How I Stayed Sane Even After Working from Home for the Last 3 Years
For me, adapting to the ‘new normal’ wasn’t that hard.
Anmol Ratan Sachdeva
I was on a flight in the last week of February 2020. It was a short flight, long before India went into the lockdown. But little did I know that it would be one of my last flights in a long time.
We all have been caught by surprise by this global pandemic. Especially on the work front. Right?
Who would have thought that a country like India would adapt to remote work culture that too in 2020. But here we are now with most companies offering ‘work from home’ provision to their employees.
The Not So New Normal (For Me)
I left my full-time job for freelancing in 2017 and since then I have been working from home.
In my initial months, I contemplated on the idea of going to co-working spaces but I never could make up my mind.
So, the imposed lockdown and way of working didn’t change much for me in the last five months.
There is one change though — I have been receiving calls from my friends, acquaintances and even my connections on some quick tips to handle work-from-home.
Most say, they cannot deal with both personal and professional duties in the same eight hours.
And I totally feel them. It took me about a year to get used to it.
There is No Secret Hack to Productivity or Sanity
If there is one thing that I have learned in the last three years- it is never about the situation, it is always about ‘YOU’.
Learn to tame and discipline yourself. Things would get better sooner than you think.
So, instead of pumping you up with some secret tricks, here are some basics that everyone knows but only a few follow to stay sane in these challenging times.
Get a Desk
Well, when all of this started, everyone was actually happy. They would not waste time commuting to their office.
Some of my friends even joked how they can now work from their bed, in their PJs.
The idea seems nice, but trust me, this would actually make you lazy and frustrated.
One of the first things I learned as a full-time remote professional was that I need to have an office space — however small it might be.
So, when I was focusing on building my network and work profile, I even built a desk space for myself too.
As a digital professional, you can often ignore offline space, but trust me, your bed, couch or bean bag will not make you happy.
A common office desk with an ergonomic chair would help you a lot. Over time, I added more stationery and things that make me happy to my desk — just as you might have in your office back in time.
Make a Schedule
When I left the job, many envied that I can work from anywhere, anytime now without any fixed office schedule.
But, in reality, that is as far from reality as a unicorn.
If you want to work efficiently, your body needs to follow a schedule.
You might have heard of your biological clock. Right?
If you are not maintaining a schedule, you are giving signals to your body that it is okay to be lazy and not be serious. You cannot work at 11 in the morning one day and work at 7 in the evening the next day.
Trust me, you would do a favor if you follow a schedule.
Its been three years but I still follow a strict schedule with fixed in and out times and lunch breaks even.
Though my work hours are reduced, but still, they are fixed. And yes, whenever I took vacations from my work, I scheduled them too. I can’t just work taking my laptop with me, from anywhere.
Breaks are Important
Now comes the most underrated aspect of being sane — taking breaks.
In all my years as a professional, I have seen an unending urge among many, of being the most overworked person in the office.
I frankly despise that. Though many identify me as a workaholic, almost everyone who knows me deep, knows how I love taking breaks.
Well, these breaks can be short or long according to my need.
My point is that if you want to stay sane, you need to loosen up a bit. The world is already suffering. Don’t add up to your mental woes by overworking yourself.
There are two ways you can include breaks in your work, short 20 minutes breaks throughout the day and weekly weekends off for something that you love.
I know this seems so obvious but trust me, not everyone is so keen on taking breaks while working from home.
Most feel that as they are at home, everything is a break.
But as I said earlier, you need to make your body feel that you are at work. Having a desk, a schedule and proper breaks would help you to stay productive over time.
Family Makes It Worth It
This is the biggest perk of working from home — you are closer to your loved ones.
Though I recommend having fixed hours for work each day, but trust me, when you work from home, you naturally have more time on your hands to spend with your family.
And when you spend more time with people whom you value more than anything, you tend to get happy.
I have heard stories where people despise their colleagues but you can’t despise your loved one. Right? (If you do, then definitely you need help)
Over the years, I have managed to spend a lot of time with people whom I love. When I was working full-time in a conventional job, I hardly got time to spare for things and people I love.
So, if you are struggling to stay sane and productive, always look at your loved ones.
Create goals and dreams for a better future and see your work as a medium to realize those dreams.
If you don’t have a family, have friends, maybe even a pet. But have someone to shower love and get loved in return. You will see how beautiful and meaningful your life would become.
Keep an Eye on Your Finances
When you are working from home in the middle of a pandemic — you tend to spend less (or that’s what you feel). You don’t have to commute, you don’t eat out often. Even weekends are spent lazying around.
The situation makes you feel like your finances are in order, while this may not be the case.
I have seen money flowing out of the window even when you are at home 24x7. I don’t need to give you an example of impulsive buying, takeaway orders and whatnot.
So, when you are working from home, always have financial discipline.
When things slow down in your life, even savings can take a backseat. You might start believing your needs have reduced, so will your expenses. But that might not be the case. You still have financial responsibilities for the future.
So, if you want to stay sane while working from home in the long run, always have a financial plan in order — saving a portion of your earnings diligently month on month.
Believe me, when you manage to put finances in order, nothing else would take away your sanity. Not even a layoff. (Which is a common scene nowadays)
Here are some ways to put finances in order:
- Create an emergency fund — covering at least 6 months of expenses)
- Start saving month-on-month — An SIP would be great instead of lump-sum investments)
- Follow a structure for savings — Save first, spend later)
- Save at least 30% of your monthly income
- Try not availing financial moratoriums, if feasible. You will thank me later
- Keep your expenses in check
This is what I did when I left my job 3 years back and it helped me stay focused on my work instead of chasing money month after month.
The Not-So-Relevant Stuff (Now That We are Not Traveling)
Well, this was my number one tip if the world was alright. Sadly, now it isn’t relevant. But still, I would like you to know about this.
Because work from home isn’t something that you might want to live even after the risk of infection goes away. After all, who doesn’t like the perks of working from your own premise?
So, here it goes. Well, you might be thinking that it is an achievement to work from home for so long.
But I don’t see it as an achievement. Rather, there is an induced achievement over all these years.
In my three years as a freelancer working from home, I have taken more trips than in my whole life otherwise.
I had this tendency to plan a trip, create an itinerary and spend a week at least in a different city every couple of months.
That kept me fresh all this time. Sadly, the COVID-19 has grounded me even. That’s why I started this blog remembering my last flight.
I miss my lifestyle just like you, but we have to be strong till the time we don’t have any preventive medicine or treatment for this.
Till then, keep preserving your sanity and keep working well.
Work from home is not a trouble. See it as an opportunity to evolve yourself for the future of work.
Anmol Ratan Sachdeva
A passionate marketer hell-bent on changing the status quo through relevant content and meaningful conversations. Book a call with me at www.arsachdeva.com