I don’t want to boast, but I’ve been working from home for roughly seven years.
This is how the magic happens.
How to Work From Home: An Expert Guide
1. The night before, set your alarm for super early so that you will be able to get a jump start on the day. Just think, if you knock out all your work before lunch, you’ll have all afternoon to enjoy yourself! You are so smart.
2. When the alarm goes off, wonder what you were thinking. Why are you getting up early? You have literally all day to do your work and no reason to leave the house or even get dressed! This is madness. Hit snooze.
3. Hit snooze a few more times.
4. Feel guilty about hitting snooze. Begin self-talk about the importance of consistency and determination. Mid-talk, realize you are floating five feet above your bed. Begin the back stroke in mid-air. You’ve always wanted to do this! Twirl to your stomach, paddle to the window, and sail out over the neighborhood. What a wonderful day!
5. Wait, this is a dream. Rude. Hit snooze again.
6. Realize that the sun is up and you have no idea what time it is. Someone might call with a work-related question, and you will still have Sleepy Voice! Fling the covers back and leap from bed, heart hammering. This is dumb. Working from home is supposed to be relaxing!
7. Get up, make coffee, and eat, all still in a mild, irrational panic. Debate whether to shower and get dressed or just work in pajamas. Seriously, why would it matter? Who would ever know?
8. Peek outside to check the weather. If foul, feel smug that you work from home and don’t have to go out in it. If fair, pity yourself because you work from home and don’t get to go out.
9. Decide to work non-stop until lunch.
10. Accidentally open Twitter.
11. Twitter crashes and you glance at the clock. It’s 9:48. How!
12. Get serious. Sip your cold coffee, set up your desk, open all your documents, lay out research materials. Answer a few work e-mails and decide 10:15 is a perfectly respectable time for an early lunch.
13. Eat lunch with a book. Accidentally drizzle food on yourself.
14. Change shirt. I mean, you might be working from home, but you have standards.
15. Wonder if 11:00 is too early for afternoon coffee.
16. Studiously ignore the fact that if you had gotten up early, as you had planned, you would already be done by now.
17. Stare into the void.
18. Make afternoon coffee to fortify yourself for phone calls and/or Skype sessions with clients/editors/students/etc.
19. Put on pants. They might not be strictly necessary, but they put you in a more professional headspace. Usually.
20. Conduct Skype sessions and/or phone calls, adjusting the angle so no one sees the unmade bed.
21. Having finally expended energy, feel you’ve earned a nap. Struggle with the knowledge that if you lie down now, you’ll have to work after dinner to finish the day’s quota.
22. Brew more coffee.
23. Ignore the fact that from where you sit, you can see your bed. It looks inviting, cozy, and warm. Build a tower of books between your desk and the bed as a makeshift blinder. Power through its gravitational pull.
24. Finally establish a productive groove, only to field phone calls from a family member who’s teasing you about how you work from home and therefore are probably just now starting your work day. Laugh like it’s actually a joke.
25. Notice the shadows slanting. Contemplate throwing your phone onto the roof.
26. Pull blinds, shut off lights, hide phone, don noise-canceling headphones, and finally establish a productive groove. Emerge from partially-hypnotic state to discover you’ve lost a significant swath of time. At last! The work day has arrived!
27. Power through the rest of your daily quota. When you finish, it’s dark.
28. If weather and circumstances permit, take a jog around the neighborhood, partly for the exercise and partly to remind yourself that other humans exist. At the very least, walk on your treadmill. Anything to keep yourself from feeling like a half-baked potato.
29. Read, watch a little TV, get ready for bed. Despite the fact that you know you don’t need to leave the house early the next day—or at all—try to convince yourself to get a good night’s sleep.
30. Set your alarm for super early so that you will be able to get a jump start on the next day.
Okay, I’ll be honest. Although I do work from home, this list isn’t perfectly reflective of my work day. For one thing, around the time I turned forty, my body decreed that we would no longer need an alarm. Instead, we wake up around five every morning with or without my consent.
So that’s been fun.
For another, after a few years of flailing, I found a steady rhythm that works much better than the one depicted above.
That’s the thing. For me, it took a while for me to find my work-from-home groove.
For all of you already working from home due to COVID-19 (and for all who soon will be), know that you have my deepest sympathies and greatest respect.
Working from home is harder than people think.
Welcome to the team!