My top 5 tips for working at home
Working from home - more and more people are doing it and while it can be amazing there are also lots of downsides. As well as writing, I also run a small PR business from home. Sometimes I'm really busy and sometimes I'm not but I always have writing goals, blogging commitments and deadlines for work and my writing. Over the years I've had to learn to make the most of the slow times (which can sometimes be harder for a host of reasons) and be ready for the busy times.
I've worked from home pretty much consistently for over ten years and so I've learned a thing or two along the way about time management and maintaining sanity so here are five random tips, not in any particular order.
1. Work out which times of the day you are most creative/productive
I've always known I'm not a morning person. I'm just not. In a perfect world I wouldn't even get out of bed until nine in the morning. I've tried getting out of bed at six in the morning to write and I get nothing achived. In fact by my most productive time of the day 10am-1pm I'm a zombie. I actually get less done.
So monitor your own rhythms and see what you notice. I now spend from about 8-10am doing admin. That might be for my business or for my writing career. I reply to emails, send out prizes, load up blog posts for visiting authors, set up social media...you get the idea. It's not stuff that I need to be my most creative for. It's good use of my time and it gets those things out of the way.
My most creative times are 10-1pm and from about 3-6. That's still six hours. I don't work all those hours every day but because I'm doing the #1000wordsaday challenge I try and get my words done in that first block. I might do more then or more later or if I have a load of client work I might do it first. My point is the admin is done so I'm not worrying about it and my brain is awake and engaged. Perfect. And if I use the first three hour block wisely I still have another three hour block (although it will likely be interrupted).
Now that's my rhythm but everyone is different. If you are a morning person or a night owl you can work that to your advantage in the same way. Just knowing means you can structure your day for maximum productivity.
(I know I said there was no particular order but I honestly think do think this one is key).
2. Block time out to get out of the house/office
Do you think the guy who works in an office sits bum on seat for let's say eight hours? And does that make you think you need to do the same? I've worked in an office and there's usually morning chat, at least one useless meeting (ie an hour where nothing is achieved), a lunch hour and a coffee break. Even by a conservative measure that's at least an hour and a half not at the desk (and that's super conservative because it might be closer to three hours).
People often comment that I spend a lot of time at the beach or having coffee. I happen to live five minutes from the beach. If I schedule a meeting with a local client, I'll schedule it there. But I also try and organise one or two social catch-ups a week. Sometimes these are business associates or just friends. If the office worker gets time by the water cooler or a lunch hour shouldn't I? It always regenerates me. I don't feel guilty. I plan these outings to break things up and keep me connected to the world and real people not just via the internet.
3. Ignore the domestic chores
Ignore the domestic chores is probably the hard one. I'm not always great at this. I do tend to throw on a load of laundry while I make my coffee for example but if the kitchen looks like a bomb went off then I just try not to look.
If I was working outside the office this stuff would have to wait wouldn't it?
Sometimes I'm sick of sitting on my butt so hanging a load of laundry or loading the dishwasher is good. I can think and do these things but the point I'm making is DO NOT FEEL OBLIGATED to do them. (For some people this is just too hard...in which case set a timer for 15 minutes and do your best in the time-frame. It's amazing what can be picked up/hidden or cleaned in that time).
4. Be realistic and be prepared to change things up
I started with these as two separate headings but honestly they're so interlinked I think they have to go together
When you are working at home you are almost always the go-to person for the domestic stuff. The broken washing machine, the sick kid and the run to the post office usually fall under your care so if you know that be realistic about what can be achieved. Don't set yourself up to fail. If you're making your own deadlines then extend them by a day or an hour.
Having said that you do need to learn to say no to things that people approach you about "because you're at home". If you're not interested and it's a time such then say no. The people in the offices, the stores, the schools and hospitals all say no if they're at work. You can too.
No one will value your time if you don't.
