Welcome Back… Time to Focus?

Credit: Z-Issue.com

Credit: Z-Issue.com

Most of us sit in front of our computers all day; however, the likelihood that we’re working diligently this entire time in favor of perusing the web for the latest pet memes is quite unrealistic — even according to science. A recent study conducted by the LondonOffices.com says that there are distinct points in our day when we as a species are most and least productive.

10:26 a.m.

Look out world. It’s 10:26 a.m. and productivity is the name of our game as humans. It’s not totally surprising that this mid-morning moment won out; after all the coffee has kicked in and the Today Show is reaching that somewhat snooze-worthy lull prior to Kathie Lee & Hoda taking over, giving your mind a moment to snap into pressing matters. But alas, this ferocity of mind can’t last forever…

2:55 p.m.

Your internet tabs, once organized neatly are now an agglomeration of haphazard tabs and windows linking to cat memes, Buzzfeed.com lists and a barrage of e-commerce sites offering holiday deals. It’s 2:55 p.m. and you’re officially at your least productive.

So there you have it. To read more, click here.

Geeking out on wine

grapecollective

Credit: Antoinette Bruno, grapecollective.com

Writing about niche topics, such as wine, has some benefits. Besides taste testing. We got particularly excited (and thought of our great group of food writers) when we saw that talented journalists, editors and experts got together to give us a new digital magazine: Grape Collective. While we aren’t wine experts just yet, we feel like we’re on our way reading this site for the “casual-but-curious” wine drinker.

Check out the list of experienced winos contributing to the site, including Dorothy Gaiter (WSJ’s Tastings column), Barbara Fairchild (former Bon Appetit editor-in-chief), Nick Fauchald (former Tasting Table editor) and the list goes on.

Some of our favorite articles so far: Chianti region specifics, a lesson on the misunderstood Beaujolais, and this soon-to-be regular column about Biodynamic wines.

Whether you’re a DMS food writer looking to deepen your knowledge of varietals, or just an enthusiastic consumer, this site looks like it will offer a wealth of knowledge. We’ve certainly bookmarked it for future reference.

Do you have a favorite wine site? Do tell.

Serenity Now: Aces

fanartt

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, but being an ACE Writer at Demand is the tops. Not only do you garner respect, admiration and maybe a bit of jealousy from fellow contributors, but you get handsomely rewarded for doing a great job. Check out the details of the club here. It’s the place to be, trust us.

Congrats to this month’s ACE Writers!

  • Fred Decker
  • Van Thompson
  • Beverly Bird
  • William McCoy
  • Paige Turner
  • Christopher Cascio
  • Eric Bank
  • Nicole Vulcan
  • Teo Spengler
  • Scott Rutherford
  • Carlye Jones
  • Jon Mohrman
  • Danielle E. Fernandez
  • Zora Hughes
  • Rick Suttle
  • Melissa King
  • Julie Christensen
  • Neil Kokemuller
  • Jane Meggitt
  • Mike Samuels
  • Jenny Harrington
  • Jodi Thornton O’Connell
  • Beth Greenwood
  • Lisa McQuerrey
  • Ben Team
  • Laurel Storm
  • Linda Ray
  • Chris Deziel
  • Andrea Cespedes
  • Ruth Mayhew
  • C. Taylor
  • Kristine Tucker
  • Forest Time
  • M.H. Dyer
  • Elizabeth Mott
  • JK Assar
  • M.L. Rose
  • David Weedmark
  • David Nield

Serenity Now!: ASJA

Credit: thedailybeast.com

Credit: thedailybeast.com

One of the biggest assets a freelance writer can have is the ability to network — and network well. It seems counter intuitive that a group of people who’ve chosen a career that allows them the luxury of being walled off from throngs of people and possessing complete anonymity, should they desire it, also nearly forces them to schmooze, hustle, haggle and pester their way into serious writing gigs. That’s why freelancers the world round have created conferences! It’s a watering hole for the journalistically bound and a place where no matter how unnatural your networking skills, you’re bound to sync up with someone who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone’s cousin at Simon & Schuster.

Credit: asjamonthly.org

Credit: asjamonthly.org

And it just so happens that one of the biggest conferences, hosted by the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), is but a few months’ away. Beginning on Thursday, April 25 New York City will receive an inordinate influx of writers that have come to hear some of the worlds’ most accomplished writers speak on all things journalism — and did we mention that Demand Media Studios is a sponsor? Oh we forgot? How humble of us!

