Tips for Working From Home From Angie Papple Johnston

Coronavirus is turning millions of workers into teleworkers – everyone’s working from home to help flatten the curve.

But let me tell you, cabin fever is a real thing.

I’ve been working from home for more than a decade – since I left the active-duty Army – and it took me a few years to really nail down the whole “home office + productivity” thing. If you’re driving the struggle bus through this uncharted territory, check out these tips for working from home to save your sanity, maintain your productivity, and most importantly, keep your job.

Tips for Working From Home - Angie Papple Johnston

5 Tips for Working From Home: Where I Went Wrong (at First)

When I first started working from home, my husband still had to go to work each day. I’d stay in my pajamas, turn on the computer, and get some things done – I’d get into a few ideological arguments on Facebook, write a document or two, and . After a few hours and a few pots of coffee, I’d make my way to the shower. It’d be mid-morning by that point. Then I’d go back to the computer, do some marketing for myself, write a few more things (and get into more arguments on Facebook) and call it a day.

But some days, I’d do more Facebooking and less writing. Or I’d clean the house. Or I’d run up to the store to pick up a few things. Some days, I’d do all three – and then have to stay up late to get my work done and meet my deadlines.

I let bad habits take over.

And then I had a baby, which throws off everything. I worked around the clock in those days. Baby on the lap. Baby in a baby-carrier. Baby napping on the sofa next to me. Up all night alternating between baby care and work. Walking the dogs with the baby in a stroller (I had a 125-pound dog and a puppy at the time, so that was always an adventure) just to get some exercise.

When my little guy finally started school, things got easier. But the bad habits started creeping in again, and – in all seriousness – my butt started getting bigger and bigger. I’d sit at my desk and work (or use social media) while munching away on stuff I didn’t need to be eating. I would spend hours glued to my chair, alternating between screwing around on the internet and doing real work.

But the worst part? When I got to the point where all the work I was doing was reactionary and born of panic. “CRAP! I promised this 5,000,000-word document would be in by tomorrow at 9 a.m. and all I’ve done is create the document… and it’s 11 p.m.”

Meanwhile, I was trying to work in being a good mom, get on the treadmill from time to time, walk the dogs, clean the house and do a zillion other tasks.

If I worked in an office, I’d leave the house. I wouldn’t be able to do the dishes, scrub the toilets or run to the kitchen to stuff my face every 37 seconds. I might even work out on my lunch break.

So then I decided things had to change. (My butt was still getting bigger and bigger, too.)

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5 Tips for Working From Home That Worked for Me

Here’s what I did:

  1. Get dressed. You wouldn’t go to the office in pajamas, which I really believe has a lot to do with productivity.
  2. Talk to other adults. In an office setting, you at least see other people – maybe exchange a few hellos or give each other the stink-eye – so it’s important to talk to a grown-up from time to time while you’re working from home. You can do this while you’re tackling #4.
  3. Stopped making fast-food trips to the kitchen. (The health thing is a whole ‘nother story – I’m now a certified group fitness instructor, but that didn’t happen until 2019.)
  4. Started getting up to move every 20 minutes. I set timers every 20 minutes, and unless I’m completely engrossed in something that I absolutely must finish, I get up from my desk and move for 5 to 10 minutes to clear my head.
  5. Installed StayFocusd on Chrome so that I couldn’t use social media. Now I’m out of the habit, but this was a lifesaver at first. During the week, I only use it to post new blog posts to my clients’ pages.

One other thing, too: Your friends and family probably won’t understand that although you’re home, you’re working. They will. not. stop. texting. and. calling. you. They’ll ask you to help them with things without even considering that you can’t – or shouldn’t – and you’ll feel bad. You’ll do it anyway because they’re your friends and family.

So turn off your phone. Put it in airplane mode. Stash it in another room. Limit the people who can get through by setting up lists. Do what you have to do to shut out the outside world.

Good luck. 

Tips for Working From Home From Someone Who's Done it for a Decade - Author Angie Papple Johnston