A Common Sense Guide to Getting Your Work Done

A Common Sense Guide to Getting Your Work Done

Reader Comments (111)

  1. Number 4 is really hard for me because I’m a work at home dad. I am constantly distracted by my 3 kids (all under the age of 5).

    I was also *diagnosed with ADD at the bright young age of 12. So, as you can imagine, my wife wants to kill me when she walks into the kitchen and all the cabinets are open. So it is really hard for me to stay focused on any one thing for more than 13 seconds at a time. Really, 13 seconds.

    I appreciate your humor,


    • Hey Josh! I feel ya, my kids can make me batty most days. 🙂 Even my teenager too, and you’d think by that age they’re pretty self-sufficient. lol

      It definitely has to be difficult with ADD, I have family members with the same, and I know they often struggle with staying focused.

      But you must be kicking ADD’s arse if you’re a work at home Dad, because it definitely isn’t easy at home for ANYone I’d imagine. 🙂

      • Yeah, ADD is tough. I have it worked out though. I am able to use it to my advantage, and wind up getting about 3/4 of the stuff I want to get done, finished. It could always be better, but I do the best I can. Thanks for the great post,


  2. Hi Codi,

    Thanks for a great article!

    I use some pretty basic “common sense” methods for my writing. I set on a timer – be it 20, 33 or (if I’m being ambutious) 50 minutes… And then I, you guessed it, write. I also sketch my thoughts in a notebook (this way I avoid the distraction offered by the internet). I also carry a notebook on me at all times. You never know when you get that idea! Granted, I get a few ideas at *ahem* an inconvenient time. Such is life.

    Bottomline: Common sense is rarely common practice. So enough with the talk already, and let’s get to the action!

    I’m setting the timer… Are you?

    • Hey Ollie! 🙂 I dig it too, “Common sense is rarely a common practice”. Well said.

      I try to do the notebook thing too, but I can’t tell you how many times I misplace said notebook and forget it altogether. I should start keeping them in every room. hehe

      Timers are great too, I use them on occasion when I’m really trying to get stuff done and need a little motivation.

  3. P.S. Sorry I misspelled your name, Cori! Note to self: never start writing your comment when you only have two train stops to go! I lost my common sense somewhere between the train announcement and the platform 😉

  4. I’m not much for writing, but love the common sense approach. It’s the reason the TV stays off while I work, the reason lots of internet sites are blocked during my work hours, and the reason I no longer use a Facebook page.

    What’s funny about the common sense approach is you’ll know you’re doing it right when common people ask, “why don’t you …?”

    “Why don’t you use FB anymore?”
    “Why don’t you want to go to the bar on a Tuesday night?”


    • Hehe thanks Jay. Yeah, I get that sometimes. When I’m not on FB for awhile because I’m busy working, I get the “haven’t seen you on in awhile” speech.

      And hells no I can’t do a lick with the TV on either. Way too easy to get sucked into what I’m watching and forget what I’m trying to do!

  5. I resonate with example 1. My best writing time is after my family goes to bed at 9pm and before my brain and body shuts down at 11pm from waking up at 5:30am to start my day. Planning my time wisely around this time is how I can be the most productive! Thank you for clearly articulating this.

    • Hey Ken! Exactly, plan your time around when you know you HAVE the time and your brain is still able to function… little pockets of time can be found everywhere if you pay attention enough to notice them.

      And little steps add up to shite actually getting done. 😉 But ooof… I’m not sure my brain would be functioning well even at 9pm with a wake up of 5:30am. Then again, I don’t function well period without enough sleep. (To say I’m a cranky nightmare would be a bit of an understatement.)

  6. Enjoyed your message. Great advice, but it’s probably nothing most of us haven’t already heard (though few practice) and WOW, your style of writing is captivating. I felt like we were sitting together and you were giving me some great time management advice. You’ve definitely mastered the art of writing friendly content. Thanks, John

  7. What a great post Cori, and eerily well timed for me. I was actually in the act of avoiding planning my influencer strategy by baking cookies. They’re in the oven now, so your post has promptly reminded me to re-prioritise.

    This is my first week as a self-employed content marketer, so these tips will be invaluable! Thank you very much. Hopefully, I will end up with loads of great content and NOT a house full of cookies!

    • Hey Bryony! LOL… well if you DO end up with a house full of cookies, ahem… my household is accepting donations. hehe

      Glad you enjoyed the read and hope the tips help you stay on track. Good luck with your self-employment adventure!

