I’ve been working from home since I was 18. During this time, I made all the mistakes you can possibly make when working from home. But I like to think I’ve learned from them.
In the last few months, working from home has become an everyday reality for many people around the world—one not without its own set of challenges.
Working from home sounds convenient, but it can be too convenient at times. Or, to put it another way, it can be too close to home.
This post speaks primarily to writers, but other people who work from home online may find it useful, too.
1. Not Having Fixed Work Hours
The whole point of working from home is, for me at least, to save time and use the extra hours you have (compared to someone who has a 9 to 5 job) to do more of the things you want to do.
Without a fixed work schedule, your working hours can easily stretch into your evening or night. 9 to 5 can become 9 to 9, night included.
Like an overcooked meal, work time and personal time can stick to the bottom of your daily life pot so that you can’t separate them. And, before you know it, you stay in work mode all day.
That’s not good.
You need to be able to disconnect from work. You need to be able to mentally leave your office. And the easiest way to do that is to have a fixed work schedule.
I work in the early afternoon up until evening. But you may find working in the morning better.
Either way, it’s good to have fixed work hours. Sometimes that involves planning your work ahead or saying no to certain projects, even if it means earning less.
2. Not Taking Constant Breaks
Our brains can’t focus on a thing without interruption for hours. At least not without leaving you feeling brain fried. And we both know that sitting down for hours on end isn’t good either.
When you work from home online on a computer, it’s easy to forget yourself in your work.
You may stop now and then to watch a YouTube video or check the latest coronavirus news, but that’s not really a break.
What you need to do is get up and stretch your legs a bit. Do some walking meditation.
If you got a bed or couch nearby, lie down to ease the pressure from your spine.
Close your eyes and meditate for a few minutes or listen to some music.
It’s up to you how often you take breaks but aim for at least once every hour.
3. Multitasking (Includes Checking Your Phone and Answering Messages on Social Media)
Multitasking is going to slow your work, disperse your attention, and lower your productivity.
Things you can do in an hour will take two hours or more because of the constant interruptions and task-switching that come with multitasking.
Multitasking may even damage your brain, according to a study.
I used to multitask once upon a time when I was part of a team. And I hated it. I stopped that and I felt much better after.
You want to avoid work that requires you to multitask constantly. These days, companies want to take shortcuts so they will have you do ten things at once if they can.
Don’t settle for that! Porridge eaten in a good state of mind is better than a fine dish seasoned with stress that you have to rush to eat.
4. Not Separating Your Workspace from Your Personal Writing Space
Why? Because separating the two makes it easier to switch between work mode and writer mode.
Even if you don’t have space for an office in your home or just don’t want one, you can still separate your workspace from your personal writing space.
- Do your work on a different device from the one you write on. In this way, you make it easier for your brain to switch between work mode and play mode. I recommend the inexpensive AlphaSmart, though you may also want to check out the Freewrite. But you can also use two different laptops.
- You can write in different parts of the house. Think kitchen/bed/terrace/garden.
- You can sit at a different place at your desk to change the view.
5. Answering Work-Related Emails or Messages as They Come
If you do, you open yourself to interruptions all day long.
But what if your clients live on different continents, e.g. different time zones?
Decide on an hour every day when you go through your emails or answer work messages all in one go. This way you can prevent interruptions and also save time.
You can put your phone on Silent Mode and let in only calls from friends/family.
6. Not Moving Enough
When you work from home, it’s easy to forget to move. Sitting still for too long invites ill health, bad moods, depression.
I used to be quite sedentary in my first years of writing from home and I often went to bed feeling tired with that unpleasnt indoor kind of tiredness, very different from tired-after-exercising or tired-after-gardening or tired-after-doing-some-work-with-your-hands.
You know what I mean.
Gradually, I started to move more, to ride a bike, to train several times a week, to take long walks, to take more frequent breaks and go up and down the stairs.
It made a positive difference to my daily mood and energy levels.
If you work from home, don’t forget to move! This is not the time to grow chair roots!
You can also try writing standing up, by the way.
7. Not Eating Healthy Snacks
If you’re working from home online, you’re going to snack a lot, so you may as well eat healthy snacks.
Think nuts and dried fruits and dark chocolate rather than chips and sugary things.
And how about tea or coffee instead of sugar-loaded beverages?
You can buy healthy snacks, explore online recipes, or create your own—after all, you’ll have the time for it.
This way you’ll appreciate a new world of flavors and possibly save money too, not just on sugar but also on medical bills later on.
The Wrap Up
Work shouldn’t be a compromise—something we have to do just because it’s the order of things. Or as a means to an end, in order to get the money we need to do the things we want to do.
Working online from home is a big step up from hunting prey in the forest or raising crops, from being at the mercy of the weather and of so many external forces.
It’s evolution. And it doesn’t just prevent viruses from spreading, but also cutting down emissions and reducing waste.
But we have to be careful about how we go about it. If late evening or night catches you working, if working from home starts feeling like you’re in a cage of your own making, pause and take a breath.
Then make some changes.