Why I Waste Time During Work

Wasting-Others-Time

We live in a world where productivity rules. If you’re not working a billable hour, you’re dirt.

This mentality becomes even more perpetual if you’re a business owner who sells services, rather than things … like me. I don’t sell shirts or dresses or books (yet). If I’m not working an hour, I’m not getting paid.

And yet, I make a conscious effort to waste time during the workday.

I pull weeds. I watch an episode of Parks and Recreation. I pet my cats, or talk to my boyfriend, or sift through the sea of endless posts on Facebook.

I. Waste. Time.

Why?

Because I’m more productive this way. Not only do I complete more work, I develop better end-products. My writing is crisper. My imagery is more vivid. My social media posts are snappier, while my media strategies are tighter.

That equals happier clients, who always come back for more. Happy clients ensure future freelance writing work, which ensures I pay my mortgage, pay my bills, and have healthcare coverage.

Studies prove my theory, too.

Take this excerpt from a 2013 New York Times article by Tony Schwartz called, “Relax! You’ll Be More Productive.”

Working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be a prescription for maximizing productivity. Professor K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues at Florida State University have studied elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players. In each of these fields, Dr. Ericsson found that the best performers typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no more than 90 minutes. They begin in the morning, take a break between sessions, and rarely work for more than four and a half hours in any given day.

“To maximize gains from long-term practice,” Dr. Ericsson concluded, “individuals must avoid exhaustion and must limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis.”

BOOM. Do I know my stuff, or do I know my stuff?

So tell me, do you waste time during your workday? Why or why not?


Hi! I’m Shari Lopatin. I’m a professional writer, editor, journalist, and social media strategist with a decade of experience in media and communications. I live in Phoenix, Ariz. and blog about finding a literary agent, writing tips, social media or tech trends, and sometimes current events. Oh yeah, I also edit novels for self-published authors or writers needing help before querying literary agents. Are we friends yet on Facebook and Twitter?


Workspace Design Ideas to Increase Your Productivity and Creativity

logo

Today, I have a cool guest post from a company called Modernize. I don’t usually allow companies to guest post on Rogue Writer, but these guys pitched an idea on decorating your writing space to help inspire creativity and increase productivity!

So naturally, I just had to say yes. I found these tips helpful, and the pictures a lot of fun. I hope you do, too. 🙂

Workspace Design Ideas to Increase Your Productivity and Creativity

By Jane Blanchard

No matter if you’re an artist in a studio or a businessperson in an office, your work environment has a major impact on your productivity and efficiency. Because of your surroundings, you could be unknowingly making it harder to focus and concentrate. It’s bad enough when your work space isn’t conducive to getting tasks accomplished and making headway on important projects, but perhaps your work space is even physically and emotionally draining.

When you work from home and depend upon your own diligence to ensure that obligations are met and important duties are fulfilled, the design of your home work space is one of the most important factors in your productivity. In fact, studies have shown that the most important determinant in an your ability to focus is your physical surroundings.

With that said, here are some tips and design ideas for a workspace at home that will help make you as productive, creative, and efficient as you can be.

Ample Lighting

Though it’s often overlooked, lighting is crucial to a successful work space. Without sufficient lighting, you’ll be straining your eyes in order to see, which can cause debilitating headaches; you’ll also experience fatigue much faster than you normally would, and it’s been said that spending prolonged periods of time in dark spaces can produce depression or exacerbate depressive symptoms.

Via Modernize
Via Modernize

This home office has plenty of natural light coming from the large windows and skylights, but also has plenty of ambient lighting installed for working into the night time if need be. Additionally, experts have said positioning the desk in front of a window to give you a view of natural scenery can have a calming effect, helping to prevent you from succumbing to stress while also inspiring and promoting your creativity.

Desk and Chair

Image 02
Via Modernize

No matter what type of work you do, a good desk and a chair are incredibly important and are likely the center of your work space. Anyone who’s sat at a desk only to spend several minutes adjusting the seat and scooting the chair around to find a vantage point that lets you reach all the desk’s contents knows that, in terms of comfort and productivity, it’s incredibly important to have a desk and chair that fit your individual body. According to ergonomics, the top of your computer screen should be at or below eye level, both of your feet should reach the floor, and you should use an adjustable chair that allows you to recline occasionally to help reduce pressure on your spine and avoid back pain.

Color

Image 03
Via Houzz

You might choose your paint colors based on a whim or what strikes you as attractive on any given day, but you should be aware that colors significantly affect people on an emotional and even a physical level. According to color psychology experts, when you want to boost focus you should consider surrounding yourself with lots of greens. Teal and blue-green colors can inspire motivation, and blue has been said to inspire productivity specifically.


