I’ve worked remotely now for more than 10 years — as a writer, as an editor and as a freelance editor-slash-writer-slash-project-manager. In that time, I’ve changed jobs, moved three times, renovated a kitchen and had a baby, and so I’ve had to adapt my working schedule at times to accommodate new challenges like scheduling flooring contractors, pediatrician appointments, unexpected “sick kid” days and the usual errands and responsibilities that come with being a working parent. But over the years, I’ve also developed some strategies that help me stay on-task, on deadline, focused and productive.
1. Wake-up call
If left to my own devices, I’m naturally a night-owl. I really do my best, most creative work between 8 p.m. and 3 a.m. This doesn’t tend to mesh too well with traditional business hours, not to mention having a now-5-year-old who’s regularly up at the crack of dawn.
Before I became a parent, I set my alarm for the same time every day, just as if I were going to an actual corporate office. The difference, obviously, is that my commute is about two minutes instead of two hours .I shuffle downstairs, start the coffee, and log into my email and Slack. I no longer need an alarm because my son now serves that purpose — but I admit it’s much more pleasant to be awakened by, “Mommy? I’m hungry and I can’t reach the Cheerios,” than the incessant screeching beep of an alarm clock. I’m still by no means a morning person (ask my husband, if you dare), but getting up and getting right to work helps me get a jump on emails and prepping my schedule for the day.
2. Dress for success
One of the first things people say to me when they learn I work from home is, “Oh, wow, I’d love to be able to work in sweats and yoga pants all day!” I always feel a bit guilty having to burst their bubble, because I discovered early on that if I stayed in sweats and yoga pants, my psyche had a hard time shifting to work mode. I shower and put on “real” clothes. It’s another way I coerce my mind into work mode instead of weekend mode.
3. Room with a view
I’m lucky to have a dedicated home office with a door that locks in the event I have to do an interview or attend a meeting while the rest of my family’s home. I’ve got a pretty standard set-up: desk, laptop, printer, phone; I do most of my work from there. But I also find if I’m struggling with writer’s block, a change of scenery can work wonders. Sometimes I do work from my kitchen table, or from the couch in my family room.
4. Eat your heart out
I’m an extrovert by nature, so working at home can feel isolating and claustrophobic at times. I try to get out of the house at least once a day, whether that’s to run to the grocery store, the post office or just to grab lunch that isn’t leftovers from last night’s dinner. Sometimes I walk the dog. I try not to let working from home turn me into a hermit, so I make a major effort to get out, interact with people and get some fresh air, and I usually come back feeling invigorated and more productive.
Ten years after I first started working remotely, and I’m not sure you could pay me enough to go back to working in an office. Collaboration apps and technology have made it so much easier to stay connected and productive, though I do miss the office water cooler chat and the after-work happy hours sometimes. The trade-offs are so worth it, though.