How to Work from Home
1. The night before, set your alarm for super early so that you will be able to get a jump start on the day.
2. When the alarm goes off, hit snooze.
3. Hit snooze a few more times.
4. Feel guilty about hitting snooze.
5. Hit snooze again.
6. Realize that the sun is up. Panic.
7. Get up, get dressed, shower, eat. Theoretically, you could work un-showered and in your pajamas, but you'll regret it in the long run. Seriously.
8. Peek outside to check the weather. If foul, feel smug that you work from home and don't have to go out in it. If fair, pity yourself because you work from home and don't get to go out in it.
9. Decide to work non-stop until lunch.
10. Immediately start wondering if it's lunchtime yet.
11. Check the clock. It's 9:48. Get back to work.
12. Check the clock. Decide that 10:30 is a perfectly respectable time for an early lunch.
13. Eat lunch.
14. Get back to work.
15. Wonder if 11:30 is too early for afternoon coffee.
16. Remind yourself that if you had gotten up early, as you had planned, you would already be done by now.
17. Write passive-aggressive notes to stick on your nightstand in reminder of the dire consequences of hitting snooze. On your phone, change the name of your morning alarm from "Wake up!" to "Don't Hit Snooze, You Moron!"
18. Make afternoon coffee to fortify yourself for phone calls and/or Skype sessions with clients/editors/students/etc.
19. Remember that you have not yet seen other humans today. Check mirror to ensure that you are presentable from at least the waist up.
20. Conduct Skype sessions and/or phone calls.
21. Feel that you've earned a nap, but struggle with the knowledge that if you lie down now, you'll have to work after dinner to finish the day's quota.
22. Brew more coffee.
23. Ignore the fact that from where you sit, you can see your bed. It looks inviting, cozy, and warm. Power through its gravitational pull.
24. Finally establish a productive groove, only to field phone calls from friends/family. Laugh at their jokes about how you work from home and therefore are probably just now starting your work day.
25. Decide to check social media for "just a second." Come out of haze and wonder what's happened to the last forty-five minutes. Contemplate throwing your phone onto the roof.
26. Re-establish productive groove. Fall into partially-hypnotic state. Blink, look at the clock, and realize that you've lost a significant swath of time.
27. Power through the rest of your daily quota, hoping to finish in time to eat dinner before dark.
28. Take a long walk around the neighborhood, partly for the exercise and partly to remind yourself that other humans exist.
29. Go home, watch a little TV, read a book, get ready for bed.
30. Set your alarm for super early so that you will be able to get a jump start on the next day.
* * *
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that the above list is not an entirely accurate account of my current work-from-home experience. For instance, there are only two days a week that I don't have to get up by 4:30 for a brutal early-morning training session at my gym. Those two off days, though, are days when I continually tell myself that I'm going to get up at 4:30 and jump-start my work day... only I never do. Instead I hit snooze until the sun comes up.
Because I can.
Toward the end of my thirteen years as a classroom teacher, I would generally spend the bulk of my non-travel summer days writing. During those summer work-from-home days, I would have added "Resist spontaneous road trips" and "Pretend the beach isn't five minutes away" to the above list.
Over the weekend, I read The Way of the Fight by MMA champion Georges St. Pierre and was surprised to discover many points in common between his life and mine. For one thing, he claims that he trains for speed and agility rather than to form big muscles or to look good. Incidentally, that's also why I train. (A key difference being that he, unlike me, actually does have big muscles that look good and that he also trains in order to choke people out in an octagon. But let's not quibble over minor details.) Another point in common is our shared belief in consistent daily effort. In his book, he discusses the importance of giving 100% every day, especially on the days he doesn't feel like showing up for training. He believes that those are the days that matter most in the long run.
Freelancing from home has taught me a similar lesson. In fact, I have this quote from writer John Dufresne pasted to my coffee maker: "Writing is a craft which favors the diligent over the inspired." The idea of artistic inspiration is much misunderstood, even by creatives themselves. The truth is that success in any given field requires that you show up every day and work, whether you happen to feel inspired or not. Of course there are days that inspiration comes, and those days are glorious. However, those days are the exceptions rather than the rule.
Most days, work is just that.
Work that requires discipline, diligence, and determination.
And yes, I include you in this, stay-at-home moms. You're the ultimate examples of what working from home should look like. Sun or sleet, sickness or health, day in and day out, you get up and get it done. You make the breakfasts, clean up the spilled drinks, pack the lunches, track everyone's various schedules, clean up vomit, run errands, balance budgets, administer first aid, and handle a million crises before lunch--all of this whether you feel "inspired" or not.
I look on you with awe and yearn for the day that I can emulate your work ethic.
Because then maybe I'll begin to understand what it really means to work from home.