  8. The title is very entertaining to me…”A Common Sense Guide.” It just amuses me that common sense still needs to have a guide. I guess, common sense isn’t too common for everyone that they still have to be guided through. But Cori, I give you props in posting an entertaining article that outlines the common problems of a writer and how common sense should get them to solve it. I know some people who have these problems over and over again. I don’t know if they’re just too lazy enough to do something about it even if they know what to do…or just really doesn’t care about productivity much. Hope this piece becomes a wake up call to writers out there. Cheers.

    • Hey Azalea… I know right? We need guides for the guides. lol Glad you found the piece entertaining m’dear, I’m hoping it gives someone that needs it a little boot in the butt cheek myself. 😉

  9. One of the best tips I ever read (not sure where), is to remove icons from browser toolbars that are just begging to be clicked (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc). They are huge distractions, and we can get in the habit of clicking on them every 10 minutes or so, or just when our brains hit moments of blah. By limiting our toolbars to the actual tools that we need to get work done, we’ll naturally be more productive.

    • Hey Jonathan… SO true. When I’m bored or not feeling very creative and writer-ly (totally a word) I find myself getting stuck in the endless FB, Twitter, Email, FB, Twitter, Email loop. Ugh. Maddening. lol Not to mention exhausting! But when I take all those access points away (usually with a software that takes up all the screen real estate), I do much better and keep myself out of that loop.

  10. Cori, I appreciate that you’ve targeted work-at-home types…so much advice applies to working within an office environment…ergo, it doesn’t apply at all!

    Email is my biggest distraction. I know I shouldn’t look, but my reptilian brain goads me, “If you don’t look, you might miss something!” Add to this that my email copies to my phone and dings with each new arrival. So I need to shut off both email and phone to get work done. Living unplugged is scary stuff.

    I sometimes find I need to leave home to get my work done, as in pack-up- and-go-to-the-library. You see, I live with a 3 year old and, much as I adore him, it’s tough to concentrate with him knocking on my door, begging me to come out and play. (Hats off to Josh, the work-at-home Dad!) The library is deadly quiet…the perfect environment for writing, and no talking on the phone allowed! (That’s my excuse for chatty friends and family). If I want livelier surroundings, I’ll drop by my local Panera.

    Thanks for the great “common sense” tips!

    • Hey Victoria! Thanks, glad you enjoyed. We work at home peeps have to stick together. hehe

      I have a love hate relationship with email myself, so I completely relate. Sad when I find myself lying in bed checking email at 5:30am. lol

      It’s hard to work here when our toddler is home as well, unless Daddy is here distracting him and I can go hide out in our room. lol

      But I do love jaunts to the library or Panera or the local coffee shop just to get out and among the living while I work on occasion. 🙂

  11. Great suggestions! We have more control over distractions (self and other imposed) than we realize. The simple trick of turning off the automatic send and receive on my email made an enormous difference.

    Another thing I do that helps is to arrange for some good old-fashioned butt kicking from a friend or colleague. An accountability partner who won’t let you off the hook can do wonders for your productivity! It’s our old friend the Hawthorne Effect – we behave differently when we know someone is watching. So set it up!

    • Thanks Ann! Yeah, I need a good accountability partner myself sometimes. lol

      And totally agree, it’s so easy to get a little lost in “reacting” to the events of your day and feeling stressed and like nothing is getting done… but if you slow down a little, breathe and become a little more self-aware, you’ll realize there are probably more things within your control that can be tweaked than you realize, and give you the time needed to accomplish your tasks without going batty.

  12. I enjoyed the entire article it was extremely funny. I admit I’m guilty of committing every single offense on that list but just wasn’t called out on it. Wait a minute did you just call me stupid?

  13. Great article, I was nodding along pretty much the whole time.

    It may sound strange but I can’t work outside of my house. I know a ton of freelance friends who swear by going to the coffee shop to do their day’s work but I’m exactly the opposite. I will only write in those places if I’m working on fiction and need character building (aka never now that I’m actually writing for real paying clients!). For my day-to-day freelance stuff I sit in my dining room at the table, tv off, and write. FB is easy to avoid – I force myself to take breaks every couple hours so I let myself check it on my phone while on break. Otherwise its client city all day baby!

    Oh & I think its important to note that burnout can easily lead to loss in productivity/common sense. I never write/research for more than 6 hours a day (4 if I can help it) otherwise too many words come in & not enough goes out. I end up getting cranky pants and it shows in my attention span and writing quality.

