How Do You Stay Productive Working from Home?

What does your home office look like?
What does your home office look like?

I started working part-time from home in 2003 and full-time from home in 2006. Although I’ve been someone else’s employee for the last 5 years of that, I still use all of the same techniques for staying focused and productive as an employee that I used as a freelancer.  Here are a couple of my favorite tips for productivity when you work from home:

  • Have a designated workspace and keep it holy — Mommy’s desk is not for crafting, storage, kid snacks, or other non-work tasks.
  • Have a designated phone line and keep it holy — work calls only on the work phone, whether cell or land line.
  • Set and enforce regular working hours; limit “flexibility” to true emergencies. That means keeping work time for work (no mid-day errands or runs to the gym!) and keep personal time for personal (do not check your work email during dinner) unless you specifically plan set times to mix work and home.
  • Get fully dressed every day (casual clothing and slippers acceptable); use regular video-conferencing in place of phone calls to fight the temptation to hang out in jammies all day.
  • Create accountability by establishing interim deadlines for projects, and schedule voice or video check-ins with others about those deadlines.
  • Go beyond email to reinforce human connections. Meet regularly with supervisors, project managers, and colleagues, whether by phone or by videoconference.It’s easier to stay focused and engaged when you feel a connection to the people you work with.
  • Use productivity and organizational tools like OneNote, Todoist, and my Outlook calendar to keep track of deadlines, corral project information, and track progress through various tasks and subtasks.
  • Create a workspace that supports what makes sense for your brain. I’m a piler, not a filer, so I have a lot of flat surfaces in my small home office where I can drop materials related to specific tasks or projects and keep everything organized. I also use lighting that energizes me and decor that motivates me to help me stay on task.
  • Take advantage of working remotely by taking meaningful breaks to recharge. My favorite breaks are short bursts of exercise, like turning on my music and busting out a quick Zumba routine or grabbing my iPad to work through a brief yoga sequence using my favorite app. Whenever I get bored or distracted, these breaks help me get back on track.

What are some of your favorite ways to stay productive while working from home? Do you have a unique take on one of my suggestions? Leave a comment!


“You’ll Never Have Time to Write After Kids”

Check out today’s post at, all about the power of writingThis post WAS supposed to be sponsored by Grammarly, but they failed to deliver on their promise of compensation, so their sponsorship credit has been removed. Should they decide to keep their promise after all, I will reinstate it. However, based on this unfortunate situation, I can no longer recommend them. I sincerely hope that’s temporary. This post is FINALLY sponsored by Grammarly.

Here’s an excerpt:

Despite the fact that writing is who I am and as important to me as breathing, I’ve let it slide since the kids came along, and I’ve used them as an excuse.

There. I said it. I used my kids as an excuse. I did it because I was scared. I did it because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be good anymore, that after I became a mom I wouldn’t have anything important to say that didn’t involve my children (who are remarkably adorable) or their bodily functions (which are remarkably gross). I did it because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a mommyblogger.

I’ve had the time to write. I didn’t use the time, because I didn’t think it was important enough. I was wrong.

Read the whole post at 

Contents Copyright © 2006-2014 Kristen King


Distance Learning for Writers: Choosing the “Write” Course — A Guest Post by Diana Nadin

So, you’re thinking of enrolling on a distance learning writing course? In my experience, here are some of the things you need to think about before you take the plunge.


  • Before you do anything, you should ask yourself whether you’re the kind of person who can self-motivate. Distance learning can be lonely and there is a temptation to enrol and then put off sending in your first assignment.  But, let’s be honest, if you can’t self-motivate then you’re never going to make it as a writer.
  • Next, do your searches and check review sites. You’re going to be sending a reasonable chunk of your hard-earned cash to the college, so you need to be sure that it’s reputable and not operating a scam.
  • Make sure you get a trial period. This is important because even when you’ve seen full details online or in a prospectus the depth or complexity of the material might not be what you expect.  If you’re a complete novice you want something basic – if you’ve already had a measure of success you want something more detailed.  A reputable college will have a ‘cooling off’ period and will refund your fees if you do not want to proceed and return the material within the stated period.
  • Ensure there is enough tutor feedback. This is a vital element of any distance learning course for writers.  How can you hope to improve if you don’t get constructive criticism and help from experts?  And the best thing about it is that you’re working privately on a one-to-one basis with your tutor.  You’re not in a class with other students having to read your work in front of them.  And if you’ve got a question that you think might sound silly or inexperienced, you can ask your tutor without anyone else knowing.
  • Check that the tutors are qualified and are writing NOW. You don’t want people who used to write but have been retired for years.  You need tutors who are familiar with current markets and current practice in the publishing industry.
  • You need to be able to study and submit your assignments in the way that suits you best. So, if you like working online – check that’s what you’ll be doing.  If you prefer printed booklets or submitting assignments by post then go for a college that offers that.  Also, look at the timescale.  You’re writing – not doing a sprint – and family/work issues can arise unexpectedly.  So, make sure the course allows enough time for you to enjoy it without feeling rushed or under pressure.
  • Finally, if you’re to get the best value from a course, you must be prepared to listen to advice. I don’t say you’ve got to take it – because at the end of the day, writing is a very subjective thing.  But you’ve got to be receptive, willing to weigh the pros and cons, and then you can make an informed decision.