Hi! I’m Shari Lopatin. I’m a professional writer, editor, journalist, and social media strategist with a decade of experience in media and communications. I live in Phoenix, Ariz. and blog about finding a literary agent, writing tips, social media or tech trends, and sometimes current events. Oh yeah, I also edit novels for self-published authors or writers needing help before querying literary agents. Are we friends yet on Facebook and Twitter?


This Whole ‘Personal Branding’ Thing is Driving Me Crazy

oh-no

This whole personal branding movement is driving me bonkers, which is weird, because I help other businesses brand themselves.

When it comes to me, though? I just want to scream a bad word that starts with “f” and ends in “uck.”

So here’s the deal. I left my full-time job in August of 2014 to launch my business, Shari’s Ink: Copywriting & Creative Services. As you may have guessed, I do freelance writing for everything from websites, blogs, social media, to press releases and newsletters (not to mention, I also manage social media accounts or act as a communications consultant). Which is cool, because now I work my own hours and take on a variety of projects.

BUT, I’ve been reading all this crap about the importance of attracting the type of work you really want, and to do that, you need to make sure your personal brand aligns with your target audience.

Well … shit.

What happens, then, for writers like me, who are just … WRITERS? When our ideal client includes big-name magazines like Time or Vanity Fair, or online pubs like Slate or Vice, that pay $1 per word? When our ideal clients might be major publishing houses that can offer us a $750,000, three-year contract to write another three books?

Can anyone tell me how to brand that?

What happens when you are not well-connected, don’t have the cash flow, but you’re crazy good at what you do? When you don’t have $25,000 (or $5,000) to toss at building a serious following and are spending your days landing enough clients to make your mortgage next month, because–you know–you’ve only been in business for less than six months?

Of course I’d love to dedicate all day, every day, to targeting my ideal client. But in reality, work is work, and I pride myself on always producing the highest quality product for any client who pays, whether they’re a health insurance company, a dance studio, or a fashion designer.

I understand that personal branding is important.

And I advocate that everyone try to label themselves somehow. But really, enough with this insane “personal branding” movement. I feel like I’m suffocating. Whatever happened to just working, doing it well, and building your reputation off that?

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Shari Lopatin is a professional writer, editor, and social media manager living in Phoenix, Ariz. Did you like this post? Then get more like it! Sign up for the Shari’s Ink eNewsletter and get FREE resources on social media news, publishing trends, and effective writing tips, every month.  

Why Quality Still Matters on Social Media

Happy kitten

Ever since Facebook’s latest algorithmic checkmate, the Internet has been buzzin’ about ways for brands to continue reaching their followers.

(In case you haven’t been tracking the trends, Facebook dropped its organic reach to low, single-digit percentages. In other words, if you don’t pay to promote your posts to your current followers, most won’t see you.)

Here are some of the conclusions I’ve read these past few months, from other social media experts:

  • It won’t stop at Facebook. Paying to reach your followers will become the new norm across all social media. Soon, other platforms—like Twitter and LinkedIn—may follow suit.
  • Creating quality content will no longer be enough. You’ll have to reinforce your message through as many places as possible (Facebook, LinkedIn, email, Twitter, etc.).
  • For the first time since social media swept the world off its feet, frequency of posts may supersede quality.

So whether you’re a writer, a business owner, or a content marketing nut, here’s what I want to talk about: this sudden notion that quantity will begin trumping quality. Ahem. Yeah, I don’t think so.

First, let me state this:

I do agree that you should reinforce your message through as many channels as possible, as long as it makes sense. Social media should never be your only marketing tool. When possible, include email, SEO/SEM, print, banner ads, T.V., radio, and even billboards.

But just because Mark Zuckerberg shook the rug under our feet, we should not start questioning the validity and importance of producing quality content. Why? It’s simple, really:

Even if you post five times per day, NO ONE will pay attention to your posts if they aren’t moved to action.

And my friends, only quality posts that are engaging, strategic, and visually compelling will prompt action—whether through likes, shares, link clicks, or comments. As a writer, you need to understand your audience, you need to know your voice, and you have to recognize what this medium was developed to do.

Social media was designed to be social, and I think many companies or brands have forgotten that. If your content isn’t quality, relevant, and engaging, it will be ignored.

Did you like this post? Then get more like it! Sign up for the Shari’s Ink eNewsletter and get FREE resources on social media news, publishing trends, and effective writing tips, every month. Shari Lopatin is a professional writer, editor, and social media manager living in Phoenix, Ariz. 

What would you do, if you lost EVERYTHING?

diceSo usually, you hear people ask, “What would you do if you won the lottery?”

