Working at Home: How to Stay Sane, Productive, and Happy in Your PJs

So you’ve decided to work from home.  Congratulations! It’s going to be awesome, right?  Well. . . maybe.  Working at home is not for everyone.  As someone who has worked at home for more than 10 years, I can tell you that there are definitely downsides to it.  It requires a certain personality type, for one thing (i.e. someone who likes being alone (i.e. me)).  A friend of mine just started working from home through her company and she hates it.  She thrives on personal contact and loved being in the office and shooting the sh*t with people during the day.

No, working from home is decidedly not for everyone.  However, if you’ve made the decision to take the plunge and think it will work for you, excellent! I would very strongly suggest that you put some practices into place to help make your life easier and prevent you from becoming, well, a shut in.  Because it can easily happen. No, working from home is decidedly not for everyone. However, if you've made the decision to take the plunge and think it will work for you, excellent! Click To Tweet

So without further ado, more than a decade of working at home has taught me the following things:

Set a routine.

I get it, it is super awesome to have freedom to wake up when you want, work when you want, go to bed when you want, et cetera.  But that can backfire on you real fast.  Before you know it, you’re waking up at 11:00, puttering around until 2:00, and ending up working until midnight before turning around and doing it all over again.  Make yourself get out of bed at a reasonable time.  Have a morning routine where you take some time for  yourself, meditate, have coffee, read the news, whatever works for you.  Then begin work by a set time as well.  Trust me, it’s important. I get it, it is super awesome to have freedom to wake up when you want, work when you want, go to bed when you want, et cetera. But that can backfire on you real fast. Click To Tweet

Get dressed.

But Amy, working in pajamas is the dream!  Yes, I get it, working in your PJs sounds amazing.  And it is, at first.  But the novelty wears of pretty quickly.  If you’re not careful, you can find yourself day after day in your pajamas at 7:00 p.m. (from the night before) wondering where your day went and feeling like a loser because you didn’t even put pants on today.  So when you wake up and start your day, get into some real clothes within an hour or two of getting up.  I mean, don’t go crazy and put on a business suit; yoga pants are perfectly acceptable.  As  long as they’re daytime yoga pants (not to be confused with sleeping yoga pants.  These are distinctions that exist in my world.) But Amy, working in pajamas is the dream! Yes, I get it, working in your PJs sounds amazing. And it is, at first. But the novelty wears of pretty quickly. If you're not careful, you can find yourself day after day in your pajamas… Click To Tweet

Make a designated area.

Home offices are there for a reason.  They allow you to  have a separation from “work life” and “home life,” which is very important as you get further into your WAH journey.  Even if you don’t have a separate room in your house for a home office, you can have a makeshift area where you set up that is your specific work space.  Only do work there, and don’t let it bleed over into other areas of your home.  Otherwise the stress from work can bleed over into your relaxation space, and that causes  a whole host of other problems.

Take breaks.

I am really guilty of this one, y’all.  Don’t eat lunch at your desk.  Forget that – don’t eat at your desk, period.  I have a really hard time walking away from my desk in the middle of the day for a lunch break, but it’s so, so, so important to give yourself a break during the day.  There’s a reason that laws are in place in the workplace that say you need to take breaks.  It is better for your mental health to take half an hour or an hour and do something besides work while you eat lunch.

And while you’re at it, make sure you’re standing up for about 10 minutes every hour.  Sitting is the new smoking, so they say, so stretch your legs.  Do yoga, or squats, or take a walk around the block.  Don’t sit for hours and hours at a time.  Did I mention that last year, I threw my back out doing our taxes because I was sitting for five hours (IC taxes are complex).  As a consequence, I couldn’t move for six hours and laid on my back listening to podcasts until, thankfully, my back stopped spasm-ing.  Don’t let this happen to you! Don't eat lunch at your desk. Forget that – don't eat at your desk, period. Click To Tweet

Leave the house.

Again, I’m not the best with this one.  I don’t know when it happened, but at  some point going anywhere during the day became such a hassle.  But I do observe one rule – I have to leave the house at least once a day.  Whether it’s to go to the grocery store, Cardio Barre, visiting friends, whatever, it is a rule I stick to.  Nothing is worse than not leaving the house for days at a time, losing track of what day it is, and spiraling down a hole of your work.  It’s not good for your mental health.

Track your work hours.

This is a big one.  I  remember this one month, I got a paycheck and it was super small and I thought, what the f*ck happened?  Then I decided to start tracking my hours.  Turns out, I was only working about 15 to 20 hours a week! The rest of the time I was puttering around my house, doing laundry, chores, watching the occasional TV show, and time was just slipping away.  So it’s all about balance, and it’s essential to make sure that you’re actually putting in the hours.

Working at Home: How to Stay Sane, Productive & Happy in Your PJs Pin

Stick to your schedule.

When I first started working from home 12 years ago, I was also doing a lot of theatre shows.  And theatre people like to go out on weeknights, after rehearsals and whatnot.  So I went out.  I figured, eh, I make my own schedule, I can do what I want, right? Wrong.  Straying from your routine totally sets you up for failure.  When I would go out on a Tuesday until 2:00 a.m., then I would sleep late, panic, have to catch up, end up working until  8:00, going to rehearsal, and doing it all over again.  Remember, making your own schedule is a luxury, but it’s also a responsibility to yourself.

