How I Make Myself Productive In A Structureless Work Environment

“Must be nice to always work in your pajamas huh?”

I’m greatly offended whenever anyone welcomes me with that remark the moment they discover I work from home. Not all days are work-in-my-pajama days, people! Sometimes it’s nightgown central from morning until night.

All kidding aside, I do appreciate the luxury of not having to get ready and commute early in the morning to start my workday.

While I do have work experience in offices, working from home still takes the cake for me. As an introvert, having a satellite office is the answer to my prayers. I’ve had the privilege of working from home for the last five years, and I can’t imagine any other work scenario I would rather be in. This doesn’t mean I am shutting down the option of working in an office in the future. It just means that right now at this time in my life, working from home is exactly what I need.

Let me walk you through a few obstacles I’ve encountered while working from home (and also how I dealt with them).

1. Connectivity Issues 

We sometimes take for granted how integral WiFi is to working from home (or anywhere, really). It seems pretty obvious that without it, there would be