    • Hey Jenn! Sweet, mission accomplished. (The head nodding. hehe)

      And that is so true regarding the burn out. I absolutely cannot function when my brain is frazzled from too much information floating around inside of it. Setting a cap on your writing time is a great idea.

  14. I have to put my smartphone face down so I don’t see the blinking red email indicator. Having my smartphone face up is too tempting because I will pick up my smartphone and scroll through my email. So far, so good.

  15. I can stop right at one. I have got to figure out a way to work from 10-1am on my website. I spend my waking hours helping other people online.

    Thanks for the post, and the KITA!

    • Hey Darren… lol aww I feel ya. It’s great that you want to help others and you totally should when you can. But if your work or income suffers for it, you gotta focus on your stuff first.

      Try and triage people that you’re helping if you can or something… if they are in dire straights and God’s calling you to help them right then, do it, but otherwise maybe you can help folks out during hours that you tend to be less productive on your own stuff anyway, so you aren’t sacrificing valuable time you could be using to build your own business.

      Or you could even dub a single day a week your “help others day” and focus entirely on that, and then use the other days to focus on what you need to get done. 🙂

  16. I enjoyed your article, but you missed using the one word no one really wants to hear these days: discipline. You can have all the common sense in the world, and do everything you mentioned, but if you lack the discipline to follow through…(need I say it?) nothing productive gets done.

    • Hey Debra… you’re right, self-discipline is definitely a vital piece of the productivity puzzle. But I’m the first to admit I’m NOT the most disciplined person on the planet… however I’m aware of that, and I try to stay aware of my traps and triggers (again, using common sense), because if I can eliminate those to the best of my ability, I find that self-discipline tends to follow.

  17. Ouch!

    Great article, Cori… and definitely a swift kick in the pants for some of us. Okay, most of us.

    Fine… all of us!

    Loved the humor and your bio, too.

    One thing for the curious: http://www.writemonkey.com/ is the URL for Write Monkey and a great plugin for blocking sites at certain times is LeechBlock (for Firefox).

    • Hey Max! Sorry… want a band-aide? hehe

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed. 🙂

      Write Monkey rocks and I haven’t tried LeechBlock as I use Chrome, but any plugin that does that is very helpful fo’ sho’.

  18. Loved #5 in particular… I *know* where I waste my time, in general, and what I should do about it, but keeping a log will *show* me the pattern… and hopefully help me do something about it. Thanks!

  19. Wow! We dont think about this.!
    I guess we act intuitively by doing things when the circumstances are more favorable. But somehow we just make a list of what is most important and tackle the first item (sometimes) not paying too much attention at the fact that just cause we decide to do it first doesnt mean that we will be able to 1. Finish it on time, 2. Enjoy ourselves doing it, 3. Do our best job at it (get on that writer’s flow).
    Thanks for the eye opener!

  20. Many thanks for putting all this together!
    I am a freelance online marketer and I just started keeping track of everything I do throughout the day a couple of weeks ago. I must admit, though, it has helped a lot. There’s still some work to be done towards identifying and ‘fixing’ all the time wasters, but it has been nothing but beneficial to my productivity. If anything, even for the fact that I feel embarrassed when there are empty spots in my Calendar…

    • Hey Georgiana… ooooh hadn’t thought of that angle, but so true. I’ve felt that way on occasion, when I look at my day and realize I don’t have a lick of anything “productive” on schedule (largely due to getting distracted one too many times and neglecting the things I should be doing to book said schedule). lol

  21. I wish my quiet time was between 10 – 1. A 2-year old pulling on my arm and saying “play Legos” doesn’t help, though.

    I usually stay up until 4 or 5 in the morning and I manage to get a lot done. The problem’s that all day I’ve got my writing ‘to-do’ list staring back at me with little checked off. But it does feel good to see it all come swiftly to completion during the midnight hour.

    • Holy crazies Greg. lol If I tried writing anything at 4 or 5am after staying up all day and through the night, it’d probably just look something like – kdll ; sowe wwwordolls.. … ikd kyea.

      (I’m definitely not a functional anything with no sleep.)

      • Boy! You’ve gone a little crazy with your replies. Do you know the effect you’re having on people’s in boxes?

        At least it inspired me to put something on my own blog. Thanks for that, at least.

        • Hi Greg… actually I responded to everyone several days ago, I believe I began responding the morning after the post went live.

