Working From Home and Staying Sane
(Credits: Instagram /

Lately, a few people have been asking me how I stay disciplined while working from home. I would love to say that I get up at dawn every morning and work out for an hour before eating a bowl of muesli and sitting down at my desk for nine hours straight, but that would be an enormous lie. I did get up at 5 am for a month or so when I was finishing up some revisions, but I couldn’t keep it up for long. Steely, self-denying discipline does not work for me. At least, not long-term. It only works for two or three days before I start to rebel and resist.

For me, working from home is like babysitting a small, highly excitable child who jumps up and down, saying, “I want to stay in my pajamas all day and eat ice cream for breakfast and play with my toys and watch movies and collect bugs in a jar!” Of course, sometimes it is all right to do these things. But then we also need to get some work done, don’t we? So we cajole and persuade and even trick the small child into sitting quietly at a desk for a few hours.

Here are some of the other things that have been very helpful for me – in no particular order.

Be healthy

This may sound obvious but go to bed at a reasonable time, drink plenty of water, eat healthy food, and exercise.

This applies to any job, of course, but I think it is (somewhat ironically) easier to mistreat your body when you are working from home.

It’s all right to pull an all-nighter now and then, but if you do it too often, you will burn out.

Healthy eating and exercise are also essential if you are a sedentary mammal like me. It’s easy to snack on unhealthy things when the fridge is only a few steps away. Know your weaknesses! Mine is chocolate, and I have absolutely no self-control if there is a block of chocolate in the cupboard (LOML will back me up on this). So I don’t have any in the house. This means that if I feel a craving, I have to walk to the supermarket to get some.

(Of course, I do this about once a week. But it could be worse).

Get up and dressed in the morning as if you have a ‘regular’ job

how to work from home
(Credits: Instagram / @charlieathome_).

Psychologically, this makes a huge difference. It’s why I started a style blog – as a way to encourage myself to keep making an effort, even if no one sees me all day.

(If I’m feeling particularly uninspired, I’ll wear a special occasion dress. Usually adds a bit of sparkle!)

Set mini-deadlines

This works wonders for me, as I love nothing more than pottering about on the Internet and tweeting every few minutes. I set my cellphone alarm to ring in fifteen minutes and then work furiously until it rings.

I’m allowed a five-minute break to check emails or indulge in any of my many online distractions, and then I set the alarm again. This usually results in two hours or so of very productive work before I need a longer break.

Keep up with the housework

adjusting to working from home

I have a complicated relationship with housework. I am a clean freak, and if I allowed myself to, I would spend hours scrubbing things that should probably never be scrubbed. To get work done at home, however, I have to relax my standards a little bit to avoid going crazy.

The curse of perfectionism is a tendency to all or nothing thinking: “If I can’t do it perfectly, there’s no point doing it at all.” The best way I’ve found to overcome it is to divide up the housework into daily increments. That way, it’s easier to maintain long-term, and it gives me a little sense of accomplishment at the end of each day. I found this website hugely helpful for tips and advice on organizing my home.

One of the best habits I have managed to instill in myself is a good before-bed routine. I do all the dishes and put them away, straighten up the living room, wipe down the surfaces, and pop a pot of coffee on ready for the morning. That way, I can go to bed with a clear mind and start my day with a clear mind too.

Get out of the house once a day

If you spend all day indoors, on your own, staring at a screen, you will start to gibber and foam at the mouth, the fabric of time and space will start to warp around you, and you will go slowly mad. Trust me.

Work off a task list

Because you really, really need a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. I love ticking things off on a list. Sometimes I’ll write something down that I have already done just for the pleasure of ticking it off. I love my little word-count-o-meters too and update them at the end of every working day.

Guard your time

Your time is precious, and you will be amazed how people – even people with the very best intentions – will try to fill it up with errands and chores and phone calls and impromptu visits because “your time is so flexible.” Yes, your time is flexible, but you have the right to dictate exactly how flexible. I don’t answer the phone when I’m working, and I have learned to suppress my people-pleasing compulsion and say “no” once in a while.

Allow plenty of time for pootling

Also doodling, dawdling, playing, faffing about, pottering, daydreaming, lollygagging, puttering, idling, and wandering.

If your work is creative, there’s a limit to how disciplined you can be without burning out. You need to give your mind space to open up and breathe and give it a chance to fill up with new images and experiences that you can use in your work. Otherwise, you’ll empty yourself out and block.

Spending time dreaming, imagining, and thinking is just as important to the writing process as the more methodical tasks.


Naps are magical. I love them. If I start to feel overwhelmed, confused, or stressed, a twenty-minute nap works wonders. Having a little sleep during the day is one of the great perks of working from home, and you should not feel guilty for indulging in it.

Reward yourself frequently

Do something fun when you complete a task. Your inner small child is far more likely to behave if you offer it toys and treats when it has finished its homework. I like to finish my work by 4 pm to watch Spongebob Squarepants (I’m such an intellectual).

It’s best to avoid regular food rewards, though, as that can become a very bad habit.

Break the rules sometimes

It is important for your sanity to take a day off occasionally. Go see a daytime showing of a movie, get a coffee, visit a gallery, and feed the ducks. Be in the world for a while. It’s nice outside.

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