The question on a lot of people’s minds right now is, how to work from home and not go crazy?
For me, working from home has always been my dream scenario, especially while stuck in a soul-sucking 9-5 I hated.
Four years ago, I escaped to become a freelance writer and start my own business (the one you’ve found your way to right here); and have been working from home ever since.
Is it all I dreamed it would be and more?
No irritating colleagues you have to talk to, constantly be interrupted by, or pretend you like, when you secretly cannot stand them. Getting to set your own schedule and work whatever hours you like. Being able to take a real break and not worry about someone judging you. Working from the comfort of your home, and being able to see your family or loved ones more. Not having to spend hours doing your hair and make up, getting dressed, and sitting in traffic to get to the office.
But, realistically, is it challenging at times?
Not having a clear separation between work and play, and feeling like you can never switch off. Feeling incredibly isolated, and worrying if you even know how to talk to actual humans anymore. Having to keep yourself focused, motivated, and disciplined all the time. Getting distracted by your kids, or other noisy people you live with who are also working from home.
I’m not going to lie to you; like all things, there are both positives and negatives to working from home. Whether you enjoy it (or prefer it) will really depend on who you are as a person, and what you need and value most on a day to day basis.
That being said, having done this for the past four years, I’d like to share my tips with you on how to work from home and not go crazy; whether you’ve made this decision or it has been made for you; and actually enjoy it.
How to work from home and not go crazy
1. Design a morning ritual.
One of the beautiful things about working from home is you end up with a lot more time on your hands, because you’re no longer commuting somewhere. Instead of sleeping in, you can use this time for a morning ritual before you begin work.
I like to meditate, write a list of what I’m grateful for, journal, and sometimes do an oracle card reading for the day ahead. You might want to weave in some exercise, like yoga, or go for a run. If you need some inspiration, click here for more ideas.
Your morning ritual can be as little or as long as you like, so work with the time you have. It could be ten minutes, or it could last an hour—it’s completely up to you.
This is a brilliant way to create space for yourself each day, practice self-care, and get grounded and centred before you begin work.
2. Set working hours for yourself.
How to work from home and not go crazy is all about setting working hours for yourself. Because if you don’t, work will quickly become all-consuming.
There was a time when I would be on my laptop writing from around 6AM, all the way to after dinner and beyond. Eventually, I just felt drained, burnt out, and like I wasn’t having a life.
It’s hard to find the right balance, especially when you run your own business, but keep experimenting until you find it.
If you’re able to be flexible with the hours you work, then think about when you are most productive; when you have the most energy. Maybe it’s first thing in the morning, or just after lunch, or even in the evening when most people are winding down. Everyone is different, and no one knows you better than you do; so trust yourself on this one.
And if your working hours have to be more rigid, then make sure you stick to them. Let people know when you’ll be available, and when you won’t be.
Just because your work is now at home with you, it doesn’t mean it can take precedence over everything else. Set clear boundaries to make sure it doesn’t.
3. Create an inspiring workspace.
I have my own desk set up in our spare room, where my partner has his own desk, too; since we both work from home. But personally, I love the freedom of being able to mix things up and have a change of scenery.
Usually, I’ll write an article first thing at my desk, maybe work a little more at my desk after breakfast, and then sometimes move over to the kitchen table, or even the sofa. If it’s the first few days of my cycle, my energy is usually quite low, so I sometimes opt for working from bed, so I can feel comfier and conserve my energy.
Some people will recommend you don’t do this, because it will take you out of “work” mode, and encourage you to slack-off, or even watch TV. But I think you need to do what suits you. My brother always works with the TV on, because he has to have some kind of background noise to stay focused. Everyone is different.
If possible, have a designated working space set up in your house.
Because you can sit there when you need to be really focused or concentrate; and you can keep all your office equipment there so that it doesn’t encroach on the rest of your home life. I love being able to have my laptop and planner in a separate room, that way I can completely avoid it on the weekends if I want to.
And make sure your work space is inspiring. You probably have more freedom working from home to jazz things up, and move far away from that grey cubicle you’re used to! Hang some motivational or inspiring prints up on the wall, buy a plant, invest in a comfortable chair to sit on, and treat yourself to some lovely stationary.
If you want some extra tips, check out this article on how to feng shui your desk.
4. If you live with noisy people, invest in noise cancelling headphones.
I don’t have kids, and my partner is fairly quiet, so I have no need to block out unwanted noise. But your set-up might be totally different.
Kids, dogs, building works, and flat mates can be disruptive; especially when you’re trying to do some deep, focused work that requires your full concentration.
Noise cancelling headphones are also a great investment if you enjoy listening to music or podcasts while you work. Plus, they can double up as headphones for when you go for a run or head to the gym (if that’s your thing).
Spotify have a tonne of ready-made playlists that are perfect for when you want to focus, be creative; or you just want a chill coffeehouse soundtrack humming in the background.
5. How to work from home and not go crazy: Get dressed up.
I used to spend a lot of time getting physically ready to go to work. I’d get showered, carefully select an outfit, do my hair and make-up, and make sure I looked semi-professional.
And, to be honest, I enjoyed doing this to a certain extent. Without realising it, I was mentally preparing myself for the day ahead, and getting into “work” mode.
But since working from home, I don’t ever get dressed up, and I rarely put make up on. This has been both a blessing and a setback. On one hand, I save so much time and have freed myself from the social pressure of having to look a certain way as a woman. But on the other, I’ve lost that put-together feeling, and the line between work and rest has become a lot more blurry.