Well … duh … that’s kinda easy.

But how often do you hear someone ask, “What would you do, if you lost everything?”

By this, I mean your house, your job, your car, even your marriage. I’m not a complete sadist, so I’ll spare you your loved ones and pets.

Besides having a panic attack, perhaps you’re not too sure how to answer. Well…

I can tell you what J.K. Rowling did.

According to Wikipedia (and rumors I’ve heard from others who saw her speak), Rowling considered herself a large failure seven years after graduating from college. Her marriage had failed, and she was jobless with a child. Yet, she said the following—as cited in Wikipedia from The Fringe Benefits of Failure, 2008:

“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me [Harry Potter].”

This has been on my mind lately.

I won’t lie. In fact, I’ll be completely truthful. I’ve been a little quieter on this blog, because I’m in a career transition. I lost my job of more than five years after the company I worked for lost a major federal contract. It wasn’t just my job affected, but hundreds of others, too.

So now, using everything I have, I’ve launched my new business, “Shari’s Ink: Copywriting & Creative Services.” And I’m writing a novel that burns inside my soul.

I have a house. I have a life. And I keep asking myself, what would I do, should I lose it all?

Maybe I could become the next J.K. Rowling.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

When the technology gods all plot against you …

… it’s worse than the Zombie Apocalypse. Because with the zombies, at least you can run.

But the technology gods? They will rip every digital limb from your frail, vulnerable body. Like your computer, your phone, your email, your soul. Leaving you desolate and defenseless in the bitter cold.

That’s right. They are EVIL LORDS that deserve to BURN.

computer-frustration

And just when your entire life hangs on a new business venture … 

Your day ends up looking like this:

9:00 a.m: Get out of shower. Begin breakfast.

9:15 a.m: Drag laptop downstairs to work in kitchen.

9:30 a.m: Open Google Chrome. “Cannot access website” message appears. Check internet connection. Nothing. Moan and drag laptop upstairs to router and modem.

9:40 a.m: Troubleshoot router. No luck. Plug modem into computer. Still no luck. Curse Cox Communications.

10:00 a.m: Call Cox Communications.

11:00 a.m: Get off phone with Cox Communications. Internet working. Drag computer downstairs. Eat cold food. Scowl.

12:00 p.m: Make first sales call. Verizon phone stops working, says “out of minutes.” Wonder how that’s possible? Just switched to unlimited plan.

12:10 p.m: Can’t access new Verizon account because PIN number never sent. Call Verizon customer service.

12:30 p.m: Verizon customer service won’t help without PIN.

12:45 p.m: Scream at air. Phone rings randomly … working again? It’s Boyfriend, calling from work. Cry into phone.

1:30 p.m: Write first follow-up email. Press “send.” Doesn’t work. Try again. Doesn’t work.

2:00 p.m: Rip hair out of head and wonder how the hell I.T. people do it!!

By the way, THAT was my day, last Monday.

computer_frustration 02

And it’s what will happen to you, should you ever piss off the technology gods and they all plot against you. So beware, my friends, beware …

Writers are Easy — NOT!

Not to be confused with “Earth Girls Are Easy,” a cheesy 80s flick starring Jeff Goldblum that I was THRILLED to find on Netflix … apparently writers are now easy, too.

Or at least, they’re trying to make us easy.

Who are “they,” you’re wondering? They are the companies that want to pay writers a few bucks for thousands of words per day.

Like this job shared by a pissed writer on LinkedIn:

“We are a Web Development/SEO company that hosts thousands of blogs and websites with a wide variety of different niches. Currently we are seeking a writer or two that is interested in writing articles from home and publishing them on the web.

We ask:

  • Be professional
  • Be Creative
  • Have a good work ethic
  • Be able to write 10-25 unique 500 word articles PER DAY

Articles are paid @ $2.50 – $3.00 per article.

We are located in North Phoenix, so you must be able to come into our office 1-2 times per week for a couple hours per visit.

Please send any written work you may have in your portfolio such as blogs you have written for, essays, and short stories.

We look forward to hearing from you.”

Pissed-offYea, F-YOU web development/SEO company!

Yes, I know that wasn’t very PC of me … but admit it. I screamed exactly what you were thinking, just now.

Because, for those who are horrible at math (like me), the above rates equal approximately $37.50 per DAY, for 7,500 words.

I know this current age of technology and web development has made writers like me more in demand … but c’mon guys. We’re humans, too! And hell, we’re far from easy.

FOR THE WRITERS: Have you noticed this type of trend developing?

My Secret to Finding New Readers, Followers

I’m going to let you in on a little social media secret.

