Hey friends. Today I’m sharing my story and a few tips for others who also work from home. I’m sure lots of you who are out in the work place every day shoveling out your car at 6am are wondering WHY in the world I would write this – just be grateful! So many people have come up to me since I started working from home saying things like “oh you’re so lucky!”. Today I’m getting real about working from home.
If I’m being completely honest I would not ever trade working from home with anything else! I am very thankful for this opportunity. It’s truly a blessing from the Lord and I am so grateful to my employer for supporting me. I don’t want to act like it’s anything other than a good thing for me. However, what most people don’t know is that I started working from home because of health reasons. Real lucky, right? In the last year I’ve become a lot more vocal about my health condition in order to be a better spokesperson for others who also suffer chronic illness. I suppose in efforts to continue in that goal I share this with you here… but it’s still not easy. The stigma with chronic illness – especially one like mine that deals with fatigue – doesn’t carry a positive rep. Most people are marked lazy, unmotivated, or straight up stupid before they are ever diagnosed by a doctor with their condition or illness. The connotation continues even if your lucky enough to have an illness that can be helped with medication. Often by the time a doctor diagnoses the condition, your family members, friends, or coworkers have already finalized in their minds the idea that you are lazy, helpless, or just a bad worker. This is why I often keep to myself about my illness. Unfortunately there is no cure for my condition and I’ll live the rest of my life with a lot of the symptoms. What does all of this have to do with working from home you ask? Well, I’ll tell you… but first there’s [just a little] more back story you need to know!
Growing up I was the type of girl who wanted to get up and preach, stand up for something, be a revolutionary! I wanted to be the first 12 year old CEO or start an underground movement of some kind. Big things. As a teenager school didn’t come easy to me (don’t ya love the system we have?) but I still dove HARD head first into what I knew was helping to change the world. I was a go getter! As an adult when I got my first job (outside of ministry) in my field I was ready to go! I knew with my illness it was going to be very difficult. At first I honestly did not know if I could do it. When I started working I found such purpose in my work it gave me a little extra fuel in my tank. I loved my organization and my partner I was working with. We make a difference every time we step into the classroom – kids lives were changed with the information they received. At the same time I was doing ministry with my husband and even with my part time day job I felt like I was fulfilling my goals and dreams.
About a year into my time working in the real world I realized that I could no longer keep up with the necessary pace of life. God has been very good to me and given me strength in so many circumstances where it should not have been physically possible for me to keep going. At this point, however, I was really pushing it and my body was about to completely give out. When my doctor gave me a harsh wake up call I knew I had to completely change my lifestyle. I felt like a failure because not working anymore meant I can’t contribute to my family financially. We needed the money. What was I to do? Clark and I had a hard conversation but we both knew what I needed to do. I scheduled an appointment with my boss. Can I just say… God really knew what He was doing when He placed me under my boss and at my organization. God really knows how to run my life better than I do. When I went into the coffeeshop to meet my boss. We had an open and honest conversation that frankly I went through scared to death! She had done so much for me even on a personal level – I really appreciated her. Quitting felt like I was quitting on her. I didn’t want to let her down. Luckily for me there was a need in the company for someone who could do social media and some other things… from home! It sounded like a dream come true – and it was! My boss yet again was so gracious and understanding… she saw my true value. She believes in me! God provided a way for me to still make a little bit of money and also continue to help the cause!
Everything should be hunky-dory now, right? Well, in way it is. I’m able to earn some extra money, help an amazing organization that fights for what I believe, and I’m working from home. I went into my new chapter of life looking forward to rest and rehabilitation. I pulled out my yoga mat and bought some sweatpants. Life couldn’t get better! The first few months I enjoyed being a hermit and I actually benefited from some alone time. I had a morning routine and did my devos. I got things done around the house more because I had the time to stretch it out and not over do it. I felt like a better wife. There are so many benefits to working from home! We also bought our first house during this time and I was able to really get us settled in. Another benefit of both our new home and my flexible schedule is that as youth pastors we can have many students come through our doors. What a blessing. I mean that in the most genuine and least cliche way.
However, once the new year hit I started to experience a bit of cabin fever. The novelty of staying home kinda wore off and I felt a bit stir crazy. We only have one car so often I didn’t even have the ability to leave the house. I felt like a bit of my independence was taken and all the other women were out there in the world making things happen. Once again, my illness had derailed me. Also all that alone time started to feel very… alone.
It’s taken me some time to figure out a healthy schedule for myself and it is very hard to stick to it sometimes. I know there are several other workers from home or stay at home mom’s who feel the pull as well. When it’s good – it’s great. When it’s bad – it’s discouraging. I have a few tips for you that I think will really help!