Which leads to the idea that you need to be prepared to change things up because life isn't neat and sometimes you need to go with the flow or change the flow rather than letting the river drown you. Maybe you do need to get up early and do your admin at 5am so you can hang with your pre-schooler from 7-9 before they go off and finger-paint. Or maybe just knowing you have a sullen teen locked in their room playing Mindcraft distracts you? Sometimes life changes and you need to change your patterns for a day, a week or indefinitely. If what you're doing isn't working look at it again.
5. Lists are your friends
Working alone can be isolating. Horribly isolating. No one leans over your desk and says "Are you coming to the meeting?" You have to remember yourself. And you need to remember to have the report ready for the meeting, and to drive there...so use lists. There are so many wonderful apps to help with organisation that mean your list is always there with you. I like a sparkly notebook as well. There's something immensely gratifying about crossing things off the list for me. It's like I'm patting myself on the back.
I have a really good memory and I still need lists and sub-lists. Lists for each project, lists for each book, lists for my home life. Some people have a PA for this stuff but I just have lists. They don't make me coffee but they work.
Those are my top tips for working at home. Do you have any that you would add or change?
Q&A with Author of Accidental Makeovers - Carol Maloney Scott
1. What was the inspiration for your novel?
Accidental Makeovers, Book 4 in the Rom-Com on the Edge series, wasn’t inspired by real life events, as much as it was an offshoot of the existing storyline and world I have created. However, I do LOVE makeup, and I did experience an ectopic pregnancy. It’s hard not to touch on my real life experiences when writing about strong, funny women navigating career, love, friendship and motherhood.
2. When did you take up writing?
I started writing as soon as I learned about words, and how to put them together to give life to the thoughts in my head. I wrote a tremendous amount as a child, but gave it up around the time puberty hit. I picked it up again a few years ago. After a thirty year break, I have a lot of story backlog in my brain.
3. How important is setting/place in your writing?
My books are much more dialogue/character driven, and setting/place only matter just enough to set the stage for the scene. However, I do enjoy fictionalizing many real spots in my town of Richmond, VA. Local residents can guess the inspiration for places like Lorenzo’s, Midtown Lanes, Platinum Billiards, and The Wild Banshee.
4. Do you have a favourite character (s) in your current novel?
I really love Max. He’s had to fight for everything he has, and he is a misunderstood man. He loves Bianca and his son, and has a strong sense of right and wrong, which he only tweaks in order to prove himself. He may be a bit misguided, but his heart is in the right place. Plus if you take a stroll over to my Accidental Makeovers Pinterest board, you’ll see that he is a wall of muscle and…heavy sigh…
5. What’s the best piece of writing advice you were ever given?
You can’t edit a blank page.
6. Do you have a schedule for writing?
Since I have a day job and lots of other activities and responsibilities, I really don’t. I strive for one, but I find I write best when I feel it, not when I schedule it.
7. Are you a plotter or someone who tends to wing it?
I am a plotter, but my outlines are very fluid. I usually have several epiphanies while in mid-story, and make changes accordingly.
8. Can you name three of four of your current favourite books?
I don’t have the time to read that I once had before I started writing again, but I still manage to read about a book a week. These are not super current, but within the past few years – Tell the Wolves I’m Home, Room, The Rosie Project, and Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
9. Can you tell me a little bit about what you are working on now?
Oh boy. I just finished outlining all SIX of my current projects. Since I will go crazy if I don’t work on one at a time, I am going with the prequel novella. It is set about a year before There Are No Men, the first novel in my series, and chronicles Claire’s earlier divorced time period, to include the aftermath of her relationship with Ron, the acquisition of Dixie, and her first steps out into the dating world.
10. What advice would you give to a fledgling writer to assist them on
I would tell them to be very open to information. Read and study all you can, join writer’s groups, and don’t be afraid to try different things to see what works. And persist. This is a tough business, but if you have stories to share, your readers are out there.
