So, I heard you’re working from home now! WELCOME to the league of pajama-wearing workers like myself. We’ve been doing this for awhile, come on in, the water’s just fine. (So you can stop hoarding water bottles now, okay?)
I’ve written a whole book on freelancing for creatives which has a bunch of tips n’ stuff. If you’re a creative facing the uncertainty of the world and trying to make money online or replace your day job entirely, check out the book and also my articles on freelancing here on the blog:
- Day in the Life of a Freelance Writer
- How I Made My First $10k as a Freelance Writer on Upwork
- How to Ghostwrite a Memoir or Hire a Ghostwriter for Your Autobiography
But if you work a normal job that has just gone to remote-work only, working from home can be ESPECIALLY jarring. Suddenly, you have to be productive in a space you’ve probably designed to be a prime Netflix-watching binge-cave.
Not to mention that it’s hard to focus on real responsibilities right now when you’re sanitizing every single surface in your house and wondering if every sneeze means you’re going to die of the coronavirus.
I’m hoping that amidst this pandemic your boss/team/whoever you work with and report to are chill about you maybe not being on your a-game because the Trump administration keeps on suggesting that maybe we sacrifice our grandparents at the alter of the NASDAQ like some kind of death cult ritual. Cool! Not terrifying at all!*
It’s enough to make you want to social distance yourself from all of society and cut your internet cord and go running off to the forest to write a wandering book on why you refuse to pay your taxes and live as a sovereign soul whilst still having your mom do your laundry.
*this last part is sarcasm just in case you didn’t pick up on that, I would like everyone to survive thanks
**this is a Henry David Thoreau joke just in case you didn’t know his mom still did he laundry when he was writing Walden
Anyways. Here are some of my ~top tips~ to survive working from home now that we all live in a remote work world.
Set-Up Your Home Office
Okay, we’re going to start this section off with DUMB AMAZON PURCHASES I MADE FOR MY HOME OFFICE THAT ACTUALLY IMPROVED MY PRODUCTIVITY. These are affiliate links btw like all the Amazon links on my blog, so if you buy something on Amazon with them you further enable me to keep devoting time to writing weird blog posts like this and purchase more dumb things from Amazon (yay capitalism!) If you can’t see the Amazon links it’s probably because you have your ad blocker on.
I joke but at the same time we’re going to be here for awhile. If you can allocate some funds to make the place you sit down and work every day a little brighter, that’s rad. While true joy comes from relationships and not material possessions, a Himalayan salt lamp might also be a nice way to fill the void of the warmth of other humans because you’ve been self-isolating for so long you forgot what that was like–
Okay, okay, jokes aside, let’s go.
Get a Desk Lamp (or Two)
I have two desk lamps: a reading light and a mood light (the salt lamp). The reading light I got is awesome, it has a touch-screen like dimmer panel and you can also make the light quality warmer so you don’t get that gross white light.
Both lamps have dimmers so I can control how my workspace is lit: if I’m reading or writing notecards, I’ll have them turned up all the way, if I’m focusing on the computer, I’ll turn on flux at night and dim my lights so that my eyes don’t get strained.
Good lighting is also nice for video chats. I like to be well-lit so that when I’m chatting with clients or friends I don’t look like some kind of ghoul coming to steal their souls.
I also have a few LED tea lights with cute li’l covers that I got for a Kingdom of Pavement secret show that I also sometimes turn on and put on my desk. I love normal candles, but my cat likes to participate in my video calls so would prefer her tail not get caught on fire while I’m working.
For the Love of God, Get a Good Desk Chair
This is as much of a tip for you guys as it is a reminder for me. I really need a new desk chair, because my $40 chair from Ikea I got four years ago isn’t exactly the best thing in the world for my posture. So don’t be like me and invest in a good desk chair now that we’re all going to be working from home for the foreseeable future because we can’t yet band together as a nation and all get on the same page about social distancing!!! Come on guys!!!
There’s also some cool converters that turn your normal desk into a standing desk, which I’ve considered for my own office. Ideally, you’re getting some Outside Time (TM) in this pandemic, but sitting is just as bad for our health as smoking, so the more you can stretch your legs (at your desk or otherwise) the better.
ALSO! Before you buy office furniture of any sort, I recommend checking out a discount website like Wayfair. I got a bookcase from there for under $30, and my gorgeous, fake-concrete desk for under $300 which is a steal for how big and awesome it is. I also got my file cabinet for less than $30 at Ikea, and while my desk chair isn’t the best it’s also still a steal for the cost. You DON’T have to spend a fortune to get a nice home office set-up, and Ikea and Wayfair both deliver obviously so you don’t have to worry about figuring out if there are any office supply stores still open in your area now that we are in Pandemic Times.
