There are some nice benefits that go along with working as a freelance writer. I don’t have a boss looking over my shoulder, and I more or less get to set my own hours. If the mood takes me I’m able to turn up to work in my underwear, and I never have to deal with office politics. Of course these benefits come with a price. The lack of a boss means that I need to stay self motivated – if I’m not productive I don’t get paid. The ability to set my own schedule makes it far too easy to “goof off” and procrastinate. This can be a particular problem on those days when I’m feeling antsy and distracted.
I Write the Equivalent of a Book Every Two Weeks
On average I produce 35,000 words per week – this includes my own personal writing as well as the work for my clients. This means that my output is the equivalent of one book every fortnight. I know some professional writers who are managing nearer to 50,000 words a week, but I struggle at that level of output. I’ve been doing this full-time now for three years, and I can’t say that I’ve once suffered from writer’s block. I’m not even convinced that such a thing exists or maybe it is just a luxury that I can’t afford. I do get days when writing becomes a real struggle, but this has more to do with antsy feelings.
Days of Feeling Antsy
Working as a freelance writer can be torturous on those days when I’m feeling antsy and distracted. At these times I would be happy to have a boss there to motivate me. The antsy feeling means that anything that is not related to my work becomes fascinating stuff. I can get an almost irresistible urge to go online to seek out useless information. It suddenly becomes vital to my existence that I discover the names of the backing musicians on Rick Ashley’s “Never Going Give You Up” single so that I can find out what they are up to now. This all means that a work project that would normally take a couple of hours takes at least twice as long. When I’m feeling antsy like this it is an achievement to stay focused long enough to write a full sentence. I know that we all get our off times, but these periods of feeling antsy can last for a week or more.
How Not to Deal Antsy Feelings
When I first started experiencing these antsy periods my reaction was to try to fight against it. I wanted to find something that would stop it, but I found out that any form of resistance only ever made the problem worse. It increased the mental agitation rather than soothing it. I even tried meditating for long periods in the hope that this would quiet my mind. I’d end up sitting there like a rat on a hotplate, and by the end of the meditation session I’d be more frustrated than ever. I then just tried to ignore the pull towards distraction completely, but this was just another form of resistance. When fighting against something doesn’t work the only option left is acceptance. I’ve learnt to accept these periods of distraction in much the same way as I accept the arrival of the common cold. I know it will pass, and there are things that I can do that allow me to remain productive.
How to Remain Productive Despite Feeling Antsy and Distracted
I am still less productive on those days when I’m feeling antsy, but I’ve found tools that have greatly improved the situation. I’ve managed to control things enough so that my feeling of distraction only cost me on average an extra hour of work – I can live with that. The tools that have worked for me are:
- I now try to harness the excessive energy in my system and put it to good use. To do this I turn my work into a competition. I use a timer and set myself a goal of writing so many words in fifteen minutes. I’ve found that it is better to keep the periods of time for these challenges short because it is too easy to become distracted with periods longer than 15 minutes.
- When I’m feeling antsy there is always a warm tingling feeling in my abdominal area. I’ve found that mindfully bringing my attention to this area reduces the mental turbulence in my mind. I just stop my work briefly in order to concentrate on this sensation and my focus returns for a few minutes. This might sound like a strange approach but it really does work. I’d urge people to give it a go.
- I’ve written before about how mini meditation breaks increase my productivity, and these can also be useful during these periods when I’m easily distracted. Trying to sit down and meditate for twenty minutes during the work day is a real challenge when I’m feeling antsy but 5 minutes every hour can be a great help.
- I am more affected by music at these times so I try to only have peaceful tunes on in the background.