This post is from ProBlogger Team member Stacey Roberts
Finding it hard to make time to blog?
In fact, that’s one of the biggest issues people tell me they have when trying to write. Often we’re blogging from home alongside other work and family commitments, and it can be hard to switch between them when we need to. If you’ve only got 90 minutes in which to write that day, all the good intentions in the world don’t necessarily mean you can use every single one of those 90 minutes to their capacity, churning out a brilliantly-crafted blog post and three witty tweets to wow your readers.
I write from home with two toddlers, and juggle my own blog in addition to freelance writing and my work here at ProBlogger. When I sit down to the computer after a morning of LEGO fights and snack time, I’m not always inspired and motivated to be productive. I have to make myself use my time to its potential, which is a heady mix of prior organisation and brute force. I’ve come up with a couple of ways to get my head in the game, when the game could be called off at any minute.
1. Create a ritual
There’s nothing better than a physical distinction between one task and the next. For me, it is to make a cup of tea, which is leftover from my days as a journalist, and tells my head it’s writing time. You could make a cup of coffee, fill your water bottle, or put on the same playlist every day. Whatever helps your brain train get on a new track.
2. Walk around the block
If you work at home, it can be tempting to work from the couch in your pajamas. And while that’s definitely one of the perks of the business, it doesn’t really help your productivity. Get dressed, walk around the block and pretend you’re walking to “work”. Grab a cup of coffee on the way into your office, sit down and start your day.
3. Move to a new location
Sometimes a change of environment is just the kickstart you need to find your writing groove. Not feeling it at your desk? Get outside, sit at the kitchen table, go to a cafe – wipe the slate clean and start again. Don’t be afraid to move to find your groove!
4. Be prepared
Nothing blanks me out more than sitting down to an empty white screen. Where does one start? What if you can’t come up with a good headline, and then you can’t figure out what’s the most important thing to cover? Before you know it you’ve spent half an hour idling with nothing to show for it. I find I work best when I’ve taken a few minutes prior (even days prior) to roughly sketch out what I need to cover in my post. Then by the time I sit down, I’ve got anything from a couple of words to go on, to a whole skeleton outline I just need to flesh out. This helps enormously, as even when you type the first sentence, you can get into the flow.
5. Work solo
We like to think that we are multi-tasking ninjas, but research has shown you really don’t get as much done as you think. So in order to train your brain to work to its potential, you have to be tough and shut down any distractions. If this is hard, then tell yourself you can sneak a peek every 15 minutes, but you need to get stuff done in that time. So much of writing is self-discipline, and when you don’t have time to waste it’s even worse when you waste it.
6. Spend two minutes digging around in your brain
When you sit down to write, just take a few minutes to think about the tasks ahead. Don’t write anything down, don’t look at anything, just fill your mind with what you need to accomplish. This will help you stop thinking about distractions and get your mind in the groove of what lies ahead. It’s a great way of getting some demarcation between what you’ve been doing, and what you need to do, and also works as a bit of a brainstorm for today’s tasks.
7. Spend another two minutes sketching out ideas
Now spend a few minutes jotting down those thoughts. I often find it’s a mix of items for my to-do list, post ideas, something to share with my readers on Facebook, and points I want to cover in my posts. This also means I’m motivated and inspired to get to work on these items, and also ensures I’m not sitting down to the dreaded blinking cursor without anything to kickstart my creativity.
8. Don’t start from scratch
One of the best things I learned about writing novels is to stop when you’re inspired. It sounds counter-productive, but if you stop once your wave is over, you’re at a bit of a loss where to start when you pick it back up. This can mean you waste valuable time trying to come up with what to write about next. Picking up where you left off when you were in the groove means you can start with all cylinders firing, which does wonders for your productivity. There’s nothing better than starting off with a good chunk of work under your belt, it lessens the guilt you feel when you fritter your time reading eight Buzzfeed articles instead of getting stuck in. Or that might just be me.
9. Do the worst thing first
I know I’m tempted to leave the hardest thing for last as I “warm up” with easier tasks, but I also then find I’m still dreading the job while I’m doing other things. And often my time gets cut short and I’ve got to find another time to get it done. I find I work best if I sit down and get the big job out of the way first, almost like ripping off a Band-Aid. Everything you do after that is gravy.
