Around this time of year, people can sometimes find themselves suddenly creating office space at home—and not just as extra space for stuff or unused exercise equipment. Whether by desire (finally striking out on your own) or design (you got laid off), congratulations! You just became your own CEO. If you’ve recently decided to work from home, you’ll be spending much more time there and therefore need to make sure everything is in good working order. If you’re in the Idaho area for example, make sure you have Home Heating and Air Conditioning Inc on speed dial just in case you need someone to fix your air conditioner.
That’s what happened to me. In 2008, I left the corporate world, and not voluntarily. The voluntary part was deciding not to go back. I was done. Office life and I never really got along, and this time, the breakup was going to stick. I would start my own business: Me, LLC. The company’s been thriving since then, and except for odd stints working with clients at their offices, I’ve been very happy at my own desk at home.
When people find out I work at home, most of them say “You must be so disciplined,” or “I’m not sure I could do that,” or “That would drive me totally insane.” They picture themselves sleeping late, wearing pajamas all day, eating constantly. And yeah, that can happen. If you want it to.
I’ve never called myself disciplined thanks to a great perspective check from Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. She wrote that when you’re doing something you’re enthusiastic about, you don’t really need to be disciplined. That’s been the case for me. I love writing books, and when I’ve done other kinds of writing, even if I can’t say I was in love with the work, I can definitely say I’m enthusiastic about paying rent and eating. I’ve never had a problem getting to my desk. It’s tearing myself away that’s been the bigger issue.
But that’s me, and before 2008, I’d been a work-from-home type many times over. If you’re new to being the Mistress/Master of your Own Destiny, here are some things that can make it flow like you’re a pro.
- Get up. Whether your work is a new business you run or the full-time job of looking for a full-time job, you need to actually be at the desk for any of the work thing to happen. Enjoy the novelty of sleeping in for a short time—a week at the most. Then, get up in time to be at your desk when everyone else is. Yes, you can wear your pajamas; you have to be able to gloat about something.
- Get your desk in order. New Mistresses/Masters of their Own Destiny (MOODs) may find they don’t have what it takes to run a successful business. I’m not referring to grit; I’m talking about file folders. Paper clips. A damn stapler, for the love of God. You don’t need a lot, but you do need a working computer (preferably a laptop, so you can be portable), good Wi-Fi, and stuff that will keep your desk in a good state of organization or disorganization, however you work best.
- Schedule, list, plan. You know those scenes in sci-fi movies where people arrive in a different dimension and they’re all disoriented? That’s what it’s like to go from an office to working from home. Everything’s all weird and time has no meaning. As a former colleague who retired was quoted as saying, “You read the newspaper, buy a chicken for dinner, and all of a sudden it’s five o’clock.” In the morning, start making your list. What do you need to do today, this week, this month? Be specific, put stuff on your calendar. Knowing what you need to do and when is the way you’ve been operating for ages. Even if you jettison that plan for a more free-form jazz approach, doing it this way will make the transition less Bizarro Universe.
- Wait for the growl. The first time I started working from home, I ate constantly—when I was worried, when I was bored, because I could, because it got me up and away from the desk. Eat when you’re hungry, and when you’re bored or restless, do some exercise instead.
- Get out. A good friend told me, “Life doesn’t happen behind a computer screen.” She meant it in terms of ideas for books, but the same is true for people who work from home. If it’s too quiet at home for you, or home in your mind means relaxing and watching TV, get out of the house. Go to a cafe, a bookstore, or the local library, or check out co-working spaces.
- Schedule exercise. If you ever complained that your entire life was being drained from you under the fluorescent lights of a corporate office, good news: You can leave work any time you want now! My MOOD MO is to do Yoga in the morning (which I also do at home; maybe I’m a home-aholic), work like a demon all day, and stop working when my husband gets home around 4 pm so I can hang out with him. If you like to do Yoga, or run, or whatever kind of exercise you’re into, schedule it into your day. Now you don’t have to miss class again because a meeting ran late!
- Leave work. When you work from home, you can work any time. You might want to resist that, and hard. Associating home with work can lead to the sads fast. A Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright once told me that she works from 9 to 3 or 4, and once her children and husband were home, that was it—she officially left work. Family time and time for herself were not to be encroached upon. These specific boundaries kept her focused, so she got a lot done, and then she got to be happy in her home, away from her desk.
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