some love, they aren't the ways you need to care for yourself to sustain yourself. I have the habit of working until I burn out, and when you're a freelancer with a chronic health condition, that isn't an option.

Set hard end times. This is part of the reason block scheduling works so well for me-- when those four hours are up, I have to step away. I do have a designated catch-up time at the end of the day, so I can't get behind on my work, but hard end times help me know when it's time to rest. Getting eight hours of sleep at night, eating healthy and nutritious meals, and having time alone with yourself are essential to keeping yourself productive.

Knowing when you can't take on anything else is important, too. Overbooking is one of the easiest ways to burn yourself out, and I used to do it all the time. Know when you have too many tasks and learn how to say "no."

I hope these are helpful, and if you have any tricks that have helped you stay productive at home, I would love to hear them. Stay safe, drink water, and be kind to yourself!

Questions? Contact me here.

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