10. Use recent notes
If you’re anything like me, you will look at some notes you wrote three days ago and they make little sense. “Mirfin? what’s a mirfin? It looked important, too…”. So while it’s useful to jot down notes when inspiration strikes, it’s even more useful if those are recent notes and you can still recall what you need to do and when. I often email myself notes, or use the notes function on my phone and laptop. Sometimes I even go beta and use pencil and paper, hence the mirfin. But the shorter the timeframe, the better for you.
I’d love to hear what helps you get your head on track when working from home. Any tips you’d like to share?
Stacey Roberts is the content ninja at ProBlogger.net, and the blogger behind Veggie Mama. Can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.
This article was first published on December 12, 2013 and updated August 25, 2022
I’m a work-at-home-er for 5.5 years now. The last three years confined by school hours, before that a juggle like yours. Those school hours go so quickly. I’ve had to learn to minimise meeting times during the day, work away from home if I really need to avoid “drop-ins” and to ignore the pile/s of washing. You wouldn’t do it if you were at an office in the city, would you?!
It takes a lot of discipline but the rewards are worth it!
Congrats on being part of the Problogger team x
Gosh, you’re so right. No laundry in an office! I agree with the discipline. But the flexibility is such a huge bonus.
And thank you! Very exciting x
I find if I read the last thing I write – a post or last few pages of I wrote for my book, then my head is in the space. And definitely closing Facebook and twitter before I start helps minimise distractions. I also use Bose noise cancelling head phones and listen to piano or classical music w no lyrics — I don’t even really like classical music but it helps with staying focused to write. A great post thanks Darren
First line *wrote.
Last line *thanks Stacey – sorry x
haha all good! I must go and hunt down some noise-cancelling headphones, you are the second person to tell me of those recently!
As soon as I put on some nice classical music or vocals in a language I don’t understand, my focus goes up tenfold. This includes choral music, chant, instrumentals, and opera.
The soothing quality of the music keeps my mind from distracting itself, and it also drowns out external distractions dramatically. Putting on music in language you do understand is detrimental because your focus should be on encoding a new message, not decoding one from the music and being forced to use up brainpower.
Ha! I do the same, except it’s almost always cheesy Kpop music!
You’re absolutely right! Classical music works really well for me, anything too familiar, and my brain gets distracted. Plus it’s just really soothing :)
Thanks big time for this tip! I have really struggled lately with staying focussed as my husband likes to watch TV when I’m writing. Very small house means that I just can’t concentrate and then I get frustrated and seriously grumpy. It’s not his fault — after all, it’s his house too.
Read this yesterday and bought noise cancelling headphones and made up a playlist of classical instrumentals. Amazing difference in my ability to get things done!
Oh I love hearing this! So glad it was useful to you, Carolyn.
We have a baby on the way and I’m wondering how this will effect our routine.. Majorly I would imagine!
Oh boy. Be realistic, be flexible, and work when you can. Go with the flow, yo!
Such a challenge! Rituals work great for me too. Coffee and Susan Boyle on Youtube. She inspires me every day with the reality that its never too late, you’re never too old and everyone has something to share. : )
Wow, I never thought of that! But it’s awesome.
I just had to add something to the Susan Boyle reference. Whenever I am feeling uninspired & like getting published will never happen, I watch the audition video of Susan Boyle for Britain’s Got Talent. I usually watch the Paul Potts one after that too. Both of those auditions, the reactions before and after, and the realization of what’s happened in their lives (and both are older than me) inspires me every time!
I love how shocked Simon Cowell is! It’s so nice to break through boundaries like that, isn’t it! I think it’s totally inspiring. You’re really onto something :)
First and foremost, turn off any distractions you are able to turn off, unless you have children of course.
I say it’s fine to take small breaks here and there.
It will help the bran recover and think deeper on the ideas you have in your head or new ideas.
Structuring and writing down your tasks is the number one reason you are going to get much more done and get more writing done.
Hope that helps!
