Friendly advice on working from home

Published 1:28 pm Friday, April 17, 2020

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Tracy K. Hall Americus Times-Recorder

By:  Tracy K. Hall ATR

I have done it. It is hard. Working from home is a special talent reserved for a certain type of personality and I ain’t got it! Some find having their business address and their work address being the same a great advantage. I theoretically can understand why there is good in it. But in my reality, “I need to go to the office” is in fact a real need. If you’re like me and need a little help finding your way, I offer what I wish I had known much earlier.

Set your alarm. Although it might not feel like it, there is only one true Saturday morning to sleep in. Fat Frank the Cat was the only being who knew I wasn’t showing up to work when my shift started. Quite frankly, Fat Frank was delighted her sleep wasn’t disturbed by an alarm clock. Get up and go get it just like you would if you were going into the office.

Set aside your same morning rituals. So you’re up, what now? Whatever you did when you went into the office. Cup of coffee, shower, devotional time, mentally review the upcoming workday—do those things. You have heard of muscle memory, this is similar. Your mind will start recognizing this is what we do when we go into the office. Mindset memory. I don’t know if there is such a term, but there should be, so I just made it up.

For the love of all that is precious, put some pants on. This perhaps was my biggest downfall. My wardrobe become a Mercer sweatshirt, circa 1990, yoga pants and socked feet.  You know the person in your office who can’t quite grasp casual Fridays don’t mean you wear pajama bottoms to work? I was now that person in my own home. It sounded like a great idea, this being as comfy as possible. Except, again, my mindset memory said we were getting ready to Netflix it out for the day. Mercer sweatshirt definitely has its precious place in my life. It just isn’t in my office.

Be forewarned, Judge Mathis will hold court right in the middle of your workday. So rude. Go ahead and count on it, there will be distractions singing a sweet siren song. I’d find myself all up in the middle of Lucy and John’s rent dispute. I would keep telling myself, “As soon as the judge rules on this case, I’m done.” The first time you tell yourself that you’ll hear the wise part of your humanity say, “Nope. Don’t even try it, you know we are done for the day if you climb in this pit.” But then you’ll start to really bargain with yourself. “What? You think you know me?” Or “Shut up you—if I was at work, I’d get a break.” Or “I have got to practice a little self-care here, all the therapists in the know would tell me this.” Before long, I had slipped into the pit. Three hours later I would wake up from a Judge Mathis nap all cozy in my Mercer sweatshirt with no desire to get back to work. Besides that, it was quitting time and tomorrow is a new day. Surely Lucy and John won’t be as riveting as it was today. Except it will be. It always is.

Know when it is quitting time. Just like knowing when you need to show up for work, you also need to know when it is time to shut it down. First, it is fair. Second, there is a very appropriate time for courtroom drama and after a day’s work, you deserve such an indulgence! The whole “leave work at work” advice is well meaning, but what happens when work is literally your home? Go through the same ritual you do when preparing to leave the office. Tidy up a bit, make tomorrow’s to do list, tie up loose ends and log off. I found I would have to shut my computer completely down. If it wasn’t easy to get on, I wasn’t as prone to sacrifice my home life to work. Again, mindset memory. Going through these little rituals sends a signal to your mind your workday has ended.

Those are the lessons I had to learn the hard way. All simple stuff really, but hard to practice so be gentle with yourself. And oh! For the ladies (or gentlemen if your so inclined), put on some lipstick. Lipstick is a game changer. Lipstick is the universal language of there is serious work to be done here. But you knew that already.