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binge-watching

Binge-Watching: 4 Signs Going Down the Rabbit Hole (Plus 6 Ways to Bounce Back)

Let me give you three scenarios:

First:
You had a hard time writing down a scene. As a form of research, you looked for related videos on YouTube to help you with your writing. But then, you got hooked on watching other videos until you’ve watched more than five of them and mostly were not really related to what you were writing.

Second:
You felt drained from writing a long article, and you’re still halfway through. You decided to take a break by checking your social media and found a video entertaining. But what should have been a five-minute break became an almost an hour binge-watching and realized that you haven’t written so much and the deadline was fast approaching.

Third:
You received a notification that a new season of your favorite series has started on Netflix. And because you wanted to be one of the first to view it, you clicked on it and began watching. Before you know it, you’re almost done watching the whole season and you haven’t reached 50% of your writing assignment.

Have these happened to you? The struggle is real, isn’t it? I admit, these happened to me, too.

What is binge-watching?

binge-watching definition

It’s called binge-watching, a marathon viewing for entertainment which is simply a form of distraction. Yet, we justify the action as part of learning or education but in fact, it’s not helping us on the task at hand. It’s the disengagement from reality and feeding the “fear” that disguises itself as procrastination.

Yeah, we’re experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic and almost everybody is in quarantine. That’s another justification. But is binge-watching worth justifying?

Everyday, we’re distracted by social media, YouTube, Netflix, mobile games, and other activities that suck us out from our seats into the rabbit hole of binge-ing. Our days have been characterized by mostly entertainment and distraction rather than creating and learning.

“Entertainment and distractions are the enemies of creation and learning. They will keep you in mediocrity.”

Benjamin Hardy

And “mediocrity” is a word we love to hate. Why? Because we don’t want to be called mediocre. We have this desire to become extraordinary, to become successful, to become different from the rest. Yet, within our twenty-four hours, almost half of it is spent on entertainment and distractions. And it’s easy for us to justify the mediocre activities as “education” when in fact it doesn’t help us improve.

What are the signs that you’re running into the binge-watching rabbit hole? Here are four signs that I could share with you as well as five ways that help you get out from it fast.

4 signs going down the binge-watching rabbit hole

4 signs of binge-watching
  1. You’re watching two or more videos or episodes than necessary. Remember the first scenario earlier? If I remember right, only two of the videos I watched helped me write the scene, and the rest were not.
  2. You’re spending more time binge-watching than writing. Have you tried comparing the time you spent on writing (or working, for that matter) against the time you spent on entertainment and distractions? Try observing that for a week and see.
  3. You’re starting to prefer the entertainment rather than the writing job. Entertainment is a form of relaxation but if it’s getting in the way of productivity, that’s another story.
  4. You’re trying to justify what you’re doing as a form of resistance. Listen to what you are saying to yourself. Are you resisting the writing process? Are you trying to delay something? Are you in denial?

Once you get yourself hooked on binge-watching and you’re starting to prefer it rather than work, then it’s a problem.

So how do you get back on track?

6 ways to bounce back out from it fast

  1. View only what is necessary. I suggest that if researching, prefer text format like books or online articles rather than videos. And if you can’t help looking for videos for research materials, stop viewing once you get the answer you’re looking for.
  2. Be mindful of your time. I’ve been using a Bullet Journal to track my time and motion. This way, I can see how much time I spent on sleep, work, and other non-work related activities; that’s eight hours of each in a day. So by the end of the day or the week, I could see how much time did I spend on writing/working over non-work related activities.
  3. Be strict in implementing the Pomodoro Technique. Pomodoro Technique is helpful especially when I’m faced with a daunting task. It breaks down the task into 25-minute intervals with 5-minute breaks in between. Be strict when you’re taking the break, if it’s five minutes, get back to work after five minutes. No more ifs and buts.
  4. Use a separate browser tab for work and enable distraction-free tools. I have a browser tab that I use for work and nothing else. Notifications are turned off or, if it is on, I won’t mind them until late in the afternoon when I wrap up for the day’s work. Also, I have an extension that enables me to be distraction-free from ads and other non-essential features on a website. I also have a distraction-free writing software that allows me to write without seeing icons, toolbars, etc.
  5. Turn off the phone or put it somewhere far from the work desk. If I have my cellphone beside me, but it is almost off, so I don’t hear any notifications from social media, text messages, etc.
  6. Have that self-discipline to follow these suggestions. I have an image on my desktop that says, “Just Do It”. I know, it’s a famous tagline of a known brand, but seeing it motivates me to get past those distractions, fears, and “justifications” and keeps me moving forward.