It’s one I’ve picked up while working as a media strategist for both my day-job, and as my own consultant (not to mention, building MY readership, as a writer).

It’s a very simple concept, really, but a difficult one for many to grasp. Are you ready? OK … here it is:

You need to find new readers or followers where THEY live—and not expect them to find you, anymore.

The Customer-Centric Business Model

Let me take a step back for a moment. Because really, this stems from a business model.

Businesses used to develop their strategies around them. If you wanted a new Verizon phone, you had to drive to the store. If you needed help with your new laptop, you called the tech support number.

If capitalism was a solar system, then the business was the sun, while customers were the planets.

But that’s all changed now. In today’s world of social media, the customer has become the sun. And if businesses want to survive, they’d better turn into planets.

So How Can YOU Become the Planets?

Here’s a tidbit of encouragement. You already know where your customers or readers live: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, WordPress, Blogspot, etc.

  • If you’re an author, many of your target readers may live on Goodreads or Amazon.
  • If you’re a communications consultant, many potential clients probably follow ProBlogger.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

From a business perspective, if a customer has a complaint, they may no longer call the service line. Instead, they may post a “tweet.” If no one is listening and responding, then the customer may start a blog bashing the company. Which could attract OTHER upset customers, forming an angry online mob.

But that’s a whole other topic, on reputation management. My point is, if you want to build an online presence, you need to determine WHO your customer or reader is, and where they live.

Finding Your Reader

So, just how do you find this elusive goldmine? You need to start by listening. Just listening.

For example:

  • Use Twitter’s search function to type in a keyword related to your subject of interest. Are you a writer? Search “writing.” Are you a lawyer? Search “law.”
  • See what people are saying about these topics, as a collective.

Think of yourself as a CIA agent, gathering intelligence. And when you collect enough to understand what people need, you can start reaching out. @Reply to people’s questions on Twitter. Maybe write a blog post about a common concern.

And when you start understanding where your target readers live, make yourself available … there (i.e. become the planets).

About three months ago, I wrote a post for ProBlogger and linked back to my Twitter account, as well as my blog. That gained me several new blog subscribers and dozens of Twitter followers. And here’s the kicker:

They didn’t find me (even if they THINK they did). No, I found them. And you can too …

Content Marketing: What You DIDN’T Know

It’s not just for companies. It’s not just for marketers. Content marketing can be applied to anyone or anything seeking exposure:

  • Authors/writers
  • Business owners
  • Non-profits
  • Newsrooms
  • You name it!

And, content marketing is a GREAT way to increase your audience. Writers, use it to develop a loyal readership. Business owners, use it to create customers. Editors or journalists, use it to increase the number of people reading your articles.

What is content marketing?

For those of you new to the world of marketing, here’s a brief explanation. Content marketing is … marketing your content to as many people as possible.

Content can be blog posts, videos, podcasts … anything YOU produce for people to read or view. e-Newsletters, magazine articles, and even the words on your website.

When you produce content, you want to market it through every channel available.

Here’s the key to content marketing

You want to get the most exposure out of each piece of content.  This means you’ll work smarter, not harder.

So, how do you market content, successfully?

Here’s my philosophy: Every business or entity should treat its website and accompanying social media pages, as a news outlet.

Running a law firm? Your content should relate to updates on the law you practice. A writer (like me)? What’s the latest on the publishing world and the hottest writing tips?

Adding on to that, if you want to market your content successfully, follow these tips:

  1. Get organized and plan. If you know what you’ll write next week, and the week after, you can plan where and HOW to market it.
  2. Consider posting less, but instead distributing your content to more places.
  3. Dedicate time to building a following on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Linkedin. Engage with your followers.
  4. DO NOT set your website or blog to automatically post published content to social media channels. Craft witty or interesting messages to accompany your posts, and publish at a time when you receive the most response. (TIP: Use Hootsuite to schedule individualized posts ahead of time).
  5. Have any affiliates or partners (including blogging buddies)? Ask if they’d consider promoting some of your content on THEIR channels, if you routinely emailed links of your newly published work. If they accept, pump up your promotion of their content, as a thank-you. 
  6. Use the “bit.ly” tool to shorten your links before sending to your partners and posting on social media. Bit.ly tracks the number of click-throughs and will allow you to see which posts get the most traction (TIP: The topics with the most traction show what interests your readers. Write more about those topics).
  7. Submit some content to popular professional development sites, such as Pro Blogger. If they accept your post, market that same content to your channels. You’ll get double the readership!
  8. Aim for quality, not quantity. Bottom line: no one will share your content if it’s badly written or offers poor advice.

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