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As many freelancers like myself might be over-eager to tell you, working from home is both incredibly awesome and horrible at the same time. Studies have shown it makes you more productive, it can make you happier, it cuts out that annoying commute, and of course, pants are almost always optional. But, depending on your personality, it can also be a challenge when distractions take your focus, you miss speaking with others on a daily basis, or you work much longer hours. I’ve also noticed that with zero extra room to separate life and work, it can make for a much messier and cluttered home if I’m not careful. Over time, I found a number of daily or weekly habits that help cut out some of the bad habits that keep me a little saner and keep the walls from closing in.
Make Coffee My “Me” Time
Before I truly start my day, I have a tiny routine: do the face/teeth thing, grab some laundry from my bathroom (though not every day), and go downstairs to make a pot of coffee, which is stationed just outside of my laundry room (don’t even get me started on designing your house for your routines… it makes things so much easier! On second thought, I’m going to write a separate post about this pet peeve of mine). I don’t set the automatic timer on the coffeemaker most mornings because I like the freedom to sleep in if I need it, but this is my time to sit down and update the day’s to-do list. Lately, I’ve been doing this at the new kitchen bar area, and it’s quickly becoming a favorite spot to have a few moments to simply reflect on the day ahead. I choose one task that’s the most important and mentally prepare myself to focus on that until it’s done.
Actually Get Dressed
Most of the time, I wear workout clothes. Georgia weather is ridiculously hot and humid, and it makes no sense to constantly go in and out of the house while working on a project if I’m drenched in a pool of sweat because of my jeans. So while I look far different from the pencil skirts and dress pants I used to wear when I worked in a legit office, I still make getting dressed a part of my day because it makes me feel more like I’ve mentally separated from home life… even if I’m literally not even walking far enough to hatch a Pokemon Go egg.
Work In A Home Office and Nix Distractions
For a while, I contemplated adding a TV to my home office since I like to have background noise when I write. But eventually, I realized that my TV would be more of a distraction than a help, so I passed on the idea and am instead considering one for the guest bedroom when I finally give it the makeover it deserves. But again, the actual distance isn’t as important as creating a distinction from feeling on the clock versus lounging around at home.
Check My Finances
This is because I have compulsive habits and pay my own bills, but paying myself is a part of my life that can make me very, very nervous. Tracking receipts, separating regular expenses from business-related ones, etc. all contribute to making me stress out a little, so regularly seeing numbers I’m pleased with by doing a quick check — both in personal accounts or professionally-related ones — is a way to reduce that anxiety. I also need to know when paychecks are coming in, which can vary from week to week and in the amount, so I can be on edge especially if one of them is later than it’s supposed to be (those of you who have worked in sales or commission-based jobs are already familiar with this kind of budgeting). I do one quick glimpse, make adjustments if needed, and feel instantly calmer.
I regularly talk about how much I hate cleaning — because I do. I despise it. I megaloathe it (you Scrubs fans already know the reference). But, I can’t deny that when I do it, I feel a certain weight lifted off my mind. Working from home adds another element to it that all of my work paperwork and supplies are kept in my house as well — and since I regularly get items shipped in for blog stuff, that can add up to a lot of boxes to break down and receipts to file away. So, if I make more habits to keep things tidy as I go, it feels less overwhelming. Things feel more productive and less cluttered — both literally and figuratively. And fighting that boxed-in feeling is one of the most important things I can do for myself when working from home. So whether it’s a load of laundry or making a trip to Goodwill with crap I don’t need or attacking Charlie’s overwhelming dog hair problem, if I can do at least one thing each day, I feel less like I’m sitting in a home of my own filth and get a chance to focus.
Which brings me to my next tip…
Create Some Breathing Room
I try to mix up my projects so that I’m working outside a few times per week, but on days where I simply have to be inside (such as when I’m editing photos, writing new posts, answering emails, doing design work for clients, etc.), it’s important for me to keep my workspace healthy enough for me to be in. I have seasonal allergies and asthma, and I’m kind of stubborn about it. I know that it’s really important for me to keep a cleaner home simply for the sake of my own lungs… and when I don’t, I can really feel it! To combat things like pet dander, pollen, mold spores, dirt that Charlie tracks in, and plain ol’ dust (both saw- and the regular kind), I wear a particulate mask when I’m in the garage and rely on hypoallergenic filters inside, such as with my A/C unit and vacuum. Speaking of, check this baby out:
A couple of weeks ago, Oreck sent me their new Elevate Conquer Vacuum to try out. I’ve tried out the bagless ones before, but I prefer bagged versions because it eliminates the chance of dumping things back into the air when things get tossed into the trash (and Charlie sheds so much!). It’s got a great filtration system and easy to maneuver around furniture (convenient, since I rarely remember to push stuff out of the way when I do quick cleaning jobs). It even lights up. I plan on keeping this baby upstairs for the carpeted bedrooms, but it’s got a nice push button on the handle that can adjust to hard floors if I need to pick up between rooms in the upstairs hallway or clean the rugs downstairs.
It also came with a handheld version, which is pretty nice considering that my old canister vac bit the dust (pun-intended) just a few short weeks ago, and I was facing having to purchase a new one for the staircase. I’m kind of digging the shoulder strap feature since it allows me to go up and down without having to also hold onto the vacuum as I climb steps. And even though it’s really small, this thing has some strong suction power! I may actually have a snowball’s chance of keeping up with her fur and making sure her dander doesn’t wind up in my lungs.
Force Myself to Socialize
If I’m spending eight (*cough* ten *cough * twelve, but who’s counting?) hours every day working in the same place I go to sleep at night, it can get rather boring not to see another person or talk for days on end. Sure, I text friends, I monitor blog comments, I socialize on Twitter, that kind of thing… but for an extrovert like me, there’s really no substitute for speaking words directly into someone’s face (at a comfortable personal-space distance, of course). And despite her adorable nature, Charlie isn’t much of a conversationalist. So once I realized that working from home was going to be more of a permanent setup, I used a few online tools like Meetup.com to find excuses to get out of the house — a girl’s craft beer club, a running group, etc. Each week, I now have more social events than I know what to do with, and I love that it even helps me to explore more of Atlanta than I ever did before.
Add a Nightly Routine Too
Since I’m usually already in workout clothes anyway, I often just take off from whatever project I’m working on (whether it’s finished or not) to make it to a running club event or whatever. Once I get back home, I do a similar unwinding routine like I did at the start of my day. I usually shower and eat dinner, then watch a little TV. It’s hard to not get back onto the computer sometimes because I get inspiration to write at night, but I try to at least have some kind of separate activity to help me signal to myself that it’s the end of the day. I refuse to check emails again until the morning and I feel much less weight down by the lack of work-life separation.
Do you work from home?
If so, do you have any tricks that help you keep a balance? I’d love to hear your ideas!
P.S. Huge thanks to Oreck for sponsoring this post. I make it a point to only work with and review products I like and actually use, so for more on that, you can see my disclosure page or this post to learn about how I make those decisions. All opinions (especially ones where I admit I don’t wear pants sometimes) are, of course, 100% my own. #ElevateYourClean #CleanAndHealthyHome #OreckElevate