Working remotely might seem as if it would be easy and productive, but maintaining focus can actually be difficult. In particular, working from home during the summer—when the kids are home from school and it seems like everyone else except you is out having fun—things are harder than ever.
This is something I’ve discovered firsthand. I started freelancing when I was young, and summers were the hardest time of year to focus and get my work done.
All of my college-age friends would be taking road trips, spontaneously going out for ice cream at 10 p.m., and lying by the pool during every other minute of the day. I realized very quickly that I couldn’t stop working during the summer—I needed the income, and I didn’t want to get seriously behind on the projects I was trying to complete.
But what’s a busy writer to do when the Facebook feed shows nothing but fun in the sun?
Through a lot of trial and error, I’ve discovered some solutions to focusing and working from home during the summer. Here are some tips to keep churning out those words without getting distracted in the hot summer months.
Close the Curtains
This is a small change, but it’s hugely helpful. My apartment overlooks the pool, firepit, and outdoor area at my apartment complex, and there are always people out there who seem to be having more fun than me. By closing my blinds (or just taking off my glasses so I can’t see anything past the computer screen), I eliminate distractions and create a more focused workspace for myself.
Closing the blinds has other benefits, too. Each afternoon at around 4 p.m., the sun begins streaming through my French doors and into my living room. I then find myself losing motivation, struggling to make the final push and complete what’s on my to-do list for that day.
When that happens, I shut the blinds and light a candle. I find it much easier to work during the winter months when it’s rainy and my candles are burning. So, when I’m struggling to focus in the summer, I close the blinds and get cozy to mimic my favorite (and most productive) time of year for work.
Set Working Hours
Set specific hours each day where you’re working, and during those hours, don’t do anything except work. Don’t answer the door, don’t answer the phone, and try not to get up for anything at all.
“If other family members are at home during your work hours, talk to them to help establish some boundaries to your work life,” reads an article from FlexJobs. “Let them know that you will be unavailable during the working hours you’ve created.”
You may want to keep a small whiteboard on your refrigerator so you can write your work schedule out for other people in the house to see.
With the flexibility of the summertime, your “work time” could be a different time frame every day. For instance, I personally might work from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., run a few errands, and then work again from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Whatever hours you choose each day, though, stick to them. Then, when you’re not working, you can be fully present for whatever else you are doing, because you know you completed the tasks you needed to do.
Hire a Virtual Assistant
According to Inc.com, virtual assistants (VAs) are “the best-kept secret of modern productivity,” and I wholeheartedly agree; I don’t know how I ever got anything done before I hired a VA. My VA saves me a lot of time—time that I can use to either do more work, or have some summer fun. I use my VA for the following tasks:
- Researching and outlining articles
- Finding prospective clients
- Editing articles
- Finding potential sources for me to interview
VAs don’t have to be terribly expensive. I retain my VA for only two hours a week, so it’s not a huge payment for me at all—but she’s efficient and can get a lot done in just those two hours.
You can hire a VA by posting a notice on an online job board, asking around your network of writers, or putting out a call in a social media group for entrepreneurs. I took a freelance writing course last year, and one of my classmates in the course had a niece who worked as a VA, so that’s how I found mine.
Here’s one more bonus tip: If you have a teenager or a college-age student who’s home from school and bored, have them act as your VA. If you’re lucky, maybe they’ll even work for free or for barter, such as filing documents in exchange for a batch of cookies at the end of the workday.
Implement a Quiet Time for Family Each Afternoon
Do you have kids at home this summer? Even if they’re too old for naps, give them a quiet time each day for two to three hours. During that time, your kids can do quiet activities such as reading a book or coloring a picture, and you can be guaranteed a few hours of uninterrupted work time.
This is a way to introduce some much-needed structure into your summer; it’s something your kids can count on every day. They’ll also learn that you aren’t at their beck and call every moment, and sometimes, they need to entertain themselves so you can do the things you need to do.
One Buffer employee hires a babysitter part-time. Her sitter watches her kids from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. At that time, Mom takes a break from work to play with the kids and then gets them situated for quiet time. She takes any video calls while they’re resting, gives herself a quick break when they wake up to give them an activity, and then finishes her work for the day.
Kids thrive on schedules even in the summer, so again, set boundaries with your entire family and communicate expectations ahead of time. Building in time throughout the day to play with your kids, as the Buffer article mentions, is always a good idea. After all, many work-from-home parents chose the remote option in order to see their kids more.
Prioritize Your Projects
If you have less time to work in the summer, you need to maximize the time you do have. Each month, week, and day, sit down and prioritize the work that’s most important to get done.
This may mean that you choose one aspect of your writing (for instance, your blog) to focus on during the summer, while putting other projects (like the memoir you’re writing or the copyediting work you do) on the back burner.
Decide what pursuits are most important to you right now and give them top billing in your daily planner. Anything else you get done will just be a bonus.
Add Passive Income
Do you know what’s the best way to survive working from home during the summer? Not having to work during the summer!
Have you been toying with the idea of launching a course for newbie authors or writing an e-book on how to start a blog? Now might be the time to do it.
“Work once, earn for years to come,” says an article from The International Freelancer. The article lists the following types of passive income streams for writers:
- Traditionally published books
- Indie published books
- Niche and authority websites
- Blogging for pay
- Information products
- Courses for online universities
- Kindle books
- Kickstarter campaigns
- Repurposing work you’ve already done
Think about it: You could sit by the poolside with a drink in hand, knowing that your source of passive income is working for you as you relax—or you could complete additional work in your now-free time, helping your productivity and income rise even more. That’s how to do a work-from-home summer right.
Summer Is Meant to Be Enjoyed
Thanks to these tips, I’ve been able to make the summer months extremely productive—signing with new clients, knocking out lots of projects, and even getting in some fiction words for Camp NaNoWriMo in July.
But I don’t chain myself to my desk. It’s summer, after all! I focus hard and get my work done, but when I’m through, I spontaneously go out with my friends for ice cream. I take road trips. I lie down by the pool. I just don’t do those things every single day.
Don’t beat yourself up about not getting everything done; it’s okay. You can’t do everything, and you don’t want to get burned out. Summer is meant to be enjoyed, so when you finish your work, get outside and relax!