When I started working out of my house, I read a gazillion-and-one tips on how to maximize productivity and stay healthy. I approached things like I was studying for a bar exam, hoping that between acute focus, earnest intentions and osmosis, I would follow every rule to the letter and become a telecommuting super-human.
Like many things – New Year’s Resolutions being a prime example – I learned that there’s a Grand Canyon-worth of distance between trying to do the right thing and actually doing the right thing. I still do eye-exercises religiously, shower each morning and check off my list of daily tasks, but here are three pledges I failed to honor when I started working remotely:
I will sleep more, not less than … more
With a commute that lasted all of 20 seconds, I assumed that I would get more sleep than usual by working out of my house. It was a natural conclusion, and I envisioned days where I would eke out an extra hour in my warm bed before waking up, fresh as a daisy, with a huge amount of energy to power through the day’s schedule. Unfortunately, this was not the case. More often than not, I found myself getting up at 0’dark thirty, logging in and volleying emails with people on the East Coast.
So, what did I do? I tried to change my sleep clock. I knew I had to make a choice: work late or work early. As someone who is more productive in the morning, stumbling, sleepy-eyed or not, I tried to get to sleep early. I really did. When I realized I would have to whittle down my already-short nights of playing Halo or catching the latest episode of The Walking Dead, this promise became a no-go.
I will take a regular lunch, not inhale food at my computer
Full disclosure: when it comes to eating during work, I’m a full-fledged hypocrite. I tell anyone I come across – telecommuter or not – that eating a healthy, well-balanced lunch consumed during a somewhat-leisurely time frame is not just recommended, but essential. However, I should mention that I write this in between rushed bites of food as deadline approaches, and I recently even developed my own math equation on this topic. Important project + rapidly approaching deadline = eating faster than a Cheetah on a caffeine overdose. I should also confess that I just dropped a metric ton of ranch dressing onto my pants, chair and purse, all thanks to a lethal combo of speed eating and being completely fixated on my screen. That’s a fail if I’ve ever seen one.
I will not work in bed under any circumstances
Ah, yes. Working in bed. Sleep experts say you should use your bed for sleeping and possibly “relations,” but not for working, reading, eating, playing Mah Jong, etc. A recent survey showed that cell phones have killed the three-day weekend and that as long as people have their mobiles, they’re plugged into the Matrix 24/7.
If that’s true, then my tablet murdered the time I’m supposed to be, you know, sleeping. For me, it starts with a game of Bejeweled and then continues with a chirp from an incoming email and evolves into checking email and Twitter and eventually finger-tapping work-related messages, all of this way past my bedtime.
Do I answer emails from that long, lost cousin who narrowly cheated death during an elaborate car accident? No, but I will answer messages from salespeople I’ve never met, especially ones offering extremely over-priced advertising deals where the odds of me taking them are Slim and None, and Slim just moved out with his friend Not-A-Chance.
Like many telecommuters, I’ve learned to kinda/sorta accept my flaws while making constant tweaks and improvements to work from home life. It’s a long slog and one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but as long as haven’t dropped a gallon of ranch dressing on my shirt, I consider each day a victory.