Enhance Your Workflow with a Whiteboard or Bulletin Board
One day, I hope to have enough wallspace to just cover everything in whiteboards. Whiteboards are my JAM.
But, if you don’t have very much space in your apartment/whatever, you can also get some snazzy corkboard squares you can use to put up notecards or whatever you need.
I also take over my closet mirror when I REALLY need space to put up notecards or work through a story problem or an assignment for a client. Blue tape and notecards can convert any wall into a work wall.
Stop Craning Your Neck and Get a Monitor
The best work from home purchase I have EVER made was getting a super huge computer monitor, a bluetooth keyboard, and a magic trackpad. I just hook up my laptop to it via an HDMI cord and voila, I have a gorgeous desktop setup that won’t break the bank unlike getting a desktop mac would.
I can’t tell you how useful it is to be able to have a huge screen. I’m able to splitscreen work, and when I was doing dumb tax stuff this year I could just have a spreadsheet open on one side of my monitor and have my bookkeeping software open on the other side.
I got my monitor at Best Buy for under $100 and got the rest on Amazon. If you have a mac, be sure to get the right HDMI adaptor for your HDMI cord to connect your mac laptop to your monitor.
Special Equipment (like Podcast Equipment) and Work-from-Home Guilty Pleasure Office Supplies
Ideally, all of this work from home stuff you’ll need for your work is at the very least tax write-off-able, but depending on where you work, see if your employer can cover the costs.
I edit a lot of podcasts for our interviews at KingdomofPavement.com, so I got additional podcast supplies to up our production value (including this awesome microphone set) and then my guilty pleasure buy was a pair of Beats Headphones because aside from podcast editing, I also listen to music all day and wanted a nicer listening experience.
Buying nice headphones was also a bit of a necessity because when I got them, there was a lot of construction noises during the day outside of my window, so I needed the noise cancelling headphones to get any sort of work done.
Honestly, your home office can include whatever makes sense for you and your budget. Just try to make it as comfortable and ergonomic as you can so that your body doesn’t hate you for sitting all day and you’re able to feel a little more comfortable with this whole existential crisis we’re in.
Seriously, You Probably Need A Daily Work Routine
While everyone on Twitter is dunking on the hustle-and-grind folks who are spouting productivity tips, you probably DO still need to keep some sort of daily routine to stay sane while you work from home.
When creating your work from home routine, I would recommend finding some way to track the essential, if-I-don’t-get-this-done-I’ll-get-fired tasks.
Stripping down your to-do list to the daily essentials will help you battle the feeling of overwhelming sense of existential dread in the face of the coronavirus and other fun current events. And, it’ll help you to maintain some level of productivity if you’re still expected to be a functioning part of society.
You can do this just be being like “every morning I’ll wake up and work for 3-5 hours and try to get done my 3 most important tasks and after that we’ll see how it goes” and writing those three tasks on a sticky note. That’s a simple way to create a “routine,” and then you can throw in some self-care items like a workout, a walk outside, meditation, etc.
Keep it simple. Then build from there if you feel like it.
If you’re a pro or find yourself overwhelmed with work and to-do lists or different projects like I am, you may want a little bit more sophisticated structure.
I’ve used a bunch of those fancy shmancy planners out there, and I swear by the BestSelf planner. I’m garbage at drawing so can’t do a standard bullet journal to save my life, and what I love about the Best Self planners is that they have a lot of built-in positive psychology features, like daily gratitude reflections, a place to record your daily and weekly “wins” and lessons learned, today’s targets and goals, and a simple habit tracker. It also comes with a wall-calendar so you can track goals over a three-month period.
I’ve been using these for the past four years when I work from home, and it’s really helped me visualize how I spend my time and cut down on the anxiety of being overwhelmed with things to do and not being able to visualize my priorities.
If you do end up using the Best Self Journal and need some advice on how best to use ’em for creative project tracking or for freelance projects, let me know here or on my Twitter.
You can also just use your calendar to schedule and block out time for tasks and priorities.
Finding Peace as You Work from Home
Whether you’re a remote employee or a freelancer, right now can be pretty scary. If you’re plagued by existential dread or financial anxieties, getting advice like “go take a walk” or “go meditate” can feel really damn trivial.
And I get it. I’m right there with you.
I’m here writing these blog posts, doing work for clients, working on my novel, and just trying to live life like normal even when it feels like the sky is falling and we can’t do anything about it.
There’s something comforting in maintaining the rhythm of work, so I’ll be here at my desk doing just that while still taking time off when I can to reflect and just absorb what’s going on and what part I can play in helping to fix our broken systems.
So let’s take everything one step at a time. Log off of Twitter, go outside, and give yourself a break every so often to allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling.
Sending virtual hugs,