Folks, you’ll know today’s guest contributor author Gretchen Rubin from her bestselling books on happiness, habits, and human nature, her inspiring talks, and her popular daily blog GretchenRubin.com. Gretchen also shares practical, manageable advice on her podcast Happier With Gretchen Rubin, which iTunes just announced as one of the best of 2015. We are thrilled to have Gretchen on ProBlogger today, giving us her best tips on how good habits can help you stay sane and on track when your workplace is also your home.
If you’re a blogger, and you work from home, it can be tough to stay productive and creative. You can always knock off some household chore – or take a nap on the sofa!
5 Ways I Use Habits to Stay Creative and Productive When Working From Home
In Better Than Before, my book about how to master habits, I identify the 21 strategies we can use to make or break our habits. I use many of these strategies on myself, to keep myself on track as a blogger.
1. I use the Strategy of Safeguards to put myself out of the reach of temptation.
To do the serious work of original writing—my most challenging kind of work—I take my laptop to a library that’s a block from my apartment, and there, I don’t connect to the internet. It’s easier physically to remove myself from the lure of my three monitors than to use self-control. Many people accomplish the same thing by using software to shut down the internet for certain intervals every day. Look for stumbling blocks, plan for failure!
2. I use the Strategy of Scheduling to do certain tasks at certain times.
It turns out that working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination. So when I tell myself, “at 10:00 a.m., I’m going to write that blog post,” at 10:00 I don’t allow myself to think that while I’m writing, I can also clean my desk, check email, post on Twitter, go over my calendar, or indulge in my personal favorite, do “research.” At the designated time, I do the task that I’ve identified, or I stare at the ceiling. Even when I don’t feel like working, I soon buckle down, out of sheer boredom.
3. I use the Strategy of Foundation to make sure that I move around a lot during the day.
Some days I go to the gym, or take a yoga class, or have a strength-training session. We also just got a new puppy, so I’m going for many more short walks during the day. Research shows that exercise helps me stay energized and focused—and for me, it also helps me keep my rear in the chair when I’m working, because otherwise I get very restless. Plus, as Nietzsche wrote, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” I often find that I get a big insight or make an important connection when I’m out for a walk.
4. I use the Strategy of Monitoring to keep track of how much I’m posting.
How many posts am I really doing each week? We do a better job with just about everything (exercise, diet, spending, etc.) when we keep close track of what we’re doing.
Weirdly, I’ve found, it’s easier to post just about every day than to post some days. I usually post 5-6 times a week, so it’s part of my ordinary day. I don’t agonize, “Should I write something? I wrote yesterday and the day befofre, shouldn’t I get today off? I have a good idea for tomorrow, so should I take today off? I didn’t sleep well last night, I’ll write better tomorrow”, etc. But if I posted, say, three times a week, I’d go through that every time, I’m sure.
As it is, I just have to post. If you want a daily time log, to help you monitor how you’re spending your time each day, download it here.
5. I use the Strategy of Treats to make plenty of time to read.
The Strategy of Treats is the most fun We should load ourselves with healthy treats, because when we give more to ourselves, we can ask more from ourselves. Reading is my favorite thing to do, and when I give myself plenty of time to read for fun, I feel energized and cared for. Also, my reading gives me new ideas, illustrations, and insights, so it makes blogging easier, too. But I spend a good amount of time each week reading exactly what I want to read, not what I think I “should” read.
Here’s a strategy that I don’t need, but many people do: the Strategy of Accountability. In Better Than Before, I divide people into four categories: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. (Take the quiz here.) For people who are “Obligers” (which is the largest category, by the way), the Strategy of Accountability is crucial. Key. Essential!
If you’re really good at meeting other people’s expectations, but find it hard to meet your expectations for yourself, you must give yourself outer accountability. Start an accountability group (starter kit here, if you want to start one) where people hold each other accountable. Work with a coach. Find a client. Report to a buddy. Do whatever it takes—because for many people, writing regularly on a blog is something that just won’t happen, no matter how much they want to do it, if there’s no external accountability. Know yourself, and plan accordingly!
If you’d like to read more about how to use habits to make your life happier, healthier, and more productive, check out my book, Better Than Before. It turns out that it’s not too hard to change your habits—when you know what to do.