Sunday, August 31, 2008

Staying Sane While Working at Home

My commute was up the stairs. My workday was self-directed, flexible, and light on responsibility. Most people would call it the ideal job. For me, working at home for a magazine was a long slow descent into depression, anxiety, and claustrophobia. The rest of the magazine staff was in New York, and a week at a time would pass without a call from my co-workers. E-mails simply served to exchange files. I was alone for eight or nine hours a day for more than a year and it drove me insane. I am a social creature. I generate energy from being around people. But that period in my life was years ago, before CrimeSpace, Facebook, Twitter, and list servs.

Now I’m working at home again as a novelist and freelance editor. So far, I’m loving it. But it is different this time. I’m connected to people through the Internet, and I’m able to set my own hours and take breaks when I want. But I worry about what it will be like for me six months or a year from now. I want this career phase to work out long term. So here’s my strategy for staying sane while working at home:

  1. Make time to reach out to people on the Internet periodically throughout the day.
  2. Have lunch with real-live person once a week.
  3. Conduct interviews in person even if they can be done by phone.
  4. Schedule regular social activities (such as weekly bowling with my brothers).
  5. Join a writers group and meet periodically (I haven’t done this yet, but it’s on my list).
  6. Open Pandora, click my funk station and dance for five minutes at least twice a day. Dancing is so joyful, it wards off depression.

I assume that most of the people I interact with throughout the day also work at home. So tell me, how do you keep from getting cabin fever?

7 comments:

Jon McGoran (a.k.a. D. H. Dublin) said...

You blogged 31 days in a row?? Good god, woman, you're a monster. I've been trying to be better about blogging and if I get a couple in each month, I feel good.
Congratulations on your productvity.

Helen Ginger said...

Lunch with friends definitely helps, although I don't do it every week. On a daily basis -- and this will sound strange -- I make myself get up and go outside. I take the dog with me and we get our Vitamin D. Man, the sun feels good.

Rebecca said...

Congratulations on 31 days of blogging! That's really doing something.

I have to say that this post spoke to me. I have a tendency toward anxiety and if I close myself off too much, I find it very difficult to get anything done. I was home for about a year and a half and then I had to find something outside the house at least part-time. I work at the library. It was the perfect place for me. I'm around the things I love and I get to have some contact with real live people.

Facebook, MySpace and other social networks have also been wonderful for people like me. To break out of a rut, I often go on MySpace and do a survey or do a quiz on Facebook. I really enjoy joking around with my friends about their status messages and keeping up with what others are working on.

Great post!

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of Hacksaw said...

I'm not a social person, so I don't have exactly the same issues. I do get cabin fever, though, and I have to make myself do something other than work, so I those activities on my calendar. Things like take a walk around the block, call a friend, write an old fashioned letter to someone who will appreciate the surprise pop up on my calendar several times a week.

If Mark is in the house, I get a hug or a dance around the living room. Otherwise, I may hunt down Psychokitty and try to convince her to be a lap cat for a few minutes.

My Mom is retired now and always available to meet for lunch. My 8-year old nephew loves when I have lunch with him at his school.

There's an independent bookstore close to home. Not much traffic there in the middle of the day/middle of the week. They LOVE when anyone drops by to chat about books.

Chris V. said...

Congrats! You made the whole month too right? Fantastic! Now we get the day off!

zhadi said...

I envy you with a deep seated envy impossible to describe. I LOVE working from home and can't do it right now. I work full time at a job where teh work is never finished. When I did, I'd see friends, go out for walks and just make sure I interacted with people. Now excuse me while I go seethe with envy. :-)

Marcia said...

Good for people to know.