Monday, September 19, 2011

Meet My New Boss

Post by Jenny

I recently had the rare opportunity to observe my husband in work mode when a department remodel meant a week of telecommuting for him. In general, he doesn’t like to work from home, but the prospect of dodging electricians and carpet-layers convinced him.

On the first day, I was curious how things would play out, so I spied on him. He had the occasional snack, he took a short break for lunch, but otherwise, he sat at his desk and worked. (Exciting, right? Well, it’s IT, not the bomb squad.) When his day ended, he turned off his computer. The next morning, he got up and did it all again.

I used to be like that when I worked at a real job. I had an In basket and an Out basket, and I moved things from In to Out as efficiently as possible. I knew what I had to do and how long I had to do it. My lunch break was half an hour, and any conversations with co-workers about non-work topics lasted only a few minutes.

Jeez, what happened to me?

The likeliest explanation is that I had kids. Anyone who has been home with a child or two knows that scheduled blocks of time longer than five minutes can be hard to come by, especially in the years between two-naps-a-day and elementary school. Even though my boys are well into their school careers—but thankfully still too young for driving and mustaches—this mindset persists. My years of mom-training mean that after spending between thirty seconds and fifteen minutes at my computer, I quite often have a sudden and uncontrollable urge to jump up and do something else. And so I do. The “something else” varies—it might be laundry, spontaneous toilet repair, or eating enough chocolate chips to kill a mongoose—but it is definitely not writing.

Thanks to my husband’s week of working from home, I’ve been inspired to try a new plan: when I sit down to write, I’m going to pretend that I’m telecommuting and that someone, somewhere, is monitoring my productivity. I can’t think of a better person for the job than George Jetson’s boss, the irascible Mr. Spacely. Sure, he’s a cartoon, but he has a big voice for a little guy, and I don’t want him yelling at me every time I get up out of my chair. If he works out, my next step is getting Rosie the Robot to clean my house.

How do you keep yourself on task when working at home?


Halli Gomez said...

I loved the Jetsons! Right up there with The Flintstones!
I too had a regular 9-5 job in what seems like a past life and like you I worked efficiently, in/out box, sometimes eating at my desk.

When I stopped working at an office and began writing, I set up a schedule for myself - Thursday is house cleaning day, Friday is laundry day, etc. It keeps my mind of wanting to get up and do something different when I know I should be writing.
But when my mind starts wandering away from my WIP, I will do something a little different like e-mail, pay bills, etc, but I try to stay at my desk and not get involved in something too far away from my writing.

No one is more shocked than me at how well this has worked for me. Try a schedule, you may surprise yourself.

Dean K Miller said...

I stay on task by accepting that whatever it is I am doing, or what comes up next, is the task I am staying on.

Often times, it is writing that stays on task. Sometimes it's an interruption or five.

Either way, I am "on task" and stay with it...and hopefully am able to return to my writing.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Well...I don't. I'm so easily distracted it's ridiculous. I can't figure out how I ever get stuff done.

Jenny said...

Halli and Dean, great advice. Pat, there's hope for us yet!

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