What I've Already Learned in 2010

Today my vacation time comes to an end. For the last week and a half I've enjoyed some time off. I didn't go anywhere exciting, but rather just enjoyed some peace and quiet and finished a lot of much-needed housework (although I'll still be cleaning and re-organizing for weeks I'm sure -- haven't tackled the dreaded closets yet!).

Even though we're only a few days into 2010, the time off has given me time to think and reflect both on business and life. I've learned a few things -- or perhaps re-learned a few things, since none of this is really new. I'd like to share.

Vacation time is a good thing.

While on one hand it's going to be difficult to get back into my work routine tomorrow morning, the time off was definitely good for me. It meant time away from daily stresses, and time to really refresh myself mentally. I've decided that this year I'm going to be taking much more time off.

I'm already toying with a few trip ideas, but I also plan to take more long weekends, personal days, etc. Not only is it good for my own spirit and health, but it's good for clients too. The less I dread going into a work day because I'm feeling worn out, the better the work will likely be. When you're exhausted, you're really no good to anyone.

Quite a while ago I planned on going to a four-day work week, leaving Fridays solely for my own work. While I won't rush into that right now, in the next month or two I think I'm going to give that a try again. After all, I want to finish drafting The Query-Free Freelancer book this year, and having a full day devoted to it each week (in addition to smaller time blocks throughout the rest of the work week) will make it happen that much faster.

A clutter-free work life is even better.

I'm one of those people who's often surrounded with clutter, but that's okay (I tell myself) because I always know where everything is. That's complete BS. Yes, I might know where things are in that mess, but it's still a mess. It's a visual nightmare. And even though I might not realize it all the time, that mess hurts my productivity.

It doesn't necessarily take me longer to find what I need, but it's overwhelming in its own right. Its harder to focus when a mess is competing for my attention. It's harder to get into a creative writing frame of mind when I'm visually overstimulated. I can't take a moment to relax and re-focus when I'm surrounded with reminders that there's something else I could be doing.

So yes, I might know where everything is in my cluttered office space, but there's no reason I can't equally know where everything is in a nicely organized space! I've re-organized my office and created more storage solutions, and I have to say that so far it's a much more enjoyable place to look at. I'm even looking forward to spending my first post-vacation work day there.

Everything is easier with a to-do list.

I've always been a big fan of schedules and to-do lists. I used to use them almost obsessively, but towards the end of 2009 I'd almost completely stopped. I would just get up and dive into work. Over break I've gone back into more detailed scheduling, and honestly I've missed it. I just didn't realize it before. So much more gets done every day and I still have more time to relax. There's something almost exciting about completing something and being able to check it off of your list.

I used one of my big white boards to setup a master weekly task list. It includes everything from housework to blog commenting. Client projects are on another board, but the point of this one is to remind me of the little things that need doing. When I have a slow period during the day or I can't focus on a project, I can get up and do one little thing from that list. I'll feel accomplished because something will be done, and I'll be able to clear my mind and go back to other projects refreshed. It's a win-win. No more wasted time between projects or sitting there twiddling my thumbs as I try to brainstorm.

I feel ready for a great start to my work week this week, and to the new year business-wise. More money. More time for myself. More time for my own bigger projects. More enjoyment from my work. I'm loving 2010 already. How about you?

Profile image for Jennifer Mattern

Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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