Click here to check out the schedule, ticket prices and most importantly: the VIP guest list. Whether you want to know how to blog like a pro or land that foreign correspondents gig, this is the place to set your fire to your freelancing career–and years’ slogan just happens to be,”Fire Up Your Writing Career”–So who’s in?!

Let us know: Have you attended a journalism conference? What did you think?

SERENITY NOW!: Tech tips that will save you time

We all use a ton of technology that’s supposed to make our lives easier. But with all the technology we use (computers, phones, tablets, cameras, lasers, time machines, etc.), we may be losing more time than we think just navigating the devices. Enter NYT personal tech columnist and excitable man David Pogue. He spoke at TED back in February about some simple tricks and shortcuts you should be using. Check out the roughly six minute TED Talk video:

Pogue touches on shortcuts for typing on your computer, using a cellphone, shooting photos and searching on Google. Some of our favorites were: using the space bar to scroll down on your browser, bypassing those pesky answering machines on cell phones (I mean, who needs instructions on how to leave a voice message anymore?), and getting around that annoying state drop down menu on online forms without using a mouse (it’s seriously adding time to our online shopping). We hope you’ll shave a few minutes off your work (and play) time with these gems.

Serenity Now: Burying the Hatchet

There’s a lot of fighting going on these days and I’m not talking about the legislative and executive branches. I’m talking about the most vital, important, life-changing disagreement our country has ever seen: Kanye vs. Kimmel.

For those of you aren’t up to speed on aforementioned squabble, here’s the deal. About a month ago Kimmel aired a parody of an interview Kanye West gave earlier that month. The parody featured kids reciting Kanye’s answers, which basically highlighted the general silliness of said quotes. This made West really angry and like so many pop stars these days, he took to Twitter.

What ensued was an exhaustive back-and-forth:

Kanye tweeted…

Kimmel tweeted…

Kanye erupted on Twitter…

Kimmel discussed the disagreement in a monologue (or two)…

Kanye tweeted…

You get the idea.

But alas, last Wednesday the two sat down on Kimmel’s show to settle things in person. Like most peace talks, big ideas were shared, dirty laundry was aired and the pains of being a public figure were expressed.

The world is right again.

Serenity Now!: The Benefits of An Organized Desk

Your desk is the single most important component of a home office, researchers say. Not the latest Macbook you bought last Christmas or the blown up photo of your pooch mounted to the wall (although you know we Demanders love our dogs!) The piece of furniture you labor on and the way it is organized could affect how you work.

While looking for creative ways to dress up my own desk, I ran into an article on Fast Company that shares a few simple ways to amp up your work space.

Ok, maybe not this big. But you get the idea. Credit: www.oddee.com

Ok, maybe not this big. But you get the idea. Credit: http://www.oddee.com

First thing you should have at your desk is a gigantic calendar. For freelancers, this could come in handy when needing to organize deadlines or pitch submission dates. Danielle Kurtzleben at Brazen Life emphasizes that a calendar helps you do basic scheduling at a glance. Try using the desk calendar along with your smartphone’s calendar to cross reference availability on the go. Desk calendars also provide a great space for doodling during your downtime.

Credit: dailypuppy.com

Credit: dailypuppy.com

Now comes the massive photo of your dog that everyone immediately says, “Aww,” to  whenever they come over. Keep it, and get even more photos! Images of family and pets bring a sense of peace to your desk. But don’t fill the entire desk with photos. Add just enough frames to put a smile to your face whenever you need it.

And don’t let the ideas stop there. The NY Times explains how your desk could actually tell a lot about your personality and keeping a desk too clutter-free could discourage originality and creativity. Liven your desk with decorations and let this creative thinking flow into your work. “Think outside the box” doesn’t just apply to your assignment work desk.

Lastly, don’t forget that home office temperature creates a serene work space, so keep your office feeling just right. Here’s our previous article on how the thermostat may be affecting your mood while writing.

By D. Audrey Cash

SERENITY NOW!: Understanding Obamacare as a Freelancer

This week was a big in the world of health care. On Tuesday, the federal government took another (and a big) step to get roughly 30 million Americans enrolled in some form of private insurance or government-subsidized Medicaid in 2014. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as “Obamacare,” kicked off when state insurance marketplaces opened for business. The law touches on a plethora of aspects of our healthcare system, but the biggest change is arguably that people with pre-existing conditions won’t be turned away from insurance providers.

