Until I sat down to write this article, I hadn't really thought about the number of years that I've been regularly working from home. The truth is that I've mostly worked with a kid attached to me since I became a mom almost 8 years ago. Right after I had my son, I started working in my dad's office (thanks, Dad!) with my tiny son sleeping (mostly) in a sling as I bustled around the office.
Since those days my working landscape has changed dramatically. I work from home while the rest of my team works 1000 miles away. I work at a desk in my dining room, surrounded by the giant dog, the kids' unfinished craft projects, and the smell of whatever happened to be sauteed at dinner last night. As glamorous as I know you are thinking this lifestyle is, I have learned the ways to make it WORK. Here, I bequeath to you the first two lessons.
LESSON #1: MAKE YOUR OWN ENERGY
My favorite mind-altering substance by far is caffeine. Disclosure: I have tried very few mind-altering substances. This is not a scientific comparison.
Lately, even caffeine can't bring me the get-up-and-go that the commercials promise me. You know, that perky desire to grind away at your desk for 8 hours, then walk home like strutting Leo Dicaprio? I don't have that. But I have found two things that help:
I went to a 5:30 am yoga class once. ONCE. Going to a 5:30 am yoga class means getting up at 5:00, putting on yoga clothes and driving to the gym. I am a morning person, but NO.
But the effects of doing early morning stretches are awesome. There really is something to getting a little bit of movement and blood flow and all that good stuff. So go to the crazy-early yoga class, if you want to. But some good stretches that feel nice and don't require special clothes or mats are fine.
The #1 best thing that I have found to start my work day is music. I can't often work with music in the background (I know some people can. I get easily distracted). So before I even start working, I put on some good music and let myself rock out for a few minutes. I'll usually do this while I straighten up my work area, which brings us to...
LESSON #2: YOU CAN'T FUNCTION IN A MESS
Let me say that again: you cannot function in a mess. You THINK you can function in a mess. And if you are screaming at your screen right now, "Says YOU, Crazy Lady, I work way better in a mess than I do in a tidy space," then I would love to know how your brain works.
I am a firm believer in the concept of "tidy space, tidy mind." I have learned to achieve this tidy space with perfection. I have an immaculately clean house all the time.
Hahahahahaha, jokes! Every morning, after my kids have strewn the dining table with paper from half-finished books that they are writing and 800 staples that they have gone through to try to force the stapler to go through 15 folded sheets, and the mostly-dried syrup from breakfast, which now GLUES the paper scraps TO THE TABLE, and I walk into that space and try to work? I am STRESSED and I CANNOT FOCUS. If you wonder how two children, ages 6 and 7, can make that much of a mess between the hours of waking and going to school, I encourage you to borrow two children of similar ages for a week. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
The takeaway here is this: you do not have to clean your entire house to clear your mind. You DO need to tidy your working space, preferably the entire room where you work, but your desk area at the very least. It takes between 5 and 20 minutes each morning to keep this space clear (45 minutes plus whining if you enlist the help of your children). Put on your tunes, tidy your space, and you will feel better all day and get a lot more done.
Gentlewomen, more lessons are to come. Until then, go put on some music and let yourself rock out, then GO FORTH AND CONQUER.
P.S. Did you know that I can help YOU get more done? I can help you meet deadlines, accomplish your goals, and take on the world. I work with women like you, one-on-one to help you Go Forth and Conquer. Check it out here.