How to Work from Your Busy Home (and Not Lose Your Mind)

How to Work from Your Busy Home (and Not Lose Your Mind)

I live in a one-bedroom apartment with five people. Five. How did this happen? Long story. At any given moment, there is a TV blaring Two and a Half Men, a string of rat-tat-tats from Call of Duty in the next room, phones going off with text after text after text, cats fighting (oh, I didn’t mention we have two cats?), and don’t even get me started on the cacophony of terrible music blasted by our neighbors who can’t seem to remember the after 10pm rule. It can be a struggle of Charlie Sheen proportions to get any work done in this house (never mind score the TV for a little while), but I have found a zen. If you also suffer from There Are Too Many People Living In My House disorder, I have the cure.

Block out a specific time to work. If I’m working at home, I write in the morning (if I’m not scheduled for my part-time job that day). Usually two of us five aren’t even home, and everyone else is still asleep. If nighttime gives you more quiet time, utilize that. I’ve learned that fighting against the natural craziness of my house is futile, so using that quiet time lets me get a lot done that I wouldn’t ordinarily be able to.

If you are like me and have a day job, make sure you are setting aside X amount of your free time to work on your freelance projects.

Get out of the house. Run, if you have to. If you can’t work out of your house, find a nearby coffee shop, diner, book store, or even hotel lobby to camp out at. I’ve spent many hours writing at the university forty-five minutes from my house, or the community college in my city. (If you do this, though, just be careful; they may have strict visitor policies. I’m an alumni of my community college, so I tend to get away with it.) The coffee shop down the street from my house houses chess tournaments, tutoring, dates, Pokemon matches, and now they house my office on occasion. You could even storm a friend’s living room. (Tip: Bring cookies, or coffee. The natives will be more welcoming that way.)

Make time for other things. When you’re your own boss, it can be easy to fall into the trap of working even in your sleep (or during other, more intimate moments). You may feel resentful toward your housemates, even if they aren’t purposely disturbing you. There have been times when I felt angry toward my fiance or a friend for wanting to take me somewhere other than in front of my computer. “The novel isn’t going to write itself,” I’d grump. Sometimes I still get wrapped up in my work, but I’ve learned that it’s important to do things other than work. Set a weekly date night alone with your spouse, and another date night with your friends. Play video games or read a book. Make sure you are nurturing your relationships and your soul.

And, if all else fails…

Invest in a good pair of noise canceling headphones. Or ear plugs. Sometimes I even consider taking my laptop out to my car. If you absolutely must work from home and suffer from There Are Too Many People Living In My House, put those headphones in and turn on the music of your choice.

Since I’ve started following these rules, I’ve noticed a huge increase in my productivity (and less tension in my neck and shoulders). You too can recover from There Are Too Many People Living In My House. The laundry still won’t do itself, but you’ll feel a lot better both when you sit down to start working and when you’re not working.

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