I struggle with that, definitely – I feel like I’ve only got such a small window of time to be productive that I can’t take breaks. But you’re right, sometimes it’s so necessary for proper brain function. and to not go nuts!
I turn off most if not all distractions, including all social media. Next, I treat my day as if I’m working a regular day job with about 3 or 4 shifts throughout the day: 9-10:30, 11-1, 2-4, 7-9, in between those times I’ll eat, check email, go for a walk, etc.
Ooh I like that! That’s a bit less threatening than seeing eight hours stretch out before you that you need to work within. Smaller deadlines, sort of… I’m going to try it, thanks!
This is a great post, I get so easily distracted sometimes. The comments here have really given me some great ideas, it seems quite a lot of people listen to classical while working on their blog – I must give this a try. I usually sit in front of the TV, not taking in anything that is going on on the TV, but being mildly distracted by it at the same time!
I hear that is bad for concentration, as even subconsciously you are paying attention to it. Classical music, or music in another language is nice for background noise but also not distracting. Let me know how you go!
I used to have all the time in the world before my daughter was born early this year. Now I come from work and have take over child care duties from my wife who is on maternity leave. I think I just have to accept that I now have less time to blog! I however will try out some of your tips where applicable as my freedom of moving about is limited.
It can be very restricting, and it’s tough when you’re inspired to write, but you can’t – and then when you can write, you’re not inspired! it does get easier as the children grow, but I know what you mean. Just accept this stage we’re in, and work with what we have. Good luck!
Great post Stacey,
I like all your suggestions and would like to add one.
I use the Pomodoro technique when I really need to be productive. It’s really simple. I decide what the one task is that I will focus on and then set the timer (or I use an app on my phone) for 25 minutes. During that 25 minutes I tell myself that I don’t have to do that task, but I can’t do anything else. After the timer goes off, I take a 5 minute break (best away from the computer :-) ) and then set it again for another 25 minute block. After 3 or 4 of these I take a longer break.
I find this a really effective way for me to stay on track for doing either tasks that require a lot of concentration or tasks that are mundane and boring (ie. anything I tend to procrastinate on!!)
Oh this is clever! I like that mini-deadline idea. It’s hard to get to the boring/hard stuff, isn’t it?! I think this would really work for me too.
What gets me going is writing itself. I just love writing, expressing myself and getting my insights out there for the world to see. It’s become a very powerful hobby of mine. Powerful enough to pull me away from video games, TV and that’s huge.
Great post. I’ve stored a lot of it in my Diigo library :)
I love writing too! but sometimes as a freelancer, you’re writing stuff that might not be super-interesting… and that can be hard to be inspired about! It’s wonderful when you’re in the zone, though, isn’t it. TV, what TV? haha
I’m probably a bit fortunate. As part of my role, I’m allowed to blog officially during my work time. But as a team leader I’m constantly interrupted being asked for advice etc.
How I approach my writing this way:
1) Close the door. I need silence to write.
2) Earphones in (Read code for do not disturb as the closed door isn’t enough)
3) For my writing topic, I usually have a ‘how I solved a problem’ moment, meaning that is my starting point for writing. For example I’ve been wondering how all these beautiful instagram videos were being made because I wanted to create one for my church. Once I worked it out, I thought that others must be going through the same problem, so I blogged about it and provided lots of examples to stir the creative juices.
4) I try and complete the post in one session so that the idea is well and truly wrestled to the ground.
5) As soon as I’m done the door is opened, earphones out. ;-)
That’s such a good idea to try and get it done in one go. I can procrastinate like the best of them if I know there’s something still to be completed that I don’t want to do. Great tips, thanks!
This is going to sound weird, but I write during football games on TV. I write at the couch in between every play. When they finally get the play set up and running, I watch. Then it’s a lull and I pound out a few more lines… repeat. Because everyone else is watching the game(s), no one bugs me. Needless to say I love college Saturdays, pro Sundays, Thursday and Monday nights.
Haha I like this! Quite easy with American football and it’s continual stop-start business. I couldn’t write while watching Australian football – but I am writing with the cricket on in the background as we speak!
