10 Things I've Learned About Working From Home

businessVirginia Hart6 Comments

10ThingsI'veLearnedAboutWorkingFromHome I worked in an office environment for over seven years right out of college where I was surrounded by people at all times. My desk was in a big room filled with people without cubicle partitions, and we shared bathrooms and kitchens and walked together to the building's cafeteria every day.

I left that job in September to pursue a new chapter, and work with a creative focus. I'm a calligrapher, illustrator, and designer, contributing my style to mainly the wedding and social stationery industries. While I maintain this little blog of mine as a fun hobby to share and document (and often don't have the time to update it regularly), I work part-time for another blog as well. I truly love-love-love everything I'm doing, but it's been a big transition to say the least.

I got married a month after I left my job, and I don't think I resurfaced from that bliss + holiday madness until the start of this year. So while I'm still very much figuring out how to work from home and juggle an entirely different plate of projects, I wanted to share a few things I feel like I've learned about myself and this new little routine of mine.

1. Homegirl needs a shower. When I first started working from home, I underestimated the importance of still making it feel like I was going somewhere important...even if it was just to the other room :) Patrick would come home and I'd look and smell like a drowned sewer rat, sitting in the same exact position as when he left.  Even if it's a dry shampoo day (totally a thing), I've discovered that putting myself together makes such a difference in how I feel as that's how I've operated since the days of required business dress in boarding school. Trust me - there are still plenty of days I live in Lululemon and sweatshirts, but I've discovered I gotta shower and put effort into my appearance even if it's just for my and Patrick's sake.

2. I can only work on something for two to three hours before I need a break. Whether I'm working in Illustrator on a logo for a company (a really fun recent project!) or addressing envelopes, I can only do it for so long before I need a break for my sanity / hand. It's a difficult reality when we realize the amount we are able to accomplish in a given day if we want to strike whatever "life balance" we seek (not all that much!) so I have to remind myself of this truth and also narrow down my daily goals to a more realistic and actionable list.

3. Designating a "work area" is crucial. And designating an area in which you don't work is equally as crucial. I try and do as much work as I can at my desk, but sometimes I need a change and move to the couch or stools by our kitchen.  Unless I'm taking a break to clean, I never go into the bedroom during the day except for when I'm hiding my phone. (More on that below.) I also never take my computer into our bedroom, and I do most of my book/magazine reading in there as it helps it feel like a relaxing retreat. Establishing the different spaces' purposes differentiates work from home and creates those triggers of now I'm working and now I'm relaxing.

4. I have to leave the apartment at least once a day. Even when it's freezing and gross outside (like today), I need fresh air or else I get cabin fever. There have been a few days this winter where I never left the apartment and it's just not healthy, especially since it's not like I can escape to a different floor of our home. We barely have separate rooms haha! I'm already so excited for our first spring near Central Park and daydream about warm sunshine, but I need to remember this fact and make do for now.

5. Make coffee dates with friends. Aside from work-related meetings, I don't see many people during the week so I really look forward to time with friends. I absolutely love mid-week coffee dates and phone dates! I miss the interactions I had in an office environment and this helps to fill that void.

6. Keep it organized. I operate best when things are clean and organized -- my mother's DNA, no doubt. Because our apartment acts as both home and office, it's twice as important for it to not get too messy. This was a big transition for us because when you spend all day in your home, more things need cleaned on the regular, but I obviously can't spend all day tidying up. While I now try and do a deeper clean about once a week, I've discovered I must clean as I go and find it's a good little 30-minute break. I have to admit that Patrick is a huge help in this, too. While I do most of the dusting and scrubbing and cooking most nights since he doesn't get home until late, he's always eager to help with dishes and recycling and vacuuming. And here's a big confession for ya... I've never-ever done our laundry because he always does it!

7. I am not an early-morning person. And that's okay. One of the biggest perks of working from home is that I can make my own hours. Operating on an 8:30 to 6 schedule for so long left me feeling weird and guilty about this until recently when I realized I need to enjoy and take advantage of this perk. Even though I always start my day with emails and any time-sensitive tasks while I eat my breakfast, I take a chunk of most mornings for personal time, making sure I get outside. Patrick's work day doesn't start until midday so it's a time for us to get to the gym and grocery store, tackle other errands and appointments, and get ready for the day. It's really nice to do it when I'm still a little groggy, places are less packed, and when it's not as dark and cold outside. I sit down to work when he leaves (when I do all of my actual artwork since I'm best when I'm alone!), taking small breaks including one to cook dinner, and then after I visit with him when he's home (8 or 9ish), I usually do two to three more hours of work. I honestly don't mind it as I feel alert in the evenings and have always been a bit of a night owl. I feel best when I get at least 8 hours of sleep, however -- something I used to never get except on weekends -- so I like to get in bed between 11 and midnight and sleep until 8. If I have to stay up later, I'll adjust my alarm. I've decided to make sleep a priority these days since I figure that 8 hours of sleep will be a distant memory one day.

8. Work happily. We can either show up to work (or walk into the other room) with a heavy sigh and a scowl, or we can sit down with a big mug of coffee and smile and greet whatever work awaits. It's the difference between a bad day and a good day, and we have the power to choose.

9. Put away the distractions. If I'm working on something creative, in a meeting (even if it's a meeting with just myself -- yes, that happens and it's totally weird but that's okay), or focused on a specific task, I do my best to put the distractions away by hiding my phone in the bedroom, minimizing other tabs on my computer, or closing my computer entirely and playing music while I crank out whatever project I need to do. We live in a world with alerts and dings and buzzers and every time we're distracted, it takes time to refocus on the task at hand and we're not as productive as we should be.

10. Make work stop. When you work for yourself, there is no such thing as paid time off. It's a weird and uncomfortable transition, and you find yourself feeling inclined to never stop working. To be honest, I'm still working on this one, and find myself still trying to tackle something work-related every day of the week especially in this early stage of figuring out and establishing my business. It's tricky, too, since Patrick's weekend days change between seasons so our schedule feels different than most. My goal, though, is to have at least one day a week where I don't do anything work-related so I can feel recharged for the rest of the time. I think it will help when the weather is better and I'm not inside in my apartment/office so much, but for now, it's important for me to make that distinction for time vs. play time. Or as I've realized, Virginia time vs. Ginny time!

Do you work from home? Any tips or tricks you've learned? Do you work outside of the home? Enjoy your colleagues! :)