Be clear about your working hours.

With family, friends, everyone.  “It’s great that you’re home all day now.  Can I just swing by?” Pretty soon, you’ve been chatting for four hours and now you have all that work to catch up on.  Or maybe you’re in your office, working, and your husband interrupts you to ask you 3,000 questions about Game of Thrones.  Or your kids burst in having an argument that you now have to stop and break up.  Set clear boundaries about your time and your space and save yourself some future arguments.

Keep a neat office.

Full disclosure, my office has always been a disaster, even when I worked in a corporate job.  But I feel so much better when my desk isn’t covered in papers and mail and miscellany.  Keep a clear space, a decluttered space (you all know how much I love decluttering) and do your best to maintain it.  Dedicate an hour each week to making sure your work space is clean and tidy, and try your best to do little things along the way to keep it that way. Full disclosure, my office has always been a disaster, even when I worked in a corporate job. But I feel so much better when my desk isn't covered in papers and mail and miscellany. Click To Tweet

Have a to do list.

Depending on your job, you may have your work duties lined up for you every day.  But if you don’t, make sure you’re taking time at the start of each week or each day to outline what you need to get done.  Make a list, if it helps you to write it down.  Keep track of your duties and don’t let things slip through the cracks.

Stay. Off. Social. Media.

It is incredibly, incredibly easy to fall down a Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest hole in the middle of the work day.  Pretty soon you’ve been messing around for hours and your to-do list doesn’t even have a dent in it.  While this might be okay if you’re working in an office and getting paid regardless, a lot of WAH jobs are productivity based, so every moment counts.  Do yourself a solid and have specific times and time limits for social media.

Turn off your phone.

Program a do not disturb and explain to everyone that you will only be answering during emergencies.  A phone call from a faraway relative or a good friend having a meltdown can totally derail your entire day.  Turn off the phone and keep it off while you’re accomplishing tasks for your day, and check in only when necessary or when you finish your work day.

Set an end time.

One of the pitfalls of working at home is that it can become a neverending cycle of work.  There’s just one more thing to do.  Oh, I’m just going to log on and check my email one more time.  Don’t.  When you’re done for the day, you’re done.  You’ve clocked out and gone “home.”  Give yourself down time. One of the pitfalls of working at home is that it can become a neverending cycle of work. There's just one more thing to do. Oh, I'm just going to log on and check my email one more time. Don’t. When you're done for the day, you're… Click To Tweet

Don’t allow work to consume your life.

Guilty.  Guilty. Guilty. I am so very guilty of this.  I work all the damn time.  Don’t be like me.  If you allow work to take over your life, you’ll miss all the wonderful things about working at home in the first place!  And people who you contract with or clients or whoever will be demanding of your time.  You have to set boundaries.

Look, working at home, as magical as it sounds, is not for everyone.  It takes an incredible amount of self discipline, organization, and planning.  Not everyone is suited for it, and trust me, it has taken a lot of trial and error to find what works and what absolutely does not.  But if you’re going to give it a try, put these practices into action.  You’ll thank me!

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14 Comments

  1. Megan Rowsey May 29, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    This is such a good post. I kept thinking, “YES!” I also love working alone and feel like I’m a lot more productive that way, but I also can get so entrenched that I don’t take breaks and never turn off. PS. I saw your bio and I’m also a former Midwestern girl living in LA who came here to act. 🙂

    1. Amy May 29, 2018 at 4:36 pm

      Thanks! Yeah, there are a lot of us out here, right? LA is full of Midwesterners

  2. AmberLynn May 29, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    This is really good. It is my hope to be able to transition into working from home. I must agree that it takes a GREAT deal of discipline, structure, and organization. You have outlined ALL of the things that are important in regards to working from home.

    1. Amy May 29, 2018 at 4:38 pm

      I hope you succeed! For me, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, although my husband just got home from work and I’m still in my PJs today, lol

  3. Amanda May 29, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    I absolutely love working from home. My only problem is when the huge pile of laundry stares at me from across the room, begging me to take a break and get folding!

    1. Amy May 29, 2018 at 10:06 pm

      I did battle with my own huge pile of laundry today! I managed to hold out until after I had done all the work I needed to do (kind of)

  4. Leslie May 30, 2018 at 3:28 am

    I total agree with your suggestions. Now, following them is a whole different story. It is a work in progress. I can only make one change at a time without getting overwhelmed!

    1. Amy May 30, 2018 at 9:55 am

      I hear you! I’m still working on all of them myself.

  5. Maddy May 30, 2018 at 6:50 am

    I love these tips! There are days where I don’t move from my desk at home until 2pm! Need to implement some of these!

    1. Amy May 30, 2018 at 9:56 am

      Incorporating little walks into my day was the best thing! Makes me feel like less of a slug 😉

  6. Alice Mola May 30, 2018 at 11:34 am

    THANK YOU for reminding me to track my work hours! I need to!

    1. Amy May 30, 2018 at 12:01 pm

      When I first started doing it, I was STUNNED at how little I was actually working! I have a spreadsheet I follow religiously now.

  7. Heather Brown May 31, 2018 at 11:13 am

    Solid advice! I just started my blog and definitely need to get some structured work into place. It’s amazing how much difference it makes when you’re organized!

    1. Amy May 31, 2018 at 11:55 am

      Yes, it definitely does!

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