I’ve known quite a few people who briefly experienced the joy of getting a job that allowed them to work from home, only to resort back to the office or classroom a short while later out of frustration.
Sounds strange, right? Isn’t ‘working from home’ supposed to be the goal in our modern lives?
If you’ve ever worked remotely, it might be easier to understand. There does tend to be a nagging temptation to go back to a schedule that’s set by someone else, and you might find that you actually miss that long commute, and walking past colleagues in the hallway (even the ones you weren’t crazy about- at least they were still people to interact with).
Working remotely can easily feel lonely, unstructured, and more overwhelming than being at ‘the office’ might feel, when you don’t have the right elements in place to make it work for you.
I have 100% been there, but I found some tricks to make working from home everything I dreamed it would be. These are the solutions I’ve found to the most common problems: laziness, lack of structure, and feelings of isolation.
- How to cure that lazy ‘working from home’ feeling: You must leave the house for one or two days a week.
For me, personally, I need to feel the pressure of being surrounded by people tapping away very seriously at their laptops- it makes me get right down to business. I do this to get into ‘work mode,’ to build my momentum for the week, and then I can hole up in my house for the next few days under a blanket and be equally as productive as those ‘coffee shop’ work days.
What works for me is leaving the house in the morning on Monday and Thursday, or Tuesday and Thursday, that way I accomplish an enormous number of tasks at the beginning of the week, that keeps me motivated when I physically work from home in the middle of the week, leading to a huge sense of pride on Thursday when I only have to put in a few hours due to everything I already completed.
Side benefit: For those confused friends and family members who treat you as if you don’t have a job, now that you’re working remotely, getting out of the house will be a frequent reminder that you’re not available 24/7. It will also leave you with one less excuse to hang around your home in case something better comes up, and it will help you resist the urge to make filler plans to waste your time.
- How to create new structure: You must have a reason to get in your car and leave the house, other than to ‘go to work.’
Going to work is not an exciting reason to leave the house, and for me, it lead to procrastination and full days reading on my couch for pleasure (which might sound nice, but I only feel guilty about it in the end). Tip #1 about getting out of the house and working for a few hours might sound great, and it works like a charm, but what about when you trick yourself into wasting the day away without actually making it to that coffee shop? This is why you need to trick yourself in a different way; you need to make it easy for yourself to leave, by either meeting up with a friend, heading out to the gym, or running another type of errand that you look forward to.
I’m a homebody, so I could be content staying inside all day. However, I can’t resist a good chat with girlfriends, and also, as a former fitness instructor, working out at the gym has always been a hobby I indulge in when I have the time and energy. As a result, I have 1-2 days per week where a good hour-long chat (plus 6 hours of focused work) with a girlfriend who also works remotely, draws me out of hiding and keeps me plugging away (with spurts of good conversation and laughs periodically for continued motivation). I also have 1 day per week that I’ve carefully planned out, where I pack a bag in the morning with extra clothes, snacks, and my laptop, to hit the gym for an hour, and then head to one of the many coffee shops around the corner.
I’ll admit, about half the time I’m tempted to just go back home and relax after working out, but I remind myself of two things: 1) “You spent all that time packing a bag, and now you’re going to shamefully head home and empty it out after it went completely unused? That’s no good.” And/or I consider 2) “You’re going to feel pretty disappointed in how you spent the day if you go home now. If you just work for 2 hours and then go home, you’ll feel a thousand times better.”
Sometimes I stick to that meager 2 hours and I feel good about at least doing something and not giving into laziness, and sometimes 2 hours turns into 4 or more hours, which is a victory. Basically, remind yourself that this is a privilege and that you still have a responsibility to people to complete whatever tasks you’ve been given.
- How to shake any feelings of loneliness: Find a way to be around people for a few hours during the week.
How often you’ll want to interact with people might depend on your personality type. I’m slightly more introverted than extroverted, so I do need to see people, but I can spend up to 3 days a week completely isolated and feel pretty great about it. For those times when you miss your old colleagues, take a class at the public library, or pick up a new hobby that requires you to attend a face-to-face class once a week. Personally, going to a coffee shop or the public library to work near other people is as much interaction as I need, but I also go to a few gym classes regularly to see some familiar faces, and I’ll make weekly plans with girlfriends for lunch and/or to work together.
Lastly, be sure to plan a ton of weekday evening and weekend activities! This is when most of your friends will be available, so make it count. Get your ‘people fix’ by planning activities outside with a variety of friends, that way you’ll be ready to get back to your new work routine on Monday without any regrets.
This might seem like an awful lot of work and structure to enjoy what should be the ‘ease’ of working from home. However, I feel this is somewhat similar to what Tim Ferriss had in mind when he wrote The 4-Hour Work Week.
Here are some new perks you’ll gain from following the 3 tips above:
You’ll spend less time thinking about doing work and actually doing it, and when you’re working it’ll be more focused. In my life, this recently took me from 30-35 unfocused and overwhelming hours spread throughout the week and weekend (talk about procrastination and feeling miserable about it), down to 15-20 hours focused into 6-7 hours of work just 3 days a week (craziness, right?).
Having saved your time and eliminated those extra days in the office, you now have a few days completely to yourself to do whatever makes you tick. In the past, I’ve spent full days where I learned songs on the guitar, wrote music, read books, wrote books, and recently I find myself spending 10 hours at a time learning about investing for the future. When you have something like a 9-5 job to contend with, it’s hard to give yourself that quality time to get into flow, so this is where working on your own schedule is a huge benefit. Currently I have 3 very focused work days, and during the rest of my time I excitedly study new areas of interest and spend time with amazing friends and family who are home on weekdays.
You get to become the new boss! Once you’ve found out what type of schedule works best for you, and you feel you’re putting in the right type of work, during the right hours, while still feeling like this is all working in your favor, you’ll feel a huge sense of accomplishment. No more meetings, no need to fill your time with busy work, and minimal procrastination (no procrastination might be a bit of a stretch..).
You did it! This is the dream. Congratulations on successfully working from home.
Remember, your work shouldn’t be your entire life, so the more you can focus on the most pertinent items at the right time, the more you can spend time enjoying the things that truly matter in life.
Happy working, learning, and living.