One big difference I notice between my life before becoming a full-time web worker, and my life since, is that I actually spend far less time not working now that I work from home. Before, because my job wasn’t particularly challenging, and because the corporate climate was needlessly airless and restrictive, I spent every moment I could doing anything other than work. In fact, I probably wrote more blog posts while at work than during my downtime.
At the same time, I still managed to finish all my work, and spearhead new initiatives and innovative corporate programs. And I won’t say that I did it in spite of goofing off. Actually, I think distraction is a crucial part of productivity, especially if creativity is part of your job. Which is why I think that there’s a certain danger in the zealous work ethic that manifests with most freelance workers once they shrug off the corporate yoke.
While I don’t avoid work with the tenacity that I did when I was still wearing a suit and reporting to an office downtown everyday, I still take the time to screw around with a fair degree of frequency. Here are my usual work avoidance tactics, and why I think they actually help me work better in the long run.
Yes, part of my work involves writing blog posts on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still enjoy reading other people’s, too. Some of my daily routine includes browsing the blogosphere for information and article ideas, but I also read purely for pleasure. Specifically, I generally have Kotaku open in a tab pretty much throughout the day. The fact that I don’t blog about games professionally is enough to make reading about them a satisfying distraction.
Of course, at the same time, because I’m very much a stylistic sponge when it comes to writing, I’m also soaking up some valuable influence. While the Kotaku style may not be exactly appropriate for the subjects I cover, it’s never a bad idea for a writer to read as much as possible, especially from others in the same type of media.
Even in my procrastination efforts, I’m a creature of habit. One of those habits is a regular round of checking webcomics for updates. My list is much smaller than it used to be, with only two remaining that I check with any regular frequency, and others that get only the occasional catch-up visit.
The usual suspects include John Allison’s incomparable Scary-Go-Round, which is all the more addictive because it follows story arcs and devotes a lot of time to developing characters. If you’re not familiar with it, catching up via the archives is a great way to kill a few weeks’ worth of spare time. I also follow Penny Arcade, again, to scratch that gaming itch that isn’t addressed in my professional work.
Comics are uniquely positioned to help you with writing, too, and creative work of any kind, really. Graphic designers will benefit from observing layout and design, while writers get comedic timing and clever turns of phrase. Of course, you have to read the good ones to get the benefit, but there’s no shortage of quality work on the web.
Every day, I spend an awful lot of time between writing using Twitter. Not mining it for leads, or reader feedback, or any of the other professional purposes I use it for, but instead, when I want to relax for a few moments, I use Twitter to have actual conversations with friends and acquaintances I enjoy keeping in touch with. Lately, in fact, I’ve been unfollowing people who just link-feed all day and, instead, just keeping up with folks with whom I most often have interesting dialogs.
Twitter is a great promotional tool, but if you use it for that exclusively, you’ll decrease its effectiveness immensely. Plus, chatting it up with other tweeple will help keep web worker cabin fever at bay, so it’s a win-win situation.
That’s not the only time-wasting I indulge in, but it definitely is what I spend most of my downtime during the work day doing. I also play the occasional video game (probably not surprising, given the things I’ve listed above), and catch up with the few TV shows I actually follow (“Southland”, anyone?).
What less-than-productive activities do you pepper your work day with, and what about them helps you make it through the work week?