          It was actually scheduled for Friday as far as I was aware, but things happen when scheduling content on a busy blog, and it went live a day early, usually no problem.

          However I wasn’t available immediately to respond to comments that particular day (I won’t bore anyone with the details as they are personal) so I addressed them the next morning. (I believe that was in your acceptable window stated?)

          Suffice to say, when I did reply, there was an issue with my comments getting sent to spam land for some reason multiple times, and they were rescued, then disappeared, and then just last night were all found and rescued again.

          Needless to say, it wasn’t a Copyblogger issue or an author issue, it was a weird WP issue that took a dislike to every comment I made, even after being approved.

          Regardless, I do try to respond fairly promptly to everyone as comments come in, as I’ve always done with my posts on Copyblogger and elsewhere. 🙂

          That said, it’d be great if you could modify your published post to reflect those issues, and before addressing me as unprofessional or untimely, perhaps make sure you know the facts surrounding the situation?

          Just a thought. I’m sure this round of comments will generate quite a bit of traffic for you, so always a positive in every situation.

          Thanks for your feedback, have a great afternoon.

        • Greg,

          Cori did reply in a professional and timely manner to each comment in this post (as she always does).

          The only misstep — as you put it — was a WordPress commenting error that happens once in a great while. Unfortunately, Cori had to deal with this one, and for that, I apologize to her.

          Note: I’ve removed the raw URL from your comment, as it appears in your author link already.

          • HINT: You can always choose NOT to click “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail”.

            Thankfully, since moving to Gmail, I no longer have to deal with multiple notifications clogging up my inbox. Instead they get automatically filtered to my “Updates” tab.

            Graciously explained, Cori. And great article.

          • And thanks Nikki, there is that! Hehe… <3 you lady. 🙂

            And yeah, I use gmail too. The great thing about gmail as well, is that emails from the same address are one convo, so I only see it in my inbox as one message, until it’s opened of course.

          • I don’t know. Either there’s a serious problem with this site and WordPress or the people who reply to comments just go at it in a very interesting way.

            Anyone having left other comments on a post by Arjan Haring is getting the same treatment today, about 10 to 15 email notifications back to back.

            I just don’t think people like that, and if it isn’t the fault of the poster then whose is it? WP? I’d contact them.

  22. Great post. I actually do most of my writing outside of the house, with no internet connection. I usually do my research the day before, gather all my notes, and then make an outline of how I want to present the piece. And, yes I do it all by paper and pen. I know the paper and pen method is tedious and time consuming, however, I write best when I have no access to technology. It’s just easier for me. Then when I am ready to do the next to final draft, I go back to my laptop and work my magic. 🙂

  23. I’m constantly distracting myself from writing, whether it be at work or home, there’s always some cool new things that’s more interesting than what I’m supposed to be writing about. I’ve found that giving myself a goal like “ignore social media for an hour” is more successful than saying “write for an hour.” Maybe it’s just the way my brain works though. Fine tips Cori!

  24. it’s so hard to hold off work until after the kids are in bed- the only way I can write distraction free! After getting up with the baby and a full day of caring for two small children I am beat.
    It’s amazing how some people need to have common sense stuff repeated- and still will have takeaways, as I did.

    • Hey Megan… I totally understand. I’ve had many a day where I didn’t have time during my optimal window in the morning to get done what I needed to get done, so I said “eh… I’ll just write this later once the kiddies are down for the night”.

      Cough, cough. Yeah. That worked for me so well. Instead I’d be found passed out on my couch, TV blaring, lap top open and not a lick done.

  25. Methinks there’s gotta be an exception to the rule when it comes to carving out a few precious minutes to power-read through posts like yours, Cori.

    You, girl, are a rockstar.

  26. Cori–I love this!! I was cracking up while reading it because it is such common sense, but we all find ourselves so easily sucked into the distraction black hole day after day. Thanks for sharing!

  27. You got me! Just what I needed to know. 48 hours start now..I’m watching what I can, rather must, avoid.

    Thanks for the great post!

  28. Currently operating with little to zero common sense. Should be writing, but I was reading your stuff instead 🙂

    • Hehe thanks Helen. Mayhap we could twist this little narrative and call reading my stuff the most common sense thing you did all day! Provided you get busy putting these tips into action immediately after, of course. 😉

  29. Great article Cori! I agree with you,writing a content requires planning and focus. We cannot make things done because of some distractions that surrounds us.People assume that they can toggle between tasks quickly and efficiently, but such multitasking comes with consequences. It takes time for the brain to reorient itself to a new task.

