17 Foolproof Ways to Avoid Insanity When You Work From Home
by Tiffany Walking Eagle | 8-minute read
This post may contain affiliate links. Read disclosure here.
Ever since I joined the work-from-home world as a proofreader and freelance writer, I’ve had to learn how to deal with the weird dynamic that comes along with creating my own schedule and working wherever I want. Working from home may sound like an absolute breeze, but reality is, just as working in actual society has its challenges (dealing with people, having to wear pants, etc.), work-from-home life has its struggles that can drive even the most productive people slightly insane.
Without further ado, let’s all avoid insanity together and use these simple tips instead.
Separate your work and living area.
I’m preaching to myself with this one because Lord knows I love to work from my bed. However, if you work in the same areas you live, you’re going to start to kind of despise being home, or you might find it difficult to stop working. There’s something about being able to shut the door on your work space that helps your brain go, “Okay, it’s time to stop working and relax.”
Don’t poop where you eat, and don’t work where you sleep.
Wear clothes and shower (sometimes).
I know one of the biggest advantages of working from home is being able to crank out some work in your sweatpants….or no pants… but honestly, that gets kind of old and depressing after awhile. You’ll start to feel like an actual hobo, and you might even forget to shower or do your hair.
It’s okay to look like a cave-dwelling troll on occasion, but take the time to actually put on some clothes or makeup or hair goo at least, like, a couple times a week. Supposedly, it puts us in a better mental state and makes us more productive, according to science or something. ;)
Make yourself work from a coffee shop a couple of times per week.
Maybe you can’t afford or just don’t want to join a co-working space. That’s totally understandable, but you should still leave your home every so often and see the light of day. Head over to your favorite coffee shop, cafe, or library when you’re getting annoyed and antsy working at home.
You’re going to lose your mind if you don’t take work breaks once in a while. Whether you like frequent short breaks or less frequent long breaks, give your brain a breather every now and again. Hours and hours of nonstop work will inevitably leave you feeling burned out.
For some odd reason, when you work from home, it’s easy to forget to eat! I don’t know if it’s because you don’t have the smell of everyone else’s food during lunch break making you hungry/reminding you to eat like you do in an office (know what I mean?!) or if it’s because you might not have meals already prepped, but whatever the reason, it’s easy to get in the zone and go hours without eating anything.
All of a sudden you look at the clock and you’re like, dang, it’s 3:00 already? I haven’t eaten anything! and you realize you’re starving. Whether it would help you to have meals prepped ahead of time or just set reminders on your phone, take breaks to eat, ya crazy. Drink water too.
Join a co-working space.
Even as someone with introvert tendencies, I sometimes miss the camaraderie that comes with having coworkers. Joining a co-working space can be an affordable, practical way to get some human interaction and also have a place you can work outside of the house. Some even offer community activities and groups so you can get to know those working near you.
Keep your work space clean.
One of my wacky college professors was known for having an absolute explosion of paperwork and office supplies spread around his office at all times, but if you walked in and asked him for something, he’d effortlessly reach into a random pile of papers and find just what you were looking for.
While there are those weird people who thrive in chaos (you know who you are!) most of us can benefit from some semblance of order. It’s harder to focus and get things done when your work space is messy and disorganized. Go buy yourself some organizers and keep things neat and tidy to avoid losing your mind.
Don’t let household chores distract you.
You wake up, stretch, and get ready to sit down and crank out some work. Oh, well let me just throw in this giant load of laundry real quick. Fine. Then you walk by the kitchen and figure you’d better put away the clean dishes. Hm, the carpet could use vacuuming too, you think. Before you know it, your entire house is clean, but it’s 5:00 p.m. and you’ve accomplished zero work. Sound familiar?
First, schedule a time in your day (or week) to spend on chores. Write in an hour to clean up around the house, but stick to just that hour. That way you’re satisfying your need to get some housework done without sacrificing your entire workday. If you really can’t help yourself, get out of the house so you can’t be distracted by chores!
Know when to stop working.
It’s easy to just keep on working when your work is so accessible, but you need to know when to stop or you’ll burn out. That’s why it’s important to maintain a level of separation between work and home life. Shut the door to your office. Close your laptop. Go offline and unwind.
Set a work schedule and try to stick to it.
Obviously the flexibility of working from home is one of the major advantages, but have at least a loose schedule of when you work and try to stick to it. Doing so can help you separate work and play time so the two don’t blend as much.
Don’t let everyone else run your life.
This has been one of my biggest challenges as a proofreader/blogger and a major people pleaser. When you work from home and set your own schedule, you’ll find that everyone thinks you’ve got all this time to meet for coffee and watch their kids and help them move and talk on the phone for hours… we still have work to do, people.
Don’t feel guilty for having to tell people, no, I can’t walk your dog or watch the “hilarious” video you sent me on Facebook. If you have kids, I wish you the absolute best of luck with this one.
Take days/time off once in a while.
Just because your work is accessible doesn’t mean you should work every single day! Give yourself weekends or at least a day off. All work and no play made Jack kinda lame and also probably insane.
Use the time block method.
The Pomodoro Technique recommends 25-minute time blocks of hyper-focused activity followed by 5-minute breaks, and the length of break times increases to 10+ minutes after about four 25-minute blocks. However, I find that just having blocks of time dedicated to specific tasks can help you avoid the sporadic skipping around, doing tiny bits of 27 different tasks, but not checking even one whole task off your list. Whether you dedicate one hour per task, several hours, or try the Pomodoro Technique, have set time slots for your daily tasks…including breaks! Experiment and find what works best for you.
Have a good morning routine.
As I mention in my mindset post, a good morning routine can give your productivity a major boost. Set the tone of your entire day by starting it out with meditation, exercise, listening to music or a podcast, or reading an inspirational book. I know. I know. Everyone talks about their morning routines, but don’t you think they all just might be onto something?
Prioritize a social life.
When you don’t have the daily human interaction that accompanies a regular job, it can get a little lonely. Make time to go out with friends on the weekends and put a bit more effort into maintaining your relationships. We’re all human, and we need people. whether we like it or not!
Give yourself a breather when you’re feeling stuck.
Dealing with a brain block in your work and feeling like you’re getting nothing done? Don’t force it. Sometimes your brain is telling you it needs a break, so go for a walk, go out for coffee, read a book you love, or have lunch with a friend. Whatever you need to do, give yourself space from whatever project you're working on and return to it with fresh eyes.
(Note: this doesn’t mean stop working whenever it gets hard. Use your judgment here, y’all.)
Take advantage of the benefits.
Once in a while, ignore everything else I told you and reap the incredible benefits of working from home. Help friends and family out when you have time; sleep in every so often. Meet up with friends for coffee or go on a spontaneous adventure (and take your work with you ‘cause you can! Ha!). The flexibility of working from home really can be heavenly if you’ve achieved a balance that fosters productivity. So go ahead and bask in the fact that you don’t have a commute and don’t have to wear real pants, but use the tools above to stay sane too.
After switching from a 9:00 to 5:00 to work-from-home freedom, I don’t think I could ever go back. Interested in working from home? Check out my posts about it here and here, or leave any comments or questions below!