Working from home has become the new norm for a lot of people. Whether you’re telecommuting in place of going to your normal office or you operate a business out of your home, working from home comes with its own set of challenges. Not least among these is keeping things exciting and interesting. I know that when I started working from home, I found out very quickly that things can get very boring and it was hard to keep focused on the more monotonous tasks. When I found myself getting bored or unfocused, I would eventually meander into non-work-related things. Social media, YouTube, mind-numbing games, they would all distract me from my true goals. This caused me to sit down and reevaluate things a little. After much trial and error, I finalized a list that helps me work in a way that not only kept me focused but also increased my productivity. These are my five most creative ways to work from home.
I’ve always been a musical person. I play several orchestral instruments and I appreciate the talent and effort that goes into all music, even if I don’t really care for the genre. Understanding this, I decided I would try listening to music to help keep me focused. At first, this was counterproductive as I was listening to my favorite bands. I found myself getting lost in the words to the music. I was singing along so much that I forgot what I was doing. After realizing this, I immediately switched to something soothing and relaxing. As you can imagine, this also turned out to work against me. My focus became clearer but I was losing time. I was relaxed, alright. Relaxed to the point that I was unenergetic. Next, I tried audiobooks, but that, too, was detrimental to my work. I was too busy listening to the story that I forgot what I needed to do.
My fourth attempt was going to be my last, I told myself, before I nixed the idea and moved on. I had learned that relaxation music helped me stay focused and anything with words distracted me. Being somewhat of a cinephile and a musicophile, I loaded up my Pandora, typed in “Film Scores” and started listening. Immediately, it was night and day. Going from the incredibly impactful music of composers like John Williams to the light hearted music of Danny Elfman and Michael Giacchino with a direct transition into the music from Howard Shore helps keep my mind working, my fingers moving, and time flying.
Now you may not have the same type of outcome with the same music as I did. You may work better with musicians like Metallica or Luke Brian or Taylor Swift. You may work better listening to a light-hearted podcast or an audiobook. That’s perfectly okay. The point is to experiment and find what works best for you.
Change of Scenery
You know one of my favorite things about working from home? You aren’t tied down to a local. “Home” can be anywhere. So often, though, we work-from-home-ers get trapped in the “home office” mentality. We have a space or a room which we have designated as our office and we will coop ourselves up in that space to do our work. This can be dangerously counterproductive for the same reason why you are seeing less and less cubical farms in office buildings around the country. Doing something as simple as going to a different room or a different place every so often can make a world of difference in how you work.
If I look out my front window, I can see a steep hill that acts as a levy. Just on the other side of that levy is a river. It’s a beautiful place to take a nice, quiet walk and think. When I woke up this morning around dawn, I took the trash out and I was immediately struck by what a beautiful morning it was: around 70°, low humidity for my area, and not a cloud in the sky. I walked straight back into the house, packed up my laptop, grabbed a bagel and cream cheese with two bottles of water, threw a lawn chair in my truck, and drove less than a thousand feet over the levy to one of my favorite little spots along the river. As I’m writing this article, I’m sitting in my lawn chair, laptop on my knees, basking in the sun and listening to the flow of the river. I have to say, I am truly enjoying myself as I write this article, and much of that has to do with the environment I chose to write it in.
Find or Rediscover a Hobby
It’s really easy to get lost in this grind, I know. That’s why I decided that I was going to take full advantage of working from home. I’m the type that loves to learn new skills and to live new adventures. I hate feeling stagnate. When I first started working from home, that’s how I felt…stagnate. I wasn’t really learning anything new so much as applying and honing skills I already possessed. So, I sat down and made a list of things I either didn’t know or I wanted to know more about. Then, I started to figure out how to learn them.
I had always loved to cook. It was therapy for me. Creating something with MY hands that would provide both nourishment and enjoyment to those that ate it was a huge boost to my mood so I started learning more about it. I focused on flavor profiles, complimentary ingredients, different ethnic foods, and baking (always my weak point). I started gardening again which was in part to help in my cooking, but also to satiate my need to do some physical labor.
