Part the Fourth –
Hello, and welcome to the new episode of Cried But Did The Thing Anyway – Life of a Freelance Writer.
…Wait, I forgot this isn’t a YouTube channel. But hello and welcome regardless! If you’ve got a few minutes to laugh at, commiserate with, or relate to a stubborn creature who refuses to work a 9 to 5 for the sake of personal freedom – you’ve come to the right place.
After getting a bit heavy in the previous blog (Deadlines! Failure! Inevitable DOOM!), I wanted this week’s post to be something more amusing. So, here we go. This week, we’ll talk about…
My Home is My
Working from home comes with flexibility, which is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you can do your work whenever you want. Get it done first thing in the morning and be free for the rest of the day! Take a walk in the morning, since it’s such a nice day, and do your hours after lunch. Or maybe you, like me, feel weird working when it’s still light outside, but will happily stay up to see the sunrise from the other side of night.
On the other hand, you can afford to lie in bed for another hour, and then watch another episode of your TV show, and THEN go out with a friend who called you up – because hey, you can do your work whenever you want, right?..
This is why, even when you don’t have a boss standing over you with a stick and monitoring the length of your lunch break on their stopwatch, it often pays to pretend you’re going to work. Pretend well enough, and you might actually fool yourself into getting something done!
My recipe for playing office consists of two main ingredients:
– The Commute
– The Uniform
– The Commute
Roll out of bed, and you’re at your workplace. That’s the dream, right? Not quite. When your bed and workplace are close to each other, the temptation to stay in one and avoid the other is greater than ever.
Ideally, you should keep your working space in another room than your sleeping space. If that’s not possible (say, you live with your parents/housemates/in a studio apartment, and your desk and bed are in the same room), try one or any of the following.
If your work is easily movable (i.e. you’re doing something on a laptop, writing on paper, reading a book), do the day’s first lot away from your main workplace. Kitchen table, balcony, terrace, front yard, back yard, sit in the freaking bathtub if you like – anywhere where you can’t see your bed.
Take The Show On The Road
Like the previous suggestion, but more extreme. Pack up and take your work out of the house, and make camp in a library, a park (weather allowing), or every writer’s favorite option – a coffeeshop. This solution comes with the added benefit of feeling like Neil Gaiman.
(Dear whoever thinks that writers write in coffeeshops because ‘they want the world to witness their efforts’ – remember that your opinion of others is a reflection on you more than on them. Alternatively, kindly stuff thyself.)
Yes, get dressed, get in the car, and go grab a take-out breakfast somewhere. Or walk, if there are any nice breakfast places near your house. The thought of yummy breakfast and good coffee will be a sufficient motivator to get up and dressed, and fresh air/traffic will wake you up. You can either take the food and coffee back to your desk (Desk, mind you. Not bed, and not even kitchen table. DESK.), or eat the whole thing while out. One condition – the whole affair, eating included, should not take you more than half an hour.
In my experience, there are two camps for the work-from-home uniform – Camp Dress-Up, and Camp Comfy.
Myself, I’m firmly in this camp, for objective and subjective reasons. Objectively, getting dressed in real clothes makes my brain believe that it’s time to work. Shoes are especially important for me. I have a pair of DrMartens that I adore, and lacing them up as I prepare for my day makes me feel like Sarah Connor in full ass-kicking mode. And when I take said boots off at the end of the day, there might as well be a big ‘MISSION COMPLETE’ sign blinking over my head.
Also, as far as subjective reasons go, I frequently have issues with my appearance, which is why, before embarking on a day’s work, I want to make sure I like myself today. Plus, on a happier side, I’m fond of casual cosplay, and like pushing my fairly small wardrobe to accommodate for different styles. As a result of this attitude, I may look as any one of the following pictures, or something else entirely. Believe it or not, all of them bar one were taken on a regular working day (and the outfit worn in the exception has been used on regular days as well).
Anyone who’s lived with me for any length of time will confirm that I only frump around when I’m ill or feeling very, VERY down (in both cases, possibly to the point that I don’t need to get dressed, on account of not getting out of bed that day). Historically, I’ve never had ‘home clothes’, not even when I had an office job with a smart casual dress code. I would come home and keep wearing the same clothes until it was time to go to bed. In a way, that was my form of rebellion against my mother, who, while always taking great care of her appearance in public, always wore old and shabby stuff at home. But wearing old and shabby stuff depresses the living daylights out of me. I’d rather wear my favorite t-shirt until it’s worn out, then retire it (in some cases, frame it), having enjoyed it every second of its life.
Given this habit, getting dressed to work from home wasn’t a very big leap. A piece of advice that helped me avoid slipping into frump mode when I went freelance was given by an author of a self-help system mainly aimed at stay-at-home mums and ‘Sidetracked Home Executives’, one FlyLady. Her first advice was ‘Get Dressed To Shoes’, and she explains the reasoning behind that idea as:
With shoes on those feet of yours, your mind says “OK, it’s time to go to work.” You have no excuse for not taking the trash out or putting that box of give-away stuff into the car. You are literally ready for anything. Believe me, when you get that call from school that your child needs you or that dear friend calls up and says that she needs to talk, “Can we have lunch?” you are ready! Including shoes.
I actually learned a lot from FlyLady, back in the day, and I still use including such useful tricks as Doing The Thing For 15 Minutes, decluttering, and more. You can find out a summary of her methodology on Wiki page or at FlyLady.net. Warning: she EXUDES positivity.
On my hunt for images of people working from home in their pyjamas, I found this lady on the right. Yup, I’m sure that’s exactly what she looks like when she wakes up in the morning. Hair in curlers but otherwise immaculate, clear skin, bright eyes, natural healthy blush, and pyjamas that still have creases where they were taken out of the box. Don’t try to fool me, lady. I spend fifty percent of my time in the same house as an artist, and this ain’t what a work-from-home-pyjama-clad person looks like.
Okay, so you really value your comfort and refuse to get dressed up to work from home. Very well, have your pyjamas. But I still say – differentiate between sleep pyjamas and work pyjamas. Don’t wear a lumpy shirt on top of your dad’s track pants. Have several nice matching sets, maybe a onesie or two, as modeled by an artist of Bat-like persuasion here.
Essential art-ing wear. pic.twitter.com/387CkXE7Fq
— Emmi Bat (@emmibat) May 17, 2013
Bottom line: whether you go for looks, attitude or comfort, do pay some attention to your appearance (and hygiene). So what if no one’s going to see you today? YOU are. Take it from me, days when you like yourself end up more productive than ones where you don’t.
One More Thing
In this overview of what it takes to play office, I rather counter-intuitively avoided the subject of your actual ‘office space’. Some might argue that none of the above tricks are required if you’ve got a good working area, or that none of them will help if you don’t. Well…
(Humor me. I had two whole blogs without Marvel materials.)
In all seriousness, though, the organization of your workplace is Exceedingly Important, and I’ll write about it in great detail at some point. But never forget that your productivity starts in your mind. None of the tricks I described, or any other tricks you come up with, will work unless you make an effort to get your ass out of bed. All this stuff, it’s the equivalent of good walking shoes on good days, a walking stick on some days, or a pair of crutches on the worst ones. But it’s YOU who has to do the walking. Now, come on, go put some clothes on, grab a coffee, and conquer the world.
P.S. As has become tradition of this series, I’ll leave you with a short video. Hannah Hart sets an example of working from home, and teaches us the great value of compromise.