WFH This is what I know
Over the course of my life, I have done a few jobs and most of them have involved going ‘out’ to work and interacting with a lot of people. Writing and my last career overlapped for many years. When I gave up teaching full time, I returned to supply teaching and found that, unlike when I worked supply as a newly qualified teacher, I really liked it. As an older and experienced teacher, I had no trouble controlling the children, and I enjoyed visiting many different schools. The lack of responsibility and the bonus of being able to keep a few days a week for writing made it an ideal lifestyle. The one or two days I stayed home to write found me predictably scruffy. A comfortable pair of jeans, sloppy slippers, no make-up, and hair in a ponytail. All part of the contrast of my two selves – the smart teacher and the shabby writer.
Before last Christmas, I decided to write full time. I worked the last term and then sent my resignation to the supply agency, and that was it. 2020 was going to be a good year. Well, you know the rest – covid and not just me at home but all my family. The quiet, focused year to myself went out of the window. Like many writers used to the peace of an empty house, I needed to readjust. We all did.
A year on I have learnt a lot about my WFH needs and my needs as a person. Here are seven WFH tips.
1) Have a set time to start work. Wafting about doing ‘jobs’ around the house will produce a low word count (and a clean house I grant you). But no one will remember you for having a clean house. Set yourself a time that suits you – it doesn’t have to be early but you do need to stick to it. I aim to be at my desk by 10 o'clock.
2) Get some exercise – preferably outside and with a friend. WFH can be a long, lonely slog, and taking a walk with a mate will sort you out on many levels.
3) Get rid of the slippers. Yes, I know they’re super comfy and you are in your home but ask yourself this: do you want to spend the rest of your life in slippers as though you live in a care home? Also, it’s better for your feet and your morale. Buy some ‘house shoes’ – that’s what I do. Or wear those six-inch heels if that’s your thing – but trust me – ditch the fluffy mules.
4) Get dressed. No, not the track or suit or frayed jeans – put something nice on. Even if you live alone, it will cheer you up.
5) Have a plan. The trouble with working for yourself is that there is nobody to tell you what to do. Don’t vaguely muddle through each day, make a business plan for the year and review it every quarter. On a weekly basis, set out what you intend to achieve that week – and get it done.
6) Make a space for yourself. If you’re not lucky enough to have your own office – try to sort out a place where you can work comfortably and efficiently. Writing in bed with your laptop on a cushion was fine on your day off – WFH long-term needs a proper solution. Treat yourself to a proper desk and chair and get organized.
7) Noise-canceling earphones – I urge you to get some of these. They are expensive, yet compared to the stress of noisy distractions, they are priceless. They really do work – roadworks, husband whistling in the kitchen, daughter practicing the piano, next door’s dog barking – all gone – bliss.
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