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”

H. Jackson Brown Jr.

But what if…?

Okay, let’s face it, working from home gets distracting especially when you have kids playing or it’s time to do household chores. If in case you get necessarily distracted, here are a few tips:

tips on watching videos
  1. Schedule your me-time separately from your work time block. I usually wake up at 3:00 am so I could do my morning rituals. I check my emails by 6:30 am and start writing at 7:00 am. By 11:00 am, I take a break to prepare and eat lunch and go back to work right afterwards. I wrap up by 5:00 pm and prepare dinner. By 7:00 pm, it’s either I’m about to sleep or would still be taking a shower and prepare myself to bed. If I’m still up past 9:00 pm, I know I’ll be lacking sleep.
  2. Speaking of emails, remember that not all emails are urgent and important. Give yourself up to 24 hours to respond to an email. Apologize if you must, but emails must not rattle you.
  3. If watching a film or video is important, consider it as a task. It should be marked done once it’s done and do not overextend it.
  4. Prefer watching educational and motivational videos over entertaining ones that provide less value. This way, you may not feel guilty of binge-watching without learning.

Conclusion

As I’ve been saying, the binge-watching struggle is real. I feel you and that’s what I’m here for. I’ve been there, done that, and I’m sharing with you what I’ve done to get past the struggle. This way, you won’t commit the same mistakes I’ve made. Always remind yourself to be the good person you want to be today than yesterday and become a much better person tomorrow.

I know I have to get back to blogging. And this piece that you’re reading is already a sign that I’m back.

Let me know if you have the same experience in binge-watching and tell me what you think. Let me know, too, if I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe. Also, I now have a YouTube channel called Open Notes. Go check it out.

Images from Canva and Clipart Library

apps

Apps I Use in Freelance Writing (And They’re Free)

Introduction

I’ve been freelancing for years and aside from my laptop, I need apps and tools that will not only make my work more efficient but also will allow me to get the job done and deliver. There are thousands of work management apps available online. But which of these apps are really for freelance writers?

If you have been freelancing or working online for some time now, you might be familiar with some of these apps. But if you’re just starting, consider this as an apps guide for an organized, productive, and efficient work from home life.

My Hardware

my remote work officeWhen I started freelancing in 2012, I used to have a desktop computer sitting beside a 3-in-1 printer on a desk. I had to invest in these pieces of hardware plus a stable Internet connection to start working at home.

As time goes by, mobility became a necessity. Thus, in 2015, I shifted from a desktop computer to a laptop. Until now, I still use a laptop 100% of the time.

Although I have an Android phone, I only use it for texting, calling, social media browsing, a few games, and my Kindle app. I never send emails or write notes using my smartphone.

And yes, add a headset with microphone for making calls. Having been in the BPO industry has made it not just a computer accessory, but a necessity.

My Apps

Most of the apps I’ll mention here are freemium, meaning you have the option to upgrade them from the free plan in order to use the full range of features. As much as possible, I always use the free or personal plan because I’m all alone in my freelance writing business anyway.

MS Office / LibreOffice

During the last quarter last year, most of my apps are web-based because I was using Linux Lubuntu as my laptop’s operating system. I have LibreOffice installed as part of the installation package. It was just like having an MS Office but free and open-source software (FOSS). What’s good about LibreOffice is I can save documents in .docx, .xls, and .pptx by default so that it would be compatible with the others who use the MS Office suite.

This year, I’m back using Windows so I have MS Office installed on my new laptop.

Google Chrome

Of course, to access the Internet, I need to use a net browser. Firefox is the default browser for Linux, but there is Google Chrome for Linux which my husband installed for me and which I use most of the time.

I prefer Chrome because I usually login on several sites using my Google account. However, there are a few sites that don’t run properly on Chrome (which used to run very well when I was still using Windows) but will run better on Firefox.

Start.me

If Chrome is my default browser, Start.me is my default home page. It is basically a bookmark management site where I classify often-used websites and apps into groups, icons, and links.

Back in the day, I used to have MyYahoo and iGoogle as my Start.me appstart pages until Yahoo! and Google took them down respectively to protect their search engine business. Come to think of it, it makes sense for them to do away with bookmarking because it will make us type on their search bar more instead.

But I prefer having a customized start page and I’m subscribed to Start.me’s free plan. Upgrade starts at $20.00 a year for professional use and the rate increases for team and enterprise use. A Start.me page can be customized by using different background themes and widgets. Once I open my Chrome browser, I have in front of me all the often-used links plus the weather and quote of the day.

