Working remotely sounds like the dream. No more commutes. No more getting dressed at 6am. Instead, you can curl up on your couch, watch Netflix, and MAYBE get some work done. Oh, how wrong you are. In fact, remote work is anything but the dream. That’s why somewhere around six months into working remotely, many people find they just can’t stand it anymore. They need the social interaction. They need the external structure. They need their sanity.
Hold on just a minute. Sure, working remotely is no fairytale. But don’t be so quick to put your remote work guns up on the rack quite yet. There are many benefits to working remotely. And it takes time and dedication to be able to reap them. The best way to tackle the remote work blues is to set yourself up for success with a great routine.
It Takes Time to Find the Right Routine
It just isn’t super easy to build a routine. In fact, it might take some time for you to find the right one for you. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different things. Starting your day at different times. Working at different, remote locations, until you find the right rhythm of life for you. I would say that the first six months of working remotely are probably the hardest. You have to get used to a lot. Pressure from work, struggling to find the right routine — these are all things that you are faced with at the very beginning of working remotely. Just wait. It gets better.
Remote Work Routines Don’t Grow on Trees
The whole sitting around doing Netflix thing gets old real quick. Sure, your office-bound coworkers will inundate you with remote work cliches. But in reality, you aren’t any different than they are. You are bound by the same four walls (you home office, or your local cafe). You are bound by the same stress (paying the bills, getting incredible work done). The only thing that you have that they don’t is flexibility. However, that flexibility can be a double-edged-sword. Because having the freedom to work also means have the freedom to fail. A lot of your success as a remote worker will depend upon how able you are to build a routine to support your day-to-day. Your remote work routine, ultimately, is the cornerstone of your work life. And it takes a lot of effort to build it.
Take Advantage of Your Freedom
If you think about it, it really doesn’t make sense to work remotely, or to land a remote gig, if you’re just going to act exactly the same as you would in an office. While I might have said that working remotely is not that different than being in an office, if you don’t take advantage of flexibility, it quickly becomes much, much worse than being in an office. Think about it. There are a lot of perks inherent to office work. You have coworkers, friends, lunches out with the team, coffee-breaks and chats. Any list of distractions to break up the day.
Now that you are working remotely, there are potentially, no distractions. There’s no reason to take a break from your desk. No reason to leave the house when the fridge is in reach. Remote work can quickly become a nightmare. In fact, if you are taking on remote work just because you are lazy, then it’s probably not the right fit for you. In the end, you will suffer from the lack of external structure. If you are working remotely to be even more productive, however, then you are ready to reap the many rewards of a flexible life. Flexibility means more time to do things, not more time to do nothing. It means getting in that morning workout, catching up with that friend you haven’t seen for a while at lunch, and cooking dinner instead of ordering takeout.
Practice Fasting and Eat Healthy
One of the problems people have with working from home is that they eat too much. There’s always a fridge nearby, after all. And nobody to judge you if you take frequent trips to it. Beware, however. You can quickly pack on the pounds if you eat too much. Instead, be mindful about what you let into your house. Practice intermittent fasting throughout the day. Tell yourself, I’m not going to eat until lunch. I’m not going to eat again until dinner, if your health allows for this. Or eat mindful snacks throughout the day. Eating things like yogurt (especially the healthy kind. Try Icelandic Skyr with a drop of almond butter) can help relieve stress and give you happier thoughts. Those probiotics do wonders!
Get Out of the House
One of the biggest challenges you’re going to face working from home is that your home is now your office. Unlike most people who get to come home at the day and get away from it all, you have the potential to always be on. This is where setting up personal boundaries can really help. I have a home office that I use pretty much only for creative work. This helps me compartmentalize my work. Instead of sitting on the couch in front of my TV, in my office there are no distractions. Just things that I find comforting and that help me focus, like books, plenty of different chairs to sit on, and a great view of the courtyard outside.
Just because you work from home, however, doesn’t mean you need to always be home. Work at a local cafe. Lots of people do it, and people are pretty nice to each other, seeing one another as their surrogate coworkers, minus the drama. Meeting for coffee with friends during the day is another way to avoid isolation. Similarly, meeting up with people for lunch gets you a much needed break, leaving you refreshed and ready to tackle your toughest assignments.
Originally published at https://www.josephwriteranderson.com on March 6, 2020.