(The seventh post in a series on working at home.)
Working at home is less like work. Here I am at my standing desk with an iced green tea, electronic music keeping me alert, laundry in the dryer, fresh air coming in my window, and freedom to wear my dorkiest T shirt.
Working at home gives you more control over your environment. This means more than just getting the laundry done while I’m learning some lines. On a deeper level, it helps me not to live so much in reaction to other people. I’m easily distracted by the conversations, the needs, the moods, the problems, of other people.
When I’m working at home, I feel like that girl in “The Incredibles” with her invisible force field surrounding her – I can keep out what would otherwise attack me. I plan better, write faster, think more clearly. I have less anxiety.
Of course there are pitfalls. There’s no one there to dissuade you from eating the whole cake, or binge watching Netflix all afternoon. We need to know ourselves and choose what environment works best. Some people are carried along by the energy of others working alongside them, and need the structure of a workplace. Some people need a mix of both; working at home one or two days a week.
Being home-based keeps me focused – not only on what I’m doing but why I’m doing it. Built into the day are not only breaks to eat or go for a walk or tend to something around the house. I build in breaks to get mentally and spiritually recharged.
In the morning I read the Bible and pray. Then I make a list of what to get done that day. I take time to think about whether I’ve made the list too long. (How often we set ourselves up to fail!)
I ask myself it I’m being driven or compulsive in my choice of tasks. Do I really need to get all that done today, or do I just want to cross stuff off a list so I can feel competent? Am I thinking about what’s most important, or just being driven by the expectations of other people? You have the freedom to soul search when you set your own schedule.
Then I try to group tasks in categories – for example, in one day I might take a two hour chunk to do detail business – checking and sending messages, scheduling meetings, updating contacts. Then after a break I may take unbroken time for writing or long term planning and not respond to any messages at all.
It often helps to take a break between tasks that need different types of energy. I’ll exercise before diving into lots of detail work because I don’t like it and I need to be energized to make myself dive in. Before writing I may read a post or a chapter about the writing process, something inspiring. I’ll look at a Better Homes and Gardens to get me in the mood to clean my house, and watch a video about urban ministry if I need to get motivated to recruit for our church’s tutoring program.
Our quality of life is so much richer when we know why we’re doing what we’re doing, and we have the freedom to do it at our own pace, with breaks that let us refuel and refocus. Working at home often makes it easier to do our best and take care of ourselves at the same time.