So I would recommend trying both out, and once again seeing what works best for you. You might enjoy getting fully dressed up, even wearing a pair of heels at your desk; or you might feel wildly liberated and comfortable working in your pyjamas.
If you’re struggling to get your mind into the work zone, then I’d encourage you to get dressed as if you were heading out the door.
6. Write a plan for yourself each day.
I don’t know what I would do without my day-planner. There was a short period of time where I got frustrated with it, and how it was seemingly ruling my life, and I threw it in the bin. But it didn’t take long for me to realise I not only needed it, but valued it; and had made a rash decision in the heat of the moment.
This is because I’m naturally a highly organised person. I love being organised, because it helps me feel calm and clear and prepared; so any tool that helps me do that is a divine gift.
And if you’re not naturally organised, then incorporating tools to help you be more organised day to day is a great idea.
Invest in a planner that allows you to have a day plan, a week plan, and an overview of the month. And use it.
Write down a list of things you want to get done the next day, before you switch off your computer. That way you don’t have to even think about it when you begin work. Try and not make it too long, otherwise you’ll feel overwhelmed. Cross things out as you get them done, to keep yourself motivated and on track.
A notebook, post-it notes, highlighters, and digital tools like Evernote will all help you stay focused, organised, and remind you of what you need to do, and when.
7. Take regular breaks.
Another beautiful benefit of working from home is being able to take regular (much needed) breaks, without fearing other people judging you.
Did you know that you should take a break from your computer screen every 20 minutes, and rest for five? Most of us stare at a screen for hours without looking up, or moving our bodies; and this has a negative effect on our overall health and wellbeing.
Just completed a task? Take a break.
Crossed something off your to-do list? Take a break.
Struggling to figure something out, and feel like you’re going around in circles? Take a break.
It doesn’t mean you’re being lazy or unproductive, it means you’re human, and you need to rest. We all do. Even just for five minutes.
Have a glass of water. Make a cup of tea or coffee. Eat a healthy snack. Go for a quick walk around the block. Unload the dishwasher. Fold the laundry away. Do whatever you want to do, just make sure you’re giving yourself permission to take regular breaks.
And always take your lunch hour. I remember working in a couple offices where people would judge you for leaving the office building to have your lunch break, when it was your designated lunch hour. What the fuck is up with those people? Who cares anyway, you don’t have to see them now. Enjoy making and eating your sandwiches in peace.
The truth is, you can do less, and achieve more that way. The work, work, work model doesn’t work, and needs to go.
8. Make an effort to stay social.
One of the biggest things I’ve struggled with since working from home is isolation.
You’re no longer seeing all those people you’d usually see each day, or having regular social interactions that you took for granted. Things like what was on TV last night, the latest office gossip, or what you’re going to have for dinner later.
And. while I can’t say that I miss that, I do miss feeling a little more social, and having a support system around me.
One way to combat this is to go and work in a coffee shop or co-working space, at least once a week. Stay in touch with friends and loved ones; maybe even give them a call or text while you’re taking a break. Be more active in making plans to meet up in person in your free time. You might even want to go to local networking events in your area, or try some new hobbies to help you meet new people.
I’m naturally an introverted, and self-isolating person. I love my own company, and I have to really push myself to get out there and meet people.
You know what your natural tendencies are, so be mindful of them. Make an effort to stay socially connected, so that you don’t lose your sense of self.
9. Get some fresh air.
How to work from home and not go crazy? Don’t become a home hermit!
Before you know it, it can be days since you’ve sipped in fresh air, or looked at the sky, or seen a tree.
This isn’t good for your mental or physical health. Try and get outside once a day if possible, even if it’s for a brisk walk on your lunch break.
Sometimes we need a change of scenery to help change our state, and get us out of a funk. So give this a try next time you’re at your desk feeling stuck or uninspired.
10. Write a celebration list at the end of the day.
When working from home, it’s easy to get to the end of the day and feel like you haven’t achieved anything. Because there’s no one to physically check in with, or say “good job” when you complete something. And your mind will draw attention to the time you wasted, and what didn’t get done.
A way to counter this is to get in the habit of writing a done list, or a celebration list. It’s the opposite of a to-do list. You write down everything you did today, everything you achieved, and everything you’re celebrating—no matter how small it might be.
This always feels really good. You’ll be reminded of all the things you did get done, instead of looking at that one thing you didn’t manage to complete. Sometimes, you just need a little shift in perspective to lift your spirits and change your entire mood.
Even if you go back to working in an office one day, I’d encourage you to stick to this practice. Because we just don’t celebrate enough!
11. Do something to relax.
When you’re done working for the day, it can be difficult for your mind to relax at the best of times. But now that you’re not leaving your office and returning home, it can be tougher to separate work and down time.
The best remedy for this is to do something to help you relax.
Maybe that means getting a workout in, or heading out to see some friends. Maybe that means having a shower, or taking a soak in a lovely hot bath. If you’re struggling, try and sit in stillness for five or ten minutes, and focus on breathing deeply; encouraging your body to relax itself.
If you need some inspiration, click here for more ideas on how to relax at the end of your working day.
And that is how to work from home, and not go crazy, and actually enjoy it.
Maybe it ends up suiting you more than you thought it would. Or maybe you discover you prefer going into an office, and having clearer separation in your life.
But regardless of whether you have a choice or not, there are many things you are in control of, that will help make the experience easier and more enjoyable for you.