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Full transparency, I’ve backspaced about five different intros to this article. If that doesn’t scream “working from home in 2020,” I’m not sure what does. Work-wise, I was one of the fortunate ones (if there’s such a thing) when the pandemic hit. I’ve been a remote writer for years, my routine seemingly on auto-drive. Of course, pandemics don’t like routines.
The cluster of external distractions and the endless cycle of bad news has fried my internal writer’s brain into a tizzy at times and, ultimately, forced me to totally retool my work regime. With hopes it may help as you work from home whether you’re a writer or pursuing another artistic pursuit, I’d like to share that routine with you. So as we whirl through the daily rollercoaster of quarantine and beyond, here’s a simple guide that will keep you on the tracks no matter what the loop de loop is as you work remotely.
1. Have a designated workplace.
This is vital for both your mental health and productivity. While working in bed or on the couch sounds cozy, it associates your work stress with the places that are there to bring you sleep and comfort. Having a space solely set aside for writing, allows you to leave the job there at the end of the day. If you already have a separate home office, congratulations! You’re leaps and bounds ahead of the game. If not, do what you can to secure a writing area, even if it’s a little nook in your apartment.
2. Factor in commute time.
Remote work can have you rolling out of bed and into a rolly chair, but that’s not a good idea. Even though you’re not traveling to work, give yourself that transition time in the morning to wake up. A solid half-hour of “you time” will only enhance your later productivity. Grab a mug of coffee or step outside and breath away before you start the day. It’ll sharpen the brain and get those creative juices flowing.
3. Keep office hours.
Let’s say it again for the people in the back: keep office hours! Creating a schedule is imperative to staying on track. I like to have a whiteboard on my desk, where I map out my day each morning and then erase as I go. This will hold you accountable as a writer and get you into a timeline of finishing projects. It also aids with making sure you maintain a work/play balance.
4. Do not disturb.
I get it, the TV’s winking at you and it looks so nice outside, but during your work hours you have to eliminate distractions! There are focus apps you can download to keep your technology at bay, but the rest you’re going to have to reign in yourself. Here’s a tip: set goals and rewards. Once you finish “x” reward yourself with a distraction (or a cookie if you’re like me)!
5. Take breaks.
Preferably multiple. These are tough times, and self-care is of the utmost importance. So get up when you have to go to the bathroom. Take a lunch reprieve. Go for an hour walk in the middle of the day and check-in with a friend. Just step away from work when you're feeling tired. If you don’t believe me, here: Psychology Today states that “breaks increase productivity and creativity. Working for long stretches without breaks leads to stress and exhaustion.” See!
While remote work sounds like a writer’s dream, remember: we’re fragile creatures, who typically fall in a gray area between observers and agoraphobics. We need structure. So create that however you can and, above all else, be gentle with yourself.
Robert Peterpaul is an actor, writer, and the owner of RPP, which aims to assist talent in the entertainment industry in honing their craft.