    • Hey Barbara… so true! I used to think multi-tasking was like being a super hero. But I learned really quickly that multi-tasking is really just a dilution of my awesome. 😉

      Focus is the ticket to win it. (OK that was corny, but really fun to write. hehe)

  30. Great article! I admit to being guilty of ALL of the above.

    The best cure for the Wandering Writer, I find, is the Looming Deadline.

    Amazing how much you can achieve when you absolutely have to … and how much you can regret that Wandering Writer Syndrome at 3am when you shoulda, coulda, woulda written this weeks ago, if you just could have nailed your feet to the floor!

    (PS. I am currently skirting the fringes of deadline … and here I sit reading cool articles that are begging me to get it done … TYPICAL!!!)

    • Hey Jenni! Ahhh the Looming Deadline… both my cursed nemesis and beloved trainer.

      It is indeed amazing how much you can get done with you’ve got no other choice. lol And woman get that shite done!

      I don’t want a 3am email crying about your woulda, coulda, shoulda’s now. 😉

      (Kidding, you can totally send me a 3am email crying. And I will be peacefully snoozing in my bed, and will respond in the morning. hehe)

  31. Great tips – love the one that gives me permission to eat at my desk! I find if I’m writing online, it helps to use any available full-screen options, like the F11 key, to minimise distractions on the page.

  32. Couldn’t agree more! Even what seems as the most challenging task can be easily accomplished with the help of simple planning and discipline. And yes, these strategies are so simple, I really have no excuse for not trying them out!

  33. Hey All! Wow, gotta get busy with some responses. So sorry I’m late the party, we had custody court this week and it’s been crazy. But I got my a$$ in chair now, hehe and will respond to everyone before taking my own advice and getting some writing done. 😉

  34. Yes it requires common sense- that’s absolutely true. However the most important thing is to make a continues habit out of the things you do with common sense. Because that is what will bring you the best results

  35. You know how someone says something to you and you feel like they’re secretly scanning your brain? Thanks, this was a tremendously helpful piece. After I get over the “duh” moment, I’m going to get busy.

    • Haha LJ! Yes, I’m secretly scanning your brain and collecting information for my evil little plan for world domination. muahaha!

      No really, you’re very welcome, glad you found the read helpful. Hope your duh moment doesn’t last :”too” long. hehe 😉

  36. I think these are all great points. It’s also important to delegate out tasks if you can, when you can. Delegating tasks appropriately allows you to spend more time doing the things you actually need/want to do.

  37. Great advice Cori, though as you pointed out in the intro, its about using common sense, common sense without action is non-sense!

  38. The phone one is really hard for me. I find myself getting sucked into Twitter via phone alerts all too often. I need to literally put my phone into a drawer and put on headphones with ambient/wordless music to get in the zone.

    I try to only use the headphones when I am “IN THE ZONE,” like, for real. I don’t wear the headphones when I have one foot in the zone. This way, when I put them on it’s a signal to my body that it is go time. For real.

    I like your common sense tips, Cori. Good post.

    • Hey Chelsea, I feel ya! lol Great idea though, only using the headphones when you’re truly in the zone as a physical signal to your body.

      I like using my headphones as well and often listen to some focus binaural beat that really seems to keep me on point. 🙂

  39. Being a student and working at the same time, means my schedule is pretty chaotic at times. I get up in the morning I rush to work, then I run to University then back to work. But I found a way to get my work done. I usually read on the bus the research for my articles and sometimes I even write down a structure. So by the time I get back to work I can right away start to type my post.

    • Hey Alexandra! Yeah, sounds like your schedule is pretty dang packed lady! But sounds like you’ve got a system in place to keep things on track, so good for you. 🙂 Systems and common sense… the winning combo!

  40. I feel like I just survived an intervention. Now I need to get myself to a meeting, an I’m a Time Abuser meeting. Stat.

  41. thanks for your helpful post.

    my common sense tells me to use it more. guess i need to start with example #5. common sense vs. procrastination, let’s see who will win. =)

  42. Love your style Cori – and your uncommon common sense!
    I’ll be following you for more – only during the ‘assigned – non distracting times’ of course…
    All strength to you

  43. So I got up early this morning (when it’s quiet) to get some work done on a project. So instead I started looking at Twitter and followed a link to this blog.

    And this blog gave me the ‘kick in the pants’ to go back to work. I’m bookmarking this and looking at it again.

    Going back to work now. Thank You

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