Amazon US: http://amzn.com/B01DPP0JLQ
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01DPP0JLQ
Twenty-something, single mom Bianca yearns for more. The cosmetology license she worked so hard to get is collecting dust while she waitresses for her mother’s catering business, but she has no clue how to turn her dreams of being a makeup artist into reality. Adding to her unhappiness is her dead-end relationship with her immature, video game-obsessed baby daddy, Max. Although he runs a successful business and Bianca still gets a thrill whenever she sees him play the drums in his cover band, Chain, she can’t deny that he’s starting to feel like her big, tattooed second child.
In desperate need of a life makeover, her fortune takes a positive turn when she crosses paths with an impulsive, runaway bride who has the connections to help Bianca achieve her goals. Suddenly, doors are being opened for her and she has a fabulous, new job that’s reigniting her zest for life. Too bad Max isn’t on board with these changes, and he starts acting like a jealous jerk, which brings their faltering relationship to a boiling point just about the time Bianca meets Eric, a sexy and charming financial manager. Eric comes from a different world, but one Bianca is increasingly eager to join.
Bianca expects her friends and family to be supportive of her budding romance with Eric, but to her surprise, they’re all on Team Max and they rally behind him when he launches a campaign to win her back. Nothing wrong with bar fights, fake girlfriends, and strategically placed rodents when they're all in the name of true love, right?
Will she be lured back to her familiar life, or will a successful career makeover beautify her love life?
Carol Maloney Scott, author of the Rom-Com on the Edge series, is a frazzled new bride and wiener dog fanatic. She is a lover of donuts, and a hater mornings. Recently unearthing a childhood passion for writing, she can once again be seen carrying around a notebook and staring into space. Her stories are witty, fresh and real, just like life.
Join her on “The Edge” for giveaways, cover reveals, excerpts, contests and members-only content at https://carolmaloneyscott.com.
Social Networking Links
Amazon Author: http://www.amazon.com/Carol-Maloney-Scott/e/B00MAD2EFY/
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O is for OPRAH
I got the letter O in the #ChickLitMay scavenger hunt and w hat I know for sure is that Oprah is the ultimate chicklit heroine.
Chicklit books to me are the stories of women working towards their dreams with a sense of humour. Women grappling with careers, with friends and with romantic entanglements. Chicklit heroines have highs and lows, ups and downs and lots of laughs along the way. They're women with hobbies and passions who are looking for love and meaning in life but they're finding their own way. Does that sounds like Oprah to you?
Oprah did not start her life with a perfect family in a perfect house waiting for Mr Perfect to rescue her. No she did not. She got out there and worked her butt off. That's part of what makes her so successful, she's relatable.
So much of her life is documented because like many a chicklit heroine she's an over-sharer. We all know she moved to Chicago to pursue her dream career in television and that's where she met her BFF's Gayle and Maria Shriver. (We know she went to Maria's house and like many a book character had family-envy.) For all those women in that circle of friends careers and men have risen and fallen but the core of their friendship has kept them strong. We've watched them celebrate each other's milestones and laugh themselves stupid on national television as well.
One of the things I love about chicklit books is that the characters often have their own language and shorthand for how they communicate and Oprah is the queen of that. Aha moments, full circle moments, what I know for sure are all Oprahisms.
We've watched Oprah struggle for years with her weight (just like Bridget Jones with whom there are many Oprah parallels. Bridget had her own language too v. happy or v.anything really is a good example.) We could see Oprah believing if she just hit that goal life would fall in to place only to realize that wasn't the answer.
There's a criticism by some that chicklit can be vapid (shoes and handbags anyone?) but the truth is in the Oprah era and the chicklit era for the first time women have found themselves making their own money and their own decisions about how they spend it. If that means one nice pair of Jimmy Choos or in Oprah's case four houses each with a colour-coded temperature controlled walk-in robe then bring it on. It's okay for women in books and in life to want pretty things and to celebrate their milestones by getting them.