I dig each tip! Go for a walk. Get the creative juices flowing. Love that one and I must say that I use most at one time or another. I would add to meditate; sitting in quiet programs you to release idea blocks, which are the only cause of writer’s blocks. Once the blocks dissolve look out; the floodgates open up.
And how wonderful is it when they do!
Nice article, it is very informative, thank for the great information. I also try this :)
Couldnot agree more. If you’re not careful your time becomes usurped by others. Just because you’re home your friends and family will assume your schedule is more flexible and they will start making little requests.
They sure do. It’s hard to get people to take it seriously, sometimes!
I totally agree about placing yourself in a room or space that is ‘work-related’ rather than just sitting on the sofa. I spent many years translating from home with a family of 3 kids around the place so it was very difficult -I usually ended up working at nights which is when the place was peaceful. I guess everyone has different means of focusing and concentrating but I agree with finding your space with a cup of tea/coffee and setting your mind to the task!!!
Totally! I have tried working on the couch too, and I just couldn’t concentrate. Then after everyone had gone to bed, I was way too tired to write! This space/cup of tea works really well for me. Glad to hear it does for you too!
First of all, I love that you are an official Problogger team member now! So exciting.
And these are all great tips. I definitely find that multi tasking makes me less productive. However if I can bang out a very, very rough blog post in between Lego time and train time then it does help me when I actually sit down to write that post in the evening. And when I need to be really productive, I close email and FB and Twitter and put my phone on silent….I check them all as a reward when I have finished.
I love the social media reward idea! Sometimes I even write on a piece of paper a draft post (so the kids don’t see the computer and want to touch it with their sticky fingers), and then by the time I sit to type it out, it’s really refined itself. We’re onto something!
And thank you. Super-fun to be a PB ninja x
Wow! I like this article. Free lancers work home and need such tips.
We sure do! Thanks :)
I guess I can relate my situation to the woman in the picture. Here in my house, first thing in the morning I have to feed and cook food for my twin nephew and niece and my grandparents and my brother. Why? My parents are not here and my sister which is the mother of the kids is working from night to morning at the hospital.
I can’t start working/writing in just a blink of an eye. I have to do the house chores and keep the house clean since the kids keeps making mess everyday and so much more.
So, to make the story short, the post is helpful to me. :)
I will keep this in mind and I will make a change.
I found this post shared on Kingged.com, the Internet marketing social news site, and I “kingged” it and left this comment.
I’m so glad to hear it is helpful to you. It can be quite a juggle to work from home when we have so many other responsibilities competing for our time. I bet your family is very grateful to you for all you do.
I’m writing a novel at the moment and point 8 really resonated; I hadn’t thought of it in those terms before but it’s so true. I’m guilty of getting caught up in a scene and writing until I finish it. Then the next day it’s so much harder to write anything because I’m starting from scratch. I’ll have to introduce a little bit of planning before I switch off for the day in future!
I remember the first time I came across it, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. It made so much sense! I think it would be most useful for novel/fiction writing. I hope it works for you!
Breathing is the main one for me. 2-5 min of Fire Breath or just Fast Chaotic Breath resets the mind and the whole physiology. Usually also brings in a more inspired inner state. Plus it energises tge body-mind. Most of the recommended above does not do much for me as it does nothing for the “depleted tank”.
With the extra energy even the “doing the hardest first” becomes a breeze …
Oh yes, it’s much easier to do all these things if you’re feeling 100% to start with!
Thanks for the tips. I always use a playlist in the background it helps me think better for some reason. If the writing or work is intense I usually set myself a 30 minute timer. This tells me to work non stop for 30 minutes.
You will be shocked at how much work your get done without procrastinating all the time.
I think I’m really going to have to get into this timer business! Sounds like it might be the cure for my procrastination :)
Great Post Darren
Some time our might be not focus on writing and distract by others. Tips provided by you is great and help to focus on more productivity. I will definitely try this tips.
Thank you for sharing this post
great article.. it ain’t easy to focuss to writing at home. There many distraction from the environment, people and others.. some of the point you write make sense
So very distracting! It can be hard to block them out.
I like this article, Especially with the way this article is written. You have explained everything clearly.
Thank you so much.
