I’ve been working from home for years and know what suits me. I’ve had to adapt in view of the current lifestyle restrictions so here’s what I’m doing now.
My day in the office
I get up at six-thirty and shower and dress as if I was working real-world office hours. This is important for my ‘going to work’ mindset, though I only cross the landing to reach my study. I know authors who think the best thing about their job is working in PJs sitting up in bed but I also prefer to be dressed to deal with people coming to the door. In the current situation, it’s useful for virtual festival appearances or conference calls too.
Putting in the hours
It takes fifty to sixty hours a week for me to write and research two books a year; do the promo and other writing; and accomplish the biz admin. I try and cut procrastination and my big tip here is: prioritise. For me there’s always one task uppermost: first draft, editing or promo. I decide what it is then concentrate on it, fitting in social media, answering emails and admin around it. I also catch up on blogposts etc in bursts when I get to the end of a draft or edit. The promo landscape has completely changed so I’ve spent time learning software for virtual literary festivals that are replacing author events. I’m also maintaining awareness that others are working from home too and may not be able to react to me exactly as they used to. Productivity was never aided by whinging about things so I’m ready to make changes in the way I work with my publisher or agent when change is the best option. Everyone’s being so marvellously adaptable and creative! Supplementary tip: I separate house work and office work. Housework does not take place during office hours. Kinda handy because I hate it.
If I sat at my desk nonstop, I would become unhealthy.
I used to go to four exercise classes a week and walk on the other days, but only the walking has survived the current situation. Luckily, I have a large park local to me. The gym used to be great for my mental health too because I’d squeeze in a cuppa with my gym buddies before or after a class (and sometimes both). Now I’m working out to dance and yoga videos from one of my instructors and videos available on YouTube. I don’t keep a kettle and a packet of biscuits in my study because running up and downstairs to fuel up gets me out of my chair, preventing my body from seizing. Also, I have a sensible work chair with footstool and try not to flop around and give myself back problems while working.
I ask people not to call me or visit me during my working day but to text, WhatsApp and email, which I can deal with at my convenience. It’s unproductive to stop for a chat just because someone else has a gap in their day. If I’m writing, the thread is broken and never reattaches in the way it would have done without the interruption. I’d also like to train Puppy-in-law not to bark from beneath my desk when I’m looking after him but no success there yet. Top tip: I make exceptions for life or death situations or exceptionally good news.
I’m not great with overheard conversations or ringing phones though, again, I know authors who work best in the middle of the kitchen while family life erupts around them. If I’m writing a first draft I have instrumental music playing; if it’s promo I sometimes allow myself stuff with lyrics. Worst case, I’ll utilise my noise-cancelling headphones.
This is how working from home is looking for me right now. I’m fortunate to have an adaptable job and that not everyone’s so lucky … but it will be great when I can go on research trips or writing breaks in hot, sunny countries once again! Meantime, if you’re working from home too, enjoy it.