Goodsearch

Goodsearch appI learned of this app in 2012 when I first joined NaNoWriMo. Ever since I’ve used of Goodsearch, I rarely use Google as a search engine. Goodsearch allows me to search for information and at the same time, for every unique search I typed in, they will give a penny ($0.01 USD) to my chosen charity (which is NaNoWriMo). Goodsearch is powered by Yahoo! It also has Goodshop and used to have Goodgames (I miss this!).

GMX Mail

Isn’t it nice to have all your email accounts in one place? That’s why I have GMX Mail. Its email collection feature is so awesome that I can read all my emails from different accounts. I can manage my contacts and calendar, too. It also has online office tools like Google Drive but I don’t use it.

Google Drive

Speaking of Google Drive, I use this to create, organize, and share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations online and on cloud. Sending a file to my clients is easy just by sharing it with a link, no need to attach it on email. But there are times when I need to upload a document from my hard drive and share them on the cloud. Uploading and downloading files on Google Drive is easy.

OfficeMA

OfficeMA appI’ve been using OfficeMA since 2013. This is my freelance business management tool and has a timer. This is also a freemium and I’m using the free plan because, as I’ve said earlier, I’m alone in my business.

This app allows me to handle multiple clients with different rates. Thus, when I start the timer, it can automatically compute for my work charged by the hour even though I have other clients whom I charged a fixed rate.

The paid plan (Professional) costs £1.20 GBP per person per month and lets you issue invoices. But I don’t need that feature because I have my own PayPal account.

I have used different timer/monitoring tools, too, like Time Doctor, Worksnaps, HubStaff, ActivTrak etc. because some clients do require me to install a monitoring tool. Whenever they don’t, I use my OfficeMA and send them a report once a task, assignment, or project is done.

PayPal

Ever since I started working from home in 2012, I have used PayPal as my payment management tool. Setting up an account was easy back then, I didn’t have any problems with linking it to my bank account. Most of my clients pay me via PayPal in their own currencies. I can also issue invoices using the app when I need to. But most of the time, my clients don’t need invoices.

Skype

Calling long distance is costly. But thanks to the marvels of the Internet, we now have Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). One of the early apps on communication is Skype with its desktop version. Now, I’m using the web-based Skype. This version is convenient for me. Aside from making a call, I can do a video call, chat, and even share files.

I also use Messenger on my phone and seldom on my computer. There are clients who prefer Messenger over Skype. I am also familiar with other chat tools like MS Communicator, HipChat, Viber, Slack, Webex, Zoom, etc.

Trello

Trello appTrello is my project management/collaboration/organization tool. It applies the Kanban method by using boards, lists, and cards. It is also a freemium app and I’ve been using it since 2015. Upgrade starts at $9.99 USD per user per month.

I have used Basecamp, Highrise, Taiga, Slack, Asana, etc. because my clients use one or two of these. But I still prefer using Trello.

Evernote

Remember those Trapper Keeper binders during the ’90s? Those big binders can hold more than one notebook. Evernote is literally my online notebook binder. It allows me to create notebooks and organize my notes. It is also a freemium app and the upgrade starts at Php 130.00 a month. I used to have the app on my cell phone but I found the size too large for my phone’s memory so I use the web version since then.

However, not all my notes are on the cloud. I still have my Bullet Journal with me for planning and taking down notes.

Canva

Canva appI started using Canva in 2015 for my graphic design needs. I am not an illustrator so I use this app to create images for my website and social media accounts. It is also a freemium and upgrade starts at $9.95 a month when billed annually.

DupliChecker

DupliChecker is a web-based plagiarism tool that I’ve been using since 2012. After writing, I copy and paste the document (up to 1,000 words only per check) on the site and it will detect plagiarism for free.

WordPress

I use WordPress for Content Management System (CMS). Aside from this website, I still maintain other blogs using the WordPress platform. Years ago, I had a love-hate relationship with it.

RELATED ARTICLE: 100 Best Apps for Online Job Freelancers

Other Apps

There are apps that I’ll also mention here because they’re worth using especially when working from home. These are the apps which I use only when needed.

HootSuite

HootSuite is a social media management tool which I started using in 2013. This is also a freemium app. The free version used to allow me five different social media profiles but now, it was reduced to three. Back then, I could schedule many posts across all five social media platform, but now the free version only allows 30 scheduled posts. That’s one of the reasons why I seldom use this app nowadays.

MailChimp

Mailchimp is an easy-to-use marketing tool which can organize my mailing list, subscribers, newsletters, and marketing campaigns. The free version allows me to have a limited number of subscribers, but once I exceed, I have to pay a monthly fee. Therefore the pay increases as my mailing list grows. However, I switched to MailChimp’s TinyLetter late last year. TinyLetter is much simpler to use and fits my needs.

