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An Author's Top WFH Tips

Most will have already adapted to a standard of "new normal" as the coronavirus pandemic has forced us to shift, change, and embrace different ways of living, socialising, and working that many wouldn't have ever considered before, well...y'know...a virus spread itself across the globe. You may have heard about it.


Thankfully, it appears that the antiquated idea that workers need to be in an office—as opposed to trusting them to do their damn job from wherever possible instead—has finally begun to crumble away.

Businesses have been forced to acknowledge that as long as workers have the motivation, a space to work, and a reliable internet connection, they can do their job anywhere. All it took was a global pandemic to shake them out of their "it's always been this way, and so it will always be this way" mindset.


Granted, as an important caveat, this isn't applicable for all jobs, but for so many, it wholly applies, which leaves so many with a natural confusion as they potentially migrate from commutes and 9-5 lifestyles to a resituated home office or workstation.

Since leaving my last "normal" job, I've been fortunate enough to be able to write and work wherever I've wanted to. I've loved the freedom this has given me (prior to lockdowns, natch), and there is zero doubt it's better suited to who I am as a person. But as many have discovered, whether you're an author, teacher, secretary, etc., working from home comes with its own unique challenges.

So, I wanted to share some tips with those working from home who haven't managed to adjust just yet or are only just beginning. None of these are golden rules, of course. More…personal learns from a writer who has been doing this WFH schtick for a while and has managed to find what works for him, so be aware that your mileage may vary.


Okay, ready?



Take Breaks


Trust is required when working from home. It may be obvious to some, but there are those in a pre-pandemic world who, essentially, ruined it for the rest of us. Typically by drifting along and treating WFH as a day off.

That being said, staying glued to your monitor or screen for an entire shift is a one-way trip to headaches, eye strain, and potential back problems, so be sure to take breaks when you need to.


Even after a few years of writing at home, I still find myself losing track of time and not listening to my body. Then, having not moved much, my bones crack, and my body rails against me as I attempt to stretch or move when I finally realise hours have passed.


Taking breaks is imperative to finding a healthier WFH mentality. Whether it's stretching out, making another cup of coffee, or doing the washing up you've put off for the past few days...


*looks at kitchen sink*


Oh God, how do we have so many plates? How did they get so dirty! What have we even been eating off of if all the dishes are here?!


Get Fresh Air


Go outside.


I know, I know, there are other people out there, and they're the worst, right? But getting some fresh air to clear the cobwebs away can help you find different ways to tackle potential problems.

I've often found myself needing to step away from my keyboard because I've overworked myself by grabbing as many stories as possible, turning work into a depressing conveyor belt or, alternatively, finding myself in a narrative or character slump.


Getting out and unshackling yourself from your workspace can help reveal unexpected solutions, especially if you allow yourself to zone out a bit and allow your subconscious to take over.


At best, it will help you feel refreshed and find a new angle.


At worst, you'll have left the house and gotten some exercise.


Oh wait, that's a win/win.



Wash Your Eyes/Face

This may seem like an odd recommendation, but give it a go. When you're taking a short break, try filling your hands with some warm water and just pressing it to your face.


Another thing to try are eye baths or mist sprays to help hydrate the old seeing orbs. You'd be amazed how frazzled and tired those things get after multiple extensive sessions staring at an uncaring screen for days on end. Or not. Gotta look after them ol' peepers, after all.

Couple this eye care/face wash with taking a few breaks, and you should feel a bit better when settling down in front of the keyboard.


Eat


To be more specific: eat well.

Don't just shovel your body full of snacks and quick microwavable meals. Go the extra mile and make smart decisions over what you're putting into your body. You'll feel the benefits pretty quickly.


Whether it's a fruit bowl with honey drizzled on top or healthier homemade lunches, those few extra minutes of preparation can really pay off versus inhaling multiple chocolate bars for the "energy boost" or eating another plate of beige for the sheer convenience.

Hydrate

As important as eating well is making sure you remember to hydrate. And, no, water being a core component in tea and coffee doesn't count, Sharon, so sit down and shut up and drink your water! Jeez.

I'm sorry you had to see that.


If you find it hard to remember to drink water, why not make it a habit to have a glass whenever you take a break, or go to the bathroom, or while making yourself another cup of tea/coffee?

Alternatively, get one of those water bottles you fill up at the beginning of the day and make sure you hit your water targets as hours zoom by with a multitude of Zoom meetings.


Get Distracted

This may seem like an odd recommendation, but it's an important one.

Remember:



Surf the internet for a bit, catch up on some of the articles you saved to your Reading List (only to forget about for months if not years on end...What? Just me?), watch YouTube and fall down a shallow rabbit hole, whatever helps you detach and recover.


Most importantly during this time, reach out to family and friends. Check-in, talk, and have a chit chat. It's the equivalent of water cooler talk and helps you reconnect with the people you care about.

Working from home can be a lonely experience. If you write for a living, you tend to be alone for long periods of time, so that human contact (albeit through a screen) can make a huge difference to mood and health.


I've written for a few sites with virtual workspaces set up within Slack, etc., and found that unless you're within the inner circle, you're pretty much ignored. The experience can be just as tough as being ignored in a real-life workplace.


So, take the time to contact and connect with the people you already have in your life. And don't stress if they can't get back to you straight away—they're probably too busy working from home, too. Friends will get back to you when they can, just like you'll get back to them.


You know, like how you just remembered you got that text from someone like, what, a week ago? TWO WEEKS AGO?! Jeez, time flies in this pandemic time bubble, huh.

Well, what are you waiting for? Go text them back!


Find Your Focus


"Wait, what? But you just said—"

Hear me out.

It's way too easy to allow yourself to shift from taking a deserved break to slipping into full-on procrastination. Most of the time, you don't even realise it happened.


How did making a cup of coffee turn into enjoying it with a YouTube video on? When did that YouTube video become a rabbit hole of existential exploration—wait, is that a flat earth video? You know what...maybe I should just ask some quest—


STOP. NO. DO NOT.


That's you wildly diverging from what was meant to be a short break. Also, sanity.



Recognising that slip, however, is vital.

So, make sure to sit down, find your focus, and do that work, man! One word after another for long enough will write a book after all, but only if you work at it. So focus up.

Re-Energise Your Way (Know Thyself)


I've been labelled as an extrovert in the past. However, although I definitely showcase extrovert qualities, most of my favourite ways to recharge are by myself. Reading, playing a video game, watching a movie/TV show, etc., are all solitary activities that help give me breathing space, physically and mentally. I'm also somewhat misanthropic, so having some personal space to recharge has always been important to me.


I'd describe myself as an ambivert—though some naysayers try to trivialise the definition, flippantly describing the term as "just being human". But acknowledging my ambivert tendencies is just as valid as knowing you are an extrovert or introvert. It's best to embrace oneself to recharge in a manner that best suits you, not other people.


So, when it comes time to step away from the keyboard and turn that computer off at the end of a long day, make sure you take some time to re-energise your way (as long as it's safe and within COVID protocols, etc. Don't hit up that swingers party just yet, Frank. Yes, Frank, I know. We all know.)


Again, these are just some of the best tips I have learned and developed as an author who has been writing and working from home for the past few years.

I know many of you will have found some sort of rhythm that works for you at this point—we've been in this thing for an entire year and change now after all, with some people even turning their frustrations into a lockdown horror story—but for those looking for advice or curious about my personal WFH process as an author (attained through many months of failed trial and error), here you go. I hope it helps somehow, whether the entire thing is new and exciting or just one or two tips help you with your WFH experience.


Steve R

 



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