Several years ago, I stumbled into using what I call an “idea book.” Basically, it’s a notebook that I always keep nearby by to jot down any ideas I have for writing, teaching, speaking, etc. I am going to start a more visual one too once I find the right notebook for it. I’ll keep clips from articles, magazines, photos, etc. in this one. My Idea Book captures my thoughts, so I can go about whatever I was doing, knowing the thought won’t get lost in the busyness of life. This has proved to be immensely helpful to me over the years. There are more details on how to use this book, but that is the gist. Your ideas are all great ones too, and I use many (most) of them regularly.
I love the idea book! I had one when I was a journalist, and I often write some down for my blog. But it’s so handy to have all the things you think of and that inspire you in one place. often on pretty stationery, too!
It is very important that we have a kind of “Time table” that helps us go on with our daily schedule.
I have created a type of system and a schedule that helps me getup everyday and do my blogging, freelance writing and most importantly its flexible enough, so that i can actually skip a few things and do them later on.
And i definitely prepare notes and memos that help me to sort out my work that has been left and makes me wonder what next I have to do.
Schedules are such a good idea, I’m trialling one at the moment. And you’re right – flexibility is key!
I think these tips are good for newbies.
But I liked the most about digging your brain’ I think it’ll help me.
Rather one would like to add one more points about blogging i.e. Almost content is everything in blogging.
Its definitely been one of the most useful things I’ve done to help me get inspired at home!
This article is so good..I’m also working from home, but before read this article, I didn’t knowed how to switch my brain to writing mode. Thank you so much, and I expect so much other articles for you. Regards
It can be a hard transition!
I loved this article! Another great advice that I heard from Charles Finch, author of the Charles Lenox mystery series, is to work for a few minutes as soon as you wake up, and then begin your rituals. For example, if you’re a writer, write at least one page, and then go about getting your coffee or taking your walk. That way when you come back, you’ll have a fresh desire to sit down and get to work.
Ohhhh I like that! I can see how that can really work. I think I’ll try it – thank you!
I hear yah. It’s a challenge to work at home especially when there are noisy and sometimes inconsiderate family members around. However, in my 8 years of working at home I somehow manage to switch from being distracted (and sometimes annoyed) into working mode by trying to shut out the outside factors.
Listening to music, gardening, and even chatting via Skype can be useful outlets as well. I guess anything that will help us focus like the tips you’ve listed above, will surely help us regain focus and work more effectively.
Thanks! My kids are very noisy (and very needy – they’re only toddlers) so I’m constantly distracted. I have to carve out spaces of time to write, and then when I do I don’t want to write any more! I know it’s just a stage we are in as a family and it will change in the blink of an eye… but these things have really helped me. I love the listening to music idea :)
These are great tips for finding time to blog in a tight schedule.
Great to see you over here, and love your post.
I’ve been trying to play the same soundtrack each time I write and it is working a treat – plus I get to sing along with Claire Bowditch!
My biggest struggle is trying to avoid social commitments in the morning when I know it is my prime time to write. As a stay at home mum, people assume you will be available and I feel bad saying “no, I’m not”. My goal for 2014 will be to schedule all my weekday mornings for working.
Yay! I love Clare.
I know what you mean about the social commitments. I’ve started doing them in the afternoons, or on designated no-work days. I really should sort out a proper playlist :)
Great post! At times it can be focus working from home with so many distractions. I will be using this tips immediately. Thanks for sharing.
You’re very welcome, I hope they work for you!
Oh I SO get that recent notes thing. I like to mix up my travel blog posts between older and newer adventures and those notes become chicken scratch and hieroglyphics after a bit.
haha oh totally. I forget the specifics of travel after a while.
I use a noise generator set to a thunder storm (and only use it when I write) with good headphones. I also make sure the browser and internet things are closed if at all possible, but I also work from home as an employer, so those stay open. My grandson moved in with us a few months ago (2 in April ’14), and it’s taken me all this time to get my groove back and a new routine, but so worth it. Thanks for all the tips. I’ll be using several of them.
