Things have been more than a little chaotic lately. For starters, I moved to Indiana last month. That was a nightmare and a half. One thing keeping me positive was the tentative approval of me continuing my work in Georgia as a contractor. I’ve spent the last year debating whether to work from home as a freelancer, and I was glad finding my first gig could be that easy.
Of course, there’s been a delay in the paperwork. Given the recent turn of events in the world, it’s understandable. I’m not upset.
Instead, I’ve taken this extra time to gradually prepare myself to work from home. In the past, my attempts to build a productive home routine have failed mainly because I try to do too much too fast. Now that COVID-19 is turning many into mandatory work from home employees, it seems we’re all looking for advice on how to stay motivated and productive.
The Basics of Work From Home Self-Discipline
Make your routine whatever works best for you
My days all begin the same: wake up at 6 a.m. to let the dog out, feed the animals, and give my diabetic cat her insulin shot. If they’re feeling hungry and obnoxious, maybe my day begins around 4 a.m. But the coffee’s ready by 6:30, and all I have to do to not fall back asleep is stay out of my bed.
In an ideal world, I’d tell you that I grab my coffee, read the news, then get cracking on whatever project is in front of me. We’d all love to be able to snap to work-mode without hesitating. In the real world, I cocoon myself in a blanket and play Pokemon Sword or Fire Emblem: Three Houses for a while until it’s time to get dressed and walk the dog. Once I get back and have a warm breakfast to chase away the cold, then I feel ready to get to work. We all need our own ritual of behavior to prepare for productivity.
Enjoy the company of pets within reason
Thanks to the cold weather in Indiana, our grey-muzzled dog now has the frisky spirit of a puppy again. The only way I can sit at my computer for some uninterrupted work time is by exercising him enough that he’ll happily nap for most of the afternoon. That means a two-mile walk on a hilly trail.
If he’s still energetic, I put some kibble in a puzzle toy and let him amuse himself with that while I go upstairs with the diabetic cat. She’s happy to sleep while I work, and occasionally be woken for cuddles when I need to take a break from the screen.
Eat somewhere other than your desk
If there’s one bad habit I kept from my college dorm room days, it’s eating at my work space. My first step to break this gross and unsanitary practice was to avoid any finger-food at all costs. Tempting as it is to keep a bowl of Chex Mix by my keyboard, it’s not allowed. If that’s what I feel like eating, then I’ll grab a bowl and eat it in the backyard when I let the dog out again.
The better option is to do an actual meal for lunch so you give yourself a healthy amount of break time and make sure you’re eating something substantial and (hopefully) healthy.
Take mandatory breaks to stretch and go outside
Since my decrepit desk chair did not survive the move, my work is currently done sitting on a wooden kitchen chair. It is not comfortable for long periods of time. Since this compounds the usual issues of sitting at a computer for an extended duration, I’ve had to find a balance between getting up periodically and not losing my rhythm in work.
Meals are a great reason to get up for a few minutes. So is giving five minutes of attention to the pets, who are so nice for not constantly interrupting work time. Even if you’re not in an area where you can take a break and go for a short walk (or it’s bad weather), just stepping outside your door and breathing fresh air for a few minutes will do you a world of good.
Be kind to yourself and do something fun
I use the word “fun” very loosely here. When I’m done with my work time for the day, I like to do something purely for enjoyment. It’s a reward for putting in my hours, and it’s a way more positive way to signal “home time” than a godawful commute. Probably my favorite perk of working from home.
In an effort to break a mindless dependency on social media, I don’t check my feeds during this transition. At this time, it’s mostly going to be stress-inducing news anyway. I grab one of the books on my desk instead, or open the Kindle app on my phone. Or maybe I draw something.
Most likely, I grab a treat, snuggle up with the animals, and watch an episode of Parks & Recreation. I’ve never watched it before, and it’s been a fun way to kick off living in Indiana.
What I read to prepare for work at home:
- 13 Tips That’ll Make Working from Home Feel Slightly More Productive (Apartment Therapy)
- You Got This. And Other Things You Already Knew. (Tee Morris)
- 10 Tips for Staying Motivated as a Work-at-Home Freelancer (Upwork)
- How to Set Up Your Home Office for Success (The Balance Careers)
- Disadvantages of Working at Home (The Balance Careers)