Of course that's not all that the chicklit heroine or Oprah are about. They want to find their bliss. Whether through family, friendship or pursuing a dream. The journey is the fascinating part.
How do I know so much about Oprah's journey? I possibly may have read every O Magazine ever written.
You know something else Oprah loved to do? Give away her favourite things and what do authors love more than anything? Books. So the authors participating in this Scavenger Hunt are giving you the chance to win a Kindle Paperwhite and a $100 Amazon Giftcard to load it up with books.
Want to win a Kindle Paperwhite + a $100 Amazon gift card? Visit each of the 26 stops on the #ChickLitMay A to Z Scavenger Hunt and collect the alphabet word at each stop (A, B, C, D, etc.), then submit the A-Z list of words via e-mail to email@example.com with the subject "A to Z Scavenger Hunt Entry." Entries will be accepted until Sunday, May 22nd at midnight E.D.T. A winner will be chosen on Monday, May 23rd. Good luck!
The next stop on the Scavenger Hunt - the letter P - is here. https://whitneydineen.com/2016/05/15/chick-lit-scavenger-hunt/
If you'd like to start back at the beginning of the Scavenger Hunt (the letter A), go here. http://katieoliver.com/ko/2016/05/chick-lit-a-to-z-scavenger-hunt/
Good luck!! I hope you win big.
My personal connection to Oprah and chicklit
One last thing - my very first novel Mr Right and Other Mongrels features a landscape gardener with an Australian TV show who gets called up to have his own big US Show. I modelled the character on an Australian TV personality called Jamie Durie and the question I asked while writing was "What if Jamie got chosen to be on Oprah?"
And then that ACTUALLY HAPPENED while I was finalising my book. Jamie got called up and was sitting there on the Oprah stage doing designs with cute Nate Berkus.
If you'd like to read the full version you can get Mr Right and Other Mongrels here and it's on sale for #ChickLitMay getBook.at/MrRightandOtherMongrels
This month is four years since I started this blog and four years since I published my first novel Mr Right and Other Mongrels. (I'll be honest with you, I had to double check that because it feels so much longer than that to me).
Here is a screen shot of my first blog post. I remember feeling excited and so proud of myself that I had managed to set up my very own blog, all by myself and post something. Meanwhile behind the scenes I was busy getting my first book baby ready. It was a heady and scary time.
Last night I lay in bed and contemplated the last four years. Sometimes pursuing this writing dream seems thankless and pointless (ask any writer from the most to the least successful).
Here's what I worked out:
- I've published five stand alone novels under my own name
- I've published one under a pen name (It was picked up by a publisher that shut and reverted back to me)
- I've published four books in the Upper Crust Series
- I have been included in a Mother's Day charity anthology
- I've had commissioned work included in two non-fiction books about writing (One only came out this week)
- I have two more Upper Crust Books written and ready to go
- I have a Christmas and a Valentine's Novella waiting to publish
- I have two novels under my pen-name ready to publish
- I have a novella going in a NYE box set
That's not nothing. (Meanwhile I've run a small business and kept my family going and tried to be a nice friendly community member).
As writers it's easy to focus on what doesn't happen but sometimes it isn't a bad thing to focus on the positive and reflect on what has been achieved. Writing can be lonely (that's why writers are so grateful when you tell them you liked their book or leave a review - it is everything to us).
So if you've stayed with me on this journey, thank you. If you've read my books or followed my blog thank you. If you ask about my writing when you see me, thank you. I do appreciate it.
Mr Right and Other Mongrels is now on sale for #99cents if you haven't yet read it, now might be the time.
Mother's Day - it seems like a good time to ponder motherhood. Usually on this blog I just talk about my book babies but today I thought I'd talk about my real baby. My real baby isn't a baby anymore and probably wouldn't appreciate me referring to her as such at the tender age of fifteen.
Motherhood is a very strange thing. It's only fairly recently that it's becoming a mother has become a choice. Before decent contraception most women became mothers whether they wanted to or not. In the latter part of the 20th century women in the developed world finally had the option to opt out of motherhood.