The law could have a significant impact on the 22 million self-employed Americans, who may not have been able to get affordable health insurance before. The director of government affairs at the National Association for the Self-Employed, Katie Vlietstra, said in this article,“Self-employed people typically purchase more catastrophic and high-deductible plans” because they are affordable. She also said, “With self-employed people planning now for 2014, I recommend they plan for a 15 percent increase and peel back if that doesn’t become a reality.”

Whether you’ll be taking advantage of the insurance marketplace or not, we think it’s important to understand how ACA is changing how health insurance will work in the future. Here are resources to break down the basics and maybe help you find the details you’re looking for:

1. Check out the mothership of information and shop for plans at healthcare.gov. They even have this handy page that speaks to self-employed folks.

2. If you want to zero in on how the law will work in your state, see this Department of Health & Human Services state-by-state map.

3. The Washington Post’s Wonkblog breaks down the law in this Q&A format. The article offers frank answers, pretty graphs and even a video explanation of the plan. What more could we ask for?

4. Columbia Journalism Review untangled the details of the law for journalists who are trying to explain it to readers. We though this was helpful, especially the breakdown of six key decisions when purchasing a policy.

Have any resources that helped you understand ACA? Please share!

SERENITY NOW!: Connecting with your freelance friends

Credit: cltampa.com

Credit: cltampa.com

“I get by with a little help from my friends,” said The Beatles. We couldn’t agree more.

Whether you are new to freelancing, or have been making a living at it for decades, one thing will always help you be successful: friends. The great think about working remotely is that there are any number of ways to connect with fellow freelancers in the trenches. Here are a few resources we think might help:

Linked in groups like LinkEds & writers. Post questions for your fellow writers and editors about almost anything from style questions, how to start writing a book to organizing your desk. Or you might find your questions have already been asked and answered by other members of the group.

Freelance Switch offers a ton of resources for folks new the writing game, including job postings, organization tools and forums to chat with fellow freelancers.

National Association of Independent Writers and Editors is a professional association for writers and editors. While it will cost you $99 a year, but you will get access to your very own WordPress blog and a build-in support organization.

MediaBistro is a B2B site that focuses on all aspects of media news and career advancement. Sign up for their daily newsletter and you’re guaranteed to find interesting tidbits that will help you feel more knowledgeable.

And when you find you need an answer to that burning grammar question, The Elements of Style, Grammar Girl and AP Stylebook can be your  best friend.

Now tell us, what are some freelance networks that help you feel connected?

SERENITY NOW!: Getting Proactive With Your Procrastination

Credit: s224.photobucket.com

Credit: s224.photobucket.com

First, it’s just a quick check of your Facebook newsfeed, but then you might as well see what’s new on Reddit. And hey, you probably need something on Amazon, and chances are there’s a new cat video somewhere on the Internet that you should totally watch right now…click, click, click and you’ve just spent half your day wasting time instead of making money.

Procrastination opportunities are almost inescapable when you work in front of a computer all day, especially if there’s no boss to yell at you for watching just one more episode of Orange Is the New Black on Netflix while you “work.” Thankfully, you’re not alone and some folks (likely fellow procrastinators) have com

Credit: absolutevanilla.blogspot.com

Credit: absolutevanilla.blogspot.com

e up with tools to keep you away from those time-sucking websites we all love so much.  Check out these site blockers extensions and add-ons out there, depending on your Internet browser.

Firefox: Check out LeechBlock, an Add-On that lets you create groups of websites to block and then set times for when you want them blocked. Alternatively, you can set time limits on how long you can be on a blocked site. If you want to be really good, have someone else set the password so you can’t access the extension options.

Google Chrome: The StayFocused extension restricts the time you can spend on specific sites. Once you’ve reached your time limit, you’ll be blocked from the site for the rest of the day and then it’s bye-bye random YouTube videos.  The nice thing about StayFocused is that it’s super customizable and you can block not only specific websites, but even types of content, like videos, games, etc.

Safari: Look into the WasteNoTime extension, which functions similar to the Firefox and Chrome site blockers.

Internet Explorer: There are no specific tools or extensions for IE (go figure), but you can always use the child safety functions and block sites that way. (Here’s an eHow article about it!) Additionally, the KeepMeOut service works on any browser. It won’t actually block

you from a site, but it will send you a warning if you visit specific sites too frequently. Sometimes just being told that you’re being lazy is enough to get you back on track.

So there you have it. Pull yourself out of that Wikipedia rabbit hole and actually get some work done. Just don’t forget to hide your smartphone.

By Jessica Noah

P.S. Reading the Demand Studio Blog is not a waste of time, a method of procrastination or rabbit-holing.