Free Press Release

I used to have an account with Free Press Release for creating and distributing press releases. However, I’ve checked the URL and it’s no longer available. Instead, I found PRFree, another free press release distribution site. It has been years since I’ve written a press release so I was unaware of this change. This is also a freemium PR distribution service and upgrade starts at $19.00 USD per PR.

Hemingway Editor

For writers like me, the Hemingway Editor helps make my writing readable and lean. Inspired by Hemingway’s “rule” in writing (less adverbs, the better), this app will show which sentences are too long or wordy with its color-coded highlighting.

Free Screencast

Free Screencast is a video editor that runs on Windows. I used to have a GoPlay Editor which I used to create YouTube videos years ago. I shifted to Free Screencast because it’s free. However, be aware of the add-ons it’s trying to impose on you [Chromium and McAfee]. I haven’t done videos lately, so I haven’t experienced the other features

There you have it, the apps I use in freelance writing.

I would like to thank Katrina McKinnon for reaching out to me and inspired me to write this article. You may visit her website, Small Revolution, an online learning platform for people who want to work from home.

Let me know if you have used any of these apps and tell me what you think. Let me know, too, if I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

 

Pomodoro Technique

Is the Pomodoro Technique For You?

The first time I heard of the Pomodoro Technique was in November 2013 while working for a client. My client told me to learn this time management system and apply it while doing the tasks for him. So he sent me some materials to read and off I started.

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Technique is a revolutionary time management system developed by Francesco Cirillo during the late ‘80s. It uses a timer to break down tasks into 25-minute intervals separated by short breaks. Each interval is called a “pomodoro”, an Italian word for tomato, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer he first used.

Why the Pomodoro Technique?

As a student, Cirillo had challenges focusing on his studies. Using a pen, paper, and kitchen timer, he devised a method of monitoring the time he spent on studying.

Many people think of time as an enemy. The need to beat the deadline, the need to arrive early for an appointment, and the need to finish tasks at the end of the day are just a few examples of how people envision time as an enemy.

However, with the Pomodoro Technique, you will learn to work with time instead of struggling against it.

How It Works

This method uses three things: a pen, some paper, and a timer.
Before starting, write down one Pomodoro cycle on paper like this:

  • First interval [25 mins]
  • First break [5 mins]
  • Second interval [25 mins]
  • Second break [5 mins]
  • Third interval [25 mins]
  • Third break [5 mins]
  • Fourth interval [25 mins]
  • Long break [15 to 30 mins]

Choose a task that requires your full, undivided attention and that you’d like to get done. Set the timer for 25 minutes and start working on the task until the time’s up. If you suddenly think of doing another task or another thought comes into mind, write that distraction down on paper and continue with the task at hand. When the timer rings, mark the first interval done. Take a 5-minute break then repeat the process four times. However, on your fourth break, take a long one, around 15 to 30 minutes.

This method encourages you to focus on one task and eliminate distractions. It also allows you to use the first few minutes of each Pomodoro to review what you’ve done on the previous interval. Also, the method discourages you to start the next step without finishing the task at hand.

With the Pomodoro Technique, you can measure the amount of time you spend on tasks in terms of Pomodoro units. If one Pomodoro cycle is equivalent to two hours, then you’ll have around four Pomodoro cycles or sixteen intervals of work to get things done in an 8-hour work day.

Is the Pomodoro Technique for You?

The Pomodoro Technique can be learned with time and practice. Based on my experience, Pomodoro Technique isn’t for everyone and doesn’t work on other creative tasks.

Proponents say that the technique works in the creative writing process. However, I don’t use the Pomodoro Technique when I’m writing a novel. Whenever I’m in the zone, I forget to take note of the time, thus the steps I’ve mentioned earlier become distractions.

Also, I admit I misused the Pomodoro Technique at some time. The first and second intervals were successful, but I prolonged the third and the fourth breaks. At first, it was fine, a few added minutes would not hurt. Then I realized that I’d be having longer breaks than I should.

I know that this technique should be practiced with discipline, but for creatives like me who appreciate the time away from a creative task, this method might not work.

Another thing, if the day is filled with meetings, travel or commute, or other time-consuming activities mostly away from the desk, the Pomodoro Technique wouldn’t work.

So I only use this whenever I’m faced with an important but daunting (or boring) task. This way, I’m forced to do the task and I’m taking accountability once I write down the Pomodoro cycle on my Bullet Journal.

Let me know if you have used the Pomodoro Technique and tell me what you think. Let me know, too, if I have missed anything. I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.