In the months since going from working a day job to being a full-time writer and podcaster, I've gotten plenty of tips on how to stay sane and focused while working from home — the same tips many people are receiving now. Here's the thing: these lists of tips act like they work perfectly well for every person. They don't. Here's what I've learned as someone who's been doing this for a little while now.
Self-discipline is finite.
When I transitioned to being my own boss, I told my therapist I was worried about not having the discipline it took to stay on top of my work. First off, she laughed, because I am so prone to overworking myself. But then, she explained to me that discipline is a finite resource we can run out of each day.
Think about all of the decisions you make each day: the decision to not snooze your alarm clock, the decision to eat a healthy meal, the decision to not procrastinate on that big project.
Those are the big decisions, but there are plenty of smaller ones too: brushing your teeth, which outfit to wear, engaging on social media. By the time work starts, most of us are already fatigued without even realizing it.
If you're worried about your level of discipline, the best thing you can do is be kind to yourself. It's okay if your podcast goes on hiatus right now. It's okay if you don't make the next great podcast, too. It's okay if you need to take a step back and let your brain relax.
What works for others might not work for you.
The most persistent tip I got when transitioning to freelance was having a consistent routine. I was told I should still work normal work hours, still dress like I was going to work, etc. This tip did nothing for me but stress me out and make me feel like I was doing something wrong when I worked better at inconsistent times.
I am not a routine person. I am also someone who does not think the 40-hour workweek makes sense. So why would I apply those rules to myself?
Pay attention to what your brain and body are telling you. They'll give you better advice than any stranger on the internet.
I started waking up when I felt rested, eating when I felt hungry, wearing what made me feel good, and working when my brain was ready. Instead of seeing my productivity dip, it jumped way higher — because I was paying attention to myself and my needs. Humans are strange, idiosyncratic creatures. Acting like a simple list will apply to everyone is silly.
For most who are working right now, there are still some routines you'll probably need to keep up by merit of working for a company. Still, try to focus on yourself and your own needs. Pay attention to what your brain and body are telling you. They'll give you better advice than any stranger on the internet.
Create, but also engage.
Right now, there seems to be a push to create something while we all “have the time” (though I'd argue that those of us still working do not have the time). I do not believe that fulfilling, or even good, art comes from feeling like you should create something. I believe fulfilling, good art comes from care, passion, and inspiration — and there's no better method of lighting those fires than engaging in other great art.
Engage in great media and get inspired. Don't create because you feel like you're supposed to.
If you want to keep consistently podcasting right now, engage in more media that will inspire you. Listen to those podcasts you've been sleeping on instead of allocating that time to writing a script.
Watch that movie you missed on its theatrical run instead of coming up with the new great pandemic podcast (I promise you, we do not need more podcasts about the pandemic.) Engage in great media and get inspired. Don't create because you feel like you're supposed to.
Working from home has a steep learning curve exacerbated by a list of “should”s. Listen to yourself instead. Get in touch with how you work best. Get in touch with what inspired you to create.