As a writer who has freelanced full-time, working from home has always been part of the package, even when I have a part-time job to supplement income. As a writer who has been battling cancer for three years – and been without a “real” job for close to a year – self-isolation is just part of my routine. And now, with so many people being forced to self-isolate, by either working or waiting it out from home, I feel I am uniquely qualified to share some advice on how to make it work for you.
First off, don’t sleep in. Get up at your usual time, shower, have breakfast and get dressed, just as you normally would. Just because you’re at home, doesn’t mean every day is a weekend. By keeping to a routine, I find I get more done in the day and, should I have to run out and make a house call, I’m always ready.
That doesn’t mean I wear dress clothes every day. No, I only put those on when I have an important meeting to attend, or an interview to do. Rest of the time, it’s comfy clothes. When the weekend comes, you can reward yourself by sleeping in, or not wearing any clothes at all. Just be sure to throw something on when the restaurant is delivering your lunch. Nobody needs to see that…
Eat light. Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you need a seven-course meal at noon. I avoid all meat during the day, because it makes me logy. Instead, I try to have a salad, or a sandwich. Save the big meal for later. Or, better yet, start out with a hearty breakfast and prepare a light repast for dinner. It’s completely up to you, but you’re going to find that if you eat something large and protein rich, or loaded with carbs, at lunchtime, your day may well be spent in a food coma.
This should be a no-brainer, but just as you would during any workweek, no alcohol or weed before 5pm. I know, the temptation can be overpowering, but this is a work day, remember? Just as you wouldn’t indulge until you leave your worksite for the day, keep a steady work-a-day management schedule and reward yourself after quitting time. This pandemic isn’t going to last forever and the last thing you’re gonna want to do is check into rehab before returning to the office…
Keep your internet surfing to a minimum. I know, I know, “experts” have been saying that for years, but have you ever really thought about how much time you spend on the internet when you should be working? If you think it’s bad while you’re at the office, imagine how it could be when you don’t have a boss or nosy workmates looking over your shoulder.
I like to keep a schedule of sorts. I always check my email first thing in the morning, then give myself a half-hour or so to catch up on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and the news feeds. Then, once I’m caffeinated and caught up on what’s going on in the world, I sit my butt down and write. Doesn’t matter whether I have a paying assignment or not, a writer writes. I try hard not to check social media until my afternoon break. More on that later.
I’m not a complete tyrant. I work from home, which means there are always going to be distractions. I try to keep them to a minimum, but if the muse is being fickle or I need a change of scenery, I step outside and putter around my garden, or work on a side project for a while. I also find it’s a good time to take a short walk, to clear my head. The goal being to return to my “job.”
My plan is to do as much writing as I can until at least 2pm, then take care of the household chores, such as washing dishes, preparing dinner and watering my plants. It’s also a good time to check in on the social feed. It doesn’t always work out that way, but knowing that is my goal going in, makes it much easier to stick to it, as the day progresses.
I also make sure to knock off at a regular time. The rule is, no working after 6pm, unless I’ve got a big deadline to manage. When my husband gets home from work, I stop what I’m doing and socialize with him. Now that he, too, is working from home, I force him to shut down his computer at 6pm. It’s easier for me than it is for him, but as I said, I’ve got a lot of experience with this sort of thing.
This is all just for starters. I actually have a very complex schedule involving phone calls, tea or coffee breaks, musical interludes (never discount dancing as a form of exercise and cobweb cleaning) and errand-running, but that’s only because I’ve been doing this for so long and I find having a routine makes it all so much easier.
Now, I’m not perfect. Far from it. Sometimes the routine just doesn’t work for me. My thoughts are scattered, or I have spring fever, or I just can’t stand to spend one more hour looking at the same four walls. So long as I don’t have anything pressing to do, I just go with it. I’ll grab my camera and take a drive, or sit in a park and skype loved ones. It’s all about keeping your sanity, while also keeping on top of the job situation. If that means taking a mental health day off, so be it.
Look, nobody is expecting this pandemic to last forever, but it could be a few months before everything goes back to some semblance of order. Wouldn’t you rather be ready to step right back into your regular position, than to grouse about having to get up early and trudge in to the office again? Why put yourself through the torture of getting over vacationitis?
Work is work. We all need to do it in order to pay our bills. Making it less hateful is really up to you. Take it from somebody who knows, first hand. Oh, and don’t forget to…