I hope they work for you! I tried the noise generator thing, I got an app that sounded like rain. So good! It is tough to get into a groove with little ones about, I know how you feel x
For the past few weeks I had been really struggling writing another blog post. What I found real helpful was getting back to the basics, what was I passionate about and how I could draw from my own personal experiences to write an informative article.
Sometimes I think we try a little too hard to be so technical about things when we just need to relax and write with passion. :)
Oh, amen! absolutely.
Oh this is totally written for me. I am “cleanerholic” so I tend to waste precious time trying to get the house in order first before I get to writing. What really works for me though is blocking out 30 minutes at a time where I just focus on writing, then maybe take a 5 minute break and so on.
haha I did that this morning! had lots of lovely loads of washing finished, but no writing. I’ve had to be strict with myself and learn to write with dirty benches :)
So exciting that’s help, but there is problem to work solo so many disturbs all around even when i am all alone. all the suggestions and tips you tell are very good and working well. It’s improve my writting skills. After reading you tips i am doing well with my writting. Music really work good to write post or novel. This is a great post. i am doing very good after reading your tips.thanks
So pleased to hear it! I think the music is a great idea. Good luck :)
the one thing a lot of people don’t know is that when they take time to rent a dedicated server and start their own blog website, create unique content for their blog or website daily, in addition to pulling those creative thoughts in the back of their minds and publishing to their blogs or websites, this continuously turned into advertising revenue for them. Most of us experience writer’s block from time to time when working from home or anywhere in the world. It’s normal. Now that I’ve been doing this for quite a while, my brain is always in writing mode when working online. Sometimes, I find myself not knowing what to say but try to publish at least one or two sentences of something meaningful to the site. My guess is that as long as a person is writing something meaningful whether it’s a little bit or a lot on their site, it’ll help them to stay inspired whether working from home or working online from anywhere in the world.
Great advice! Any of your tips can help those who are stuck with non-writing productivity too.
This was my favorite line of the article: “Get dressed, walk around the block and pretend you’re walking to work.” Just because you have a home office does not mean you need to be sloppy.
It’s such a perk being able to work in your pajamas – but I never seem to work at my best when I do!
from some days i am writing
another blog post. What I found
real helpful and it was getting back to
the basics, what was I passionate
about and how I could draw from
my own personal experiences to
write an informative article. Thanks for sharing.
Such good advice, thank you :)
Love this post and the ideas in the comments too. I recently quit my job to focus on my blog and a book full time, so am learning every day how to get better at focusing when working at home. Another trick I learnt recently, and which has worked for me, is to send your brain a trigger that it’s work time with a particular smell, by lighting an oil burner with a particular fragrance. Lemon eucalyptus for me, and then jasmin when it’s chillax time. Sounds weird, but it works!
Oh I think that works too! I like the citrusy oils, they are quite refreshing. Good luck with your blog and your book! What a leap of faith :)
Thanks @Roberts for sharing such a nice post. Writing is one of the best way to get earn from home.
Stacey – you are wonder woman! What a nice surprise to find you on this post I tagged to read about a week ago (got any tips for that?). Loved your point about changing location. I’ve been freelance for eight years and my family knows – if Mummy sits at the dining table, things are serious. My “office” is a tiny nook in the living room that faces the street (we call it the fishbowl as it also features a floor-to-ceiling window). I have a silly little routine where I literally turn my back on the utter chaos that is my house, breathe out/snort like a bull and get to work. My other fav technique for getting shite done is the Pomodoro technique. Look it up if you don’t know it, it rocks. I wrote my first novel using a tomato-shaped egg-timer. x
I will definitely have a look! I bought a cupcake-shaped timer, haha. And no, I have no tips for staying on top of reading… I’ve got years worth of reading stashed away all over the place :-/
Well said Stacey! Writing good quality posts on a regular basis is NOT easy. We all know the importance of blogging, but I’m going to use some of your suggestions to help take some of the pain out of it in regards to time management.
I hope they work for you!
Amazing Article. Thank you so much !
This is a great post, Stacey! I’m new to full time working at home and it is definitely an exercise in discipline. Social media is my biggest distraction. And eating. Haha! I think a rough daily routine and taking on some of your tips is definitely needed here!
Thanks! I totally get distracted by food too… totally ;-)