Find and follow your custom schedule that’s perfect for YOU
Each of us is different and it’s up to you to find the balance in your life. Some people have very structured routine that allows them to be most productive. Others have a basic outline but are okay with more flexibility. I myself use the basic outline method and try to enjoy each day at a time with the unique adventures it brings. There are certain things I’ve figured out about my productivity level and what boosts it. I require 8-9 hours of sleep to feel my best the following day. I feel great when I wake up between 4am and 5am or between 10am and 11am. My best morning looks somethings this: wake up, take meds, turn on heat downstairs, rest in bed for 30 mins (and not check my email), make a cup of coffee, “wake up” the house (meaning open all the shades, let the cats out, feed them, water plants, but a GF bagel in the toaster), and sit down in my living room to start my day. Usually among the first things I do in the morning consists of devo time, yoga a couple times a week, get out my laptop and start working, a walk outside in the afternoon if it’s warm, and if Clark is lucky – preparing dinner in the crockpot.
I don’t do well when I wake up too late into the afternoon, or do the exact opposite and overbook myself thinking my schedule is more flexible than it is. I have three different organizations/jobs that I work for during the week and I divide the week up by days and hours of focus. I try to schedule all my appointments on Wednesday or maybe Thursday so I can concentrate on Tuesday being at home. Structure is good. Having that said…
Do things to treat yourself
A little spontaneity won’t kill you! Within your schedule and structure I’ve found you still need a little fresh air or enjoyable activity. Take advantage of the fact you DO work from home – just don’t abuse it. If you feel like taking a break, take one! If you want to work in your PJ’s from your bed for one day, do it! Just don’t allow your “treats” to become every day. I often reward myself with a work from bed day if I was wicked productive the day before.
Maintaining some normalcy and structure that you have before your time at home I’ve found is very helpful. You need to feel accomplished but also free! I find peace and rest in this combination. Balance is key.
Leave the house – even if it’s a trip to the post office
My husband started suggesting I leave the house every day even for a quick short trip somewhere. I was like “Why? I’m fine!”
Clearly he knows me well enough that he could tell I would benefit from coming out of the hermit shell. I’m not gunna lie – I probably don’t leave the house every single day, but it’s my goal. I’m becoming more and more like my father every day because I find incredible amounts of joy going to the post office. The closest post office to me is 5 minutes away AND on the ocean. Mail and sea. Le sigh. It’s the most peaceful and beautiful drive. My head it totally clear when I go. I can’t wait until Spring and I can stop the car and spend time in the sand!
Play focus music while you’re working
I love Spotify for many reasons but one is because they have mood channels. There is a whole selection of “focus” music for you to choose from. Maybe you can focus to some nice classical or jazz. I found having a bit of noise in the house helps as well. Sometimes I can work to the tv on depending on what project I’m on, but mostly it’s distracting. Music is the best bet!
Have a “work from home” day with someone / schedule a public meet up
My good friend Kem is a work from home mom and suggested we start working form home – together! She’s the type that likes to leave the house – and I’m the type that likes to have people over my house! Perfect. I get some human interaction in every other Wednesday when she comes. I don’t have any coworkers anymore and didn’t realize how much I would miss that. She also brings her son, my nephew, and it’s a joy to know he will grow up with his auntie around to love on him! Whatever your field is – post something locally about meeting a coffeeshop to work together. I have a photographer friend who does this with other photographers every Friday. There are many professions who don’t necessarily work for a company from home but are free lance and also enjoy these meet ups. Highly recommended!
Get out of your PJ’s… or at least wear cute ones!
I’ve found that if I get dressed in the morning I feel refreshed and ready for a new day. Otherwise I’m tempted to just stay in bed and slouch around. I also feel more human and normal. Even if you just change into something comfy and cute – it helps! You don’t need to put on your business casual – whatever makes you feel motivated! Sometimes I don’t see the point in wasting an outfit only my cats will see. That’s why I’m an avid fan of CuddlDuds and Arie… lounge wear! Amen y amen.
Your surroundings matter
Sort of like why you should change into real clothes – you should create a space in your home where it’s clean, organized, not cluttered, and beautiful! Some place you love to work from. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a space for a home office. You could also get creative a do these ever popular closet offices if you don’t. Make your living and work space beautiful. This matters. I’m sure it’s scientific of some kind. A clean and clutter free work space promotes productivity.
So, there you have some tips for working from home. I’m still learning so I’m sure somewhere down the road I’ll have a part 2 to this post. Hope these things helped, because there is a great benefit and joy that can come from a flexible schedule or working from home. Make the most of it! If you’re like me, don’t be discouraged that an illness may be partly why you work from home. Count it as a blessing that with your health you can still make a living!
I want to hear from YOU! Who else works from home and what do you do? Any tips I missed that you found work well?