What an awesome thing that is - that ability to make a choice to determine when and how many children you can have from none to umpteen if you wish. I went to Catholic school in the 1970's and many of the kids I went to school with were the youngest of seven or eight kids. . Most of the kids I knew who were the eldest had one or two siblings. Times were changing and fast (regardless of what the Pope had to say about it).
Of course it's not that simple. (Although to be honest if you don't want kids it is pretty simple to avoid it - but I think that decision is still a tough one for a lot of women.) Plenty of women never meet a partner to have a child with or they meet them too late to safely have a child. In Australia adoption is almost non-existent in the 21st century so those people are out of options. Reproductive medicine does amazing things but not for everyone and not without cost and emotional consequence. For every story of delight, for every cute IVF baby foot I've kissed I know a woman who tried and failed. So it's not the great panacea many think it is.
I always knew I wanted to be a mum. Always. I haven't been certain of all that much in my life as I am a notorious second-guesser but that I have known down to my core. I love babies and toddlers. I'm never happier than when I'm hanging out with a baby.
When a friend has a baby I can't wait to get my hot little hands on it. I love everything about them. I know lots of people find tiny babies scary but I just find them miraculous. From their little yelping cries to their tiny feet I adore them.
I was certainly nothing but enamoured by my own little miracle when she arrived. I know part of that was because I'd been told that I wasn't going to be able to have kids. My husband and I actually had an alternative life planned out where we sold our house, bought an apartment, rented it out and moved overseas. (I didn't want to stay here and be the sad friend no one wanted to tell they were pregnant because she'd cry. I didn't want to spend my life at baby showers and christenings putting on a brave face. I didn't want to be pitied.) And then by some miracle I got pregnant and along came Charlotte.
I don't take motherhood for granted. (Have I taken my own mother for granted from time to time, for sure). I adore my fifteen year old but if I had a time machine I'd take it to spend a day with the baby version of her, and then the four year old Charlotte and then maybe six year old...well you get the idea. It does go by too quickly. Blink and you miss it.
There are women out there today longing to be mothers and for them today feels entirely hopeless and my heart breaks for them. There are women who were sure this time a year ago they'd be mothers this year and their grief is real. I don't think as a society we're especially sensitive to those women. Their sadness and struggle often makes people who have children feel awkward. Some people who "just have to look at their husband and they're pregnant" just don't even understand what that longing is like.
There isn't much one can do to solve the problem except choose our words and actions kindly. Censor your phrases like "You don't know how hard it is" around these women. Smile at your kids when they walk into the room - look like your grateful they exist, complain about Tarquin and Tania a little less loudly and a little less often. Don't ask people "when are you having your next child?" or even "When are you two having kids?" It isn't much but if it was a struggle your child was facing. as a mother, wouldn't you want people to treat them with kindness and understanding?
Let the blog tour begin
Today is the kick-off of the Any Way You Plan It Blog Tour. I'm thrilled to have so many amazing bloggers and authors hosting me over the next two weeks.
Stop by each and every site on the day listed on the schedule below to read a combination of excerpts of Any Way You Plan It, as well as Guest Posts and Reviews.
We're also running a fun giveaway that includes a $20 Amazon Giftcard and e-books which have been donated by many of the hosts. That's exciting for you as a reader. If you're anything like me you probably struggle to find new authors in the maze of online retailers. Here's a great way to discover lots of new ones.
Any Way You Plan It Blog Tour Schedule
May 1st Monique McDonell
May 2nd Written by Deb - Deborah Nam Krane
May 3rd HeySaidRenee -Renee Conoulty
May 4th Jen Collin Author
May 5th Pamela Cook
May 6th Glynis Astie
May 8th Caroline Fardig
May 10th Cat Lavoie
May 12th Isabella Louise Anderson
May 14th Celia Kennedy