Another hobby that I recently picked up was blacksmithing. I think that, like cooking, it was driven by a need to create. Let me tell you, blacksmithing is a hot, dirty, time-consuming trade to learn with so many aspects that I was woefully unprepared for. The first thing I made was a small knife and, to be honest, it was terrible. I seemingly wasted a lot of time and money learning the nuance of banging a piece of hot metal. Now, after several months of learning, almost every knife I use in my kitchen was made in my garage. And that’s a satisfying thing to say.
What are you passionate about? What are you curious about? I know there’s something that you’ve always wanted to try or learn. What better time than now? And if not now, when? Who knows, it may lead to another way for you to earn a living working from home. Which brings us to our next topic.
Doing the same thing over and over again gets really boring really fast. If you don’t already know this, then trust me…it does. When I first started freelancing, all the jobs I took were of the same ilk. I got good at them. I could crank them out one after another after another. Eventually, though, I started feeling more like a factory than a person. I felt like Henry Ford when he developed his first assembly line. Yes, I was producing a lot of work and yes, they were consistent, but it got to the point where they were all the same. I wasn’t submitting bad work, but all the work I did submit was essentially interchangeable. I got bored with it and was more worried about completing as much as I could, focused on quantity more so than quality.
This is when I decided to look to do something in a completely unrelated field. After completing a few tasks in this new field, you know what I found out? I had actually gained skills and productivity in both fields. It reminds me of something my Economics professor told me in college: “It’s always better to have 5 jobs that make you $20,000 a year each than having one job that makes you $100,0000.” The root of it is that the more you’re able to diversity, the more engaging and lucrative your work-at-home experience will be.
Watching What You Eat
Uh oh…here comes some lecture about dieting. No…not really. It’s more of a discussion on eating for maximum energy. When I first started working from home, honestly, I put on a lot of weight. I was more sedentary than I had been previously so I was obviously burning fewer calories. Also, being home all the time meant that I had ready access to food all the time. I’ve never been an unhealthy eater, nor have I had much of a sweet tooth. Candies and desserts were something I can completely live without.
My problem? Pasta. It was so easy for me to cook a one-pound box (yes, an entire box) of pasta and eat it all. I didn’t need sauce, just some butter, salt and garlic. I found out very quickly that loading down on that many carbs, while it gave you lots of energy eventually, to a LOT of energy to get it digested. I would inevitably eat myself into a food coma every day, hitting that wall around an hour after lunch every day where I would like I was made out of lead. After about a week of this, I decided to make a change.
Luckily, I love raw veggies. Some fresh carrots and bell pepper with ranch dip are the perfect snacks for me. I understand that many people don’t share my affinity to these foods, though, so let me offer you an alternative. If you are one of those with an insatiable sweet tooth, get a package of cream cheese and a jar of marshmallow cream. Let the cream cheese soften at room temperature then mix them together. Then, dip your favorite fruit in the mixture. Sliced apples, grapes, pineapple, strawberries, whatever you like. It adds up to the perfect balance of sweet and light. If that doesn’t work, just try moderating yourself just a touch. Don’t stop eating anything, just try eating a little less at once. You’re at your own home at your own desk. Who’s going to tell you that you can’t have food at your desk?
Find Your Own Path
You know, when I was writing this article, I was thinking about it like some sort of “self-help” guide. The truth of the matter is that the best place to get self-help is from the SELF. These are MY creative tricks to make working from home easier, but honestly, they may not work for you. What I want you to take away from this more than anything is that there is always room for improvement. Look at ways to combine what you like to do with what you have to do. Anyone who works from home will tell you that it’s a lot harder than it seems and comes with a very unique set of challenges. Unique challenges require unique solutions. These were MY solutions. Hopefully they can help you find yours