I mentioned at the beginning that studying by distance learning can be a bit lonely.  So it helps if the college has a thriving student community where you can chat to others, share opinions – and hopefully successes.  Also essential is a Student Services team who can be contacted quickly if you need help with admin or have a problem with your tutor – and yes, even the best college can team you up with a tutor that’s not right for you.  If the college cares, they’ll be quick to find you a different tutor with whom you can build up a better rapport if you are not happy with the way your studies are going

About the Author

Diana Nadin has been Director of Studies at the Writers Bureau ( since it was launched over 20 years ago.  She ensures that the courses are kept up-to-date; tutors provide helpful feedback to students and any questions you might ask are answered promptly and fully.  You can read her weekly blog at

Contents Copyright © 2006-2014 Kristen King

Practical and entertaining, Shut Up & Write! demystifies the process of writing — The following promotional release landed in my inbox and looks like a great match for Inkthinker readers. Enjoy! -kk

Available at your local bookstore or online through,,, other on-line booksellers, or ask your local library. Published in print and ebook editions.

Inspires and instructs. Includes coaching on:
• what it takes to be a writer
• techniques for writing fact and fiction
• bringing real and imagined characters to life • organizing thoughts and material
• mastering point of view
• writing “from the inside”
• the “get and give” of critiques
• how to get happily published
• and much more

What they say:

“… a combination of tough-love coaching and humor that inspires and shows you how to become the writer you want to be”
~ Elfrieda Abbe, Publisher – The Writer magazine

“Encouraging, humorous, straight-talking. Shut Up & Write! is one of the best books I’ve read on writing.”
~ Shauna Singh Baldwin. Author of English Lessons. What the Body Remembers, The Tiger Claw, and We Are Not in Pakistan.

“Shut Up & Write! is one of those rare volumes that truly does it all. In addition to being a practical “how-to” guide, the book provides priceless advice on the care and feeding of the Inner Writer. Laced with wit and common sense, Judy Bridges serves as her own best example of what excellent writing can be.”
~ Marilyn L. Taylor, Poet Laureate, State of Wisconsin

“Judy Bridges is a driving force behind the many writers she has helped. If you want to write, do yourself a favor, buy this book and follow her advice. You will not only write, you will succeed.”
~ John Lehman, Founder of Rosebud Magazine and literary editor of Wisconsin People & Ideas

Judy Bridges is one of the few people who can say, “Shut Up and Write!” in a way that makes you smile. A renowned mentor and coach, she earned her living as a writer before founding Redbird writing center in Milwaukee, WI, where she taught (and learned from) over 6,000 aspiring and accomplished writers of all ages. She shares her wisdom with a no-nonsense, humorous voice that makes writing accessible and reading her book a joy.

Contents Copyright © 2006-2014 Kristen King

5 Tips for Meeting Writing Deadlines — A Guest Post by David Sumner

Photo Credit: Christopher Hill

Freelancers are typically over-worked and yet despite our best efforts in keeping on top of everything, those deadlines advance relentlessly. Deadlines can spur us onto bigger and better things or they can become our worst nightmares and cause a burnout. There are many things that can waylay your project timetable, some pleasant, some not so pleasant, such as distractions at home to handling the legitimate concerns of your customers.

In this economic climate you won’t have the luxury to work on one project at a time, so how can you ensure you will maintain productivity, cut down on these distractions and bring all projects to a successful conclusion? Here are my favorite tactics of mine that can help minimize distractions and ensure that your working relationship with the client runs as smoothly as possible.

Tip 1: Prioritize

If you are struggling to juggle enquiries from clients then you need to prioritize the concerns of some projects over others. Does one project require more technical skills or does another project come from a long-term valued customer with whom you have worked many times? These are the questions you will have to ask yourself.

Tip 2: Learn to say no

Sometimes a client will demand the impossible from you at the drop of a hat and expect you to carry out extra tasks simply because they are footing the bill. This is lethal to your deadlines. All aspects of the job need to be agreed on in advance in order for you to prepare the right materials and allocate the necessary work time. Thus, extra caveats and wishes from the client must mean either a rise in payment or a lengthening of the deadline; otherwise they must be diplomatically refused.

Tip 3: Communicate

To avoid misunderstandings and issues that will inevitably arise on a project, you must maintain open and fluid channels of communication with your clients. Creating milestones for the project means that the customer can follow your progress at every step and create ample opportunities to review the status of the project. This will reduce the number of anxious yet distractive phone calls and emails from clients.

Tip 4: Create an effective working schedule

Notify your clients that they must relay their questions and concerns to you via email or twitter. You can therefore assign a window in your daily schedule to check these messages, filter, prioritize and resolve them. This is preferable to simply leaving your Skype account open to face questions from clients all throughout the working day. This also simplifies the communication process for clients living in different time zones.

Tip 5: Maintain creativity and efficiency

We all experience a block in our creativity sometimes and for freelancers who are working to a tight deadline this could be potentially fatal to your projects. To avoid this happening you need to identify the problem as soon as it starts, because when you are stressed and overworked your work will suffer. When a block occurs, switch off and reconnect with your passion for the work. Plus, freelancing allows you to work flexible hours therefore if working in the afternoon or on weekends is your preference, you’re the boss.

These are just a few tips to help you meet your deadlines. Be careful of the projects you take for whilst there may be sense in opting for the long-term and extensive projects that pay more, the financial advantages need to be calculated against your own working sanity. After all you opted for the freelancing life to ensure that you could enjoy more of your down-time, not work the same 9-5 working schedule as before.

About the Author

David Sumner comes to Inkthinker from from twago, Europe’s leading job platform for web design, programming and graphic design freelancers.

Contents Copyright © 2006-2014 Kristen King

Book Review: The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life —

About the Book. Author Nava Atlas’ The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life: Inspiration and Advice from Celebrated Women Authors Who Paved the Way is not just a great read but also a gorgeous one. Before I even got into the content, I was struck by how darn pretty it is. Kudos to Atlas and collaborator Amy Papaelias for the stunning page design.

But then I started reading, and I fell in love. Continue reading Book Review: The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life