Writing Boundaries: Thinking Like a Nine-to-Fiver

Time pressure and interruptions–they’re always with us. Right? To a certain extent, yes.

I have several appointments coming up that will take three hours out of several different days and a couple of favors I didn’t have the nerve to say “no” to. I was bemoaning the chunk of work time that would be deducted from my work week.

How would I get my writing done?

Aha! Moment

Then I realized that my husband hasn’t missed an hour of work in more than a year, yet he keeps his doctors’ appointments and other special commitments. He does what I need to do myself–he makes up for lost time. He works afternoons and evenings. If he has  to make appointments during work time, he switches shifts,  or he goes to his appointment and works extra hours afterward. The alterations are rare though; work is a given.

He doesn’t moan and groan about time pressure, he doesn’t miss any work, and he takes care of important appointments.

Keeping Office Hours

I’m guessing that I need to follow his example in that area. If I’m going to say “yes” to a favor or a long phone call with a friend, I need to “clock out” of the office for that time, and then make it up in the evening. Or, better yet, I need to get up earlier that day and log in the extra writing time before my appointments. Too often, I go to the appointment or run the errand or babysit grandkids…and let the writing go for that day.

You can do that once in a while, of course. But this had become my habit, and my lack of productivity showed.

If I diligently make up the writing every time I quit work short of my goal for some reason, I bet I will get better at saying “no” to some requests. In fact, I can almost guarantee it as I don’t like writing at night.

I like to say “yes” to favors when I can. But I imagine I would be more productive if I thought like a nine-to-fiver and said, “I can’t do that for you this morning, but I could do it at four o’clock.” Sometimes the person wanting the favor can rearrange his schedule.

Whatever your writing goal for the day–whether it’s fifteen minutes of scheduled writing or four hours–try making it non-negotiable. Think like an office worker with a boss looking over your shoulder.

Home Office Hours

Yes, it’s easier if you work at an office with a boss. None of your friends or family members expect things from you during the day when you work outside the home. So your only option when working from home is learning to say “no.” I’ve been working in my home office (mostly full-time) for thirty years. Many people still half-assume that since I’m at home, I’m not really working.

So, as usual, it comes down to this. *I* need to take my writing schedule seriously before anyone else will. It’s not about convincing the people in my life that I’m serious about my writing. It’s about convincing me.

You will need to do that too.

Once we do, I suspect our schedules will fall into place. The boundaries I need to set are most often on myself. And now, off to re-read my own e-book, Boundaries for Writers. I need periodic reminding on how to do this!

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6 Responses to Writing Boundaries: Thinking Like a Nine-to-Fiver

  1. Vijaya says:

    Hee hee. I was just going to suggest your boundary book, Kristi. Alas, I think this is something that everybody who works from home faces … distractions and demands. My advisor had a sticky note on her phone that said NO as a reminder to herself to say no otherwise she wouldn’t have time for her own projects. Btw, she was an incredibly giving person … but she couldn’t possibly say yes to everybody.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Thanks, Vijaya. The biggest NO I have to say most days is to myself. Example: I will see where my daughter posted on Facebook how tired she is and that the baby has a cold. My first instinct is to call her and go give her a break and finish my writing later (mostly because I would have given my right arm for help when I had babies.) My girls are wonderfully capable mothers, but my inner urgency to “fix” things causes me problems the most. I volunteer where I really don’t have time or energy for it. Or I see a need in the neighborhood that no one else is attending to, or whatever the issue is. As you said, you can’t say YES to everyone and everything.

  2. Kim says:

    I remind myself frequently that flight attendants know that in an emergency, they put the oxygen mask on themselves before anyone else. They can’t help if they are incapacitated. I think-no know-that I incapacitate myself too often by saying “Yes”. If I’m not taking care of myself then what kind of a role model am I for my kids and family. My datebook doesn’t have enough empty spaces in it. Thanks for reminding me to cross a few things off the to-do list.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Kim, thanks for sharing that. I need to cross a few things off my datebook too. When I put most of them in “way back when,” there was a lot of white space. Not now! That’s a good analogy with the oxygen mask!! Thanks!

  3. Joanne says:

    Hi, Kristi, thank you for your blog on becoming a 9-5er with regard to my writing schedule. I have known for quite some time that diligence and discipline are the two most significant tools in establishing a work-from-home lifestyle, and it is easier to become engaged or “caught up” in the cares of my children and/or grandchildren and forsake my own responsibilities. I guess we can blame it on our motherly instincts to nurture and provide a temporary relief for them, or become their rescue mission. This response only places unnecessary baggage onto our never-decreasing pile of things to do, so we must learn to suppress that desire and adapt the priniciple of the anointed “NO!”

    • kwpadmin says:

      The priniciple of the anointed “NO!” Oh, I LOVE that!!!! You are really singing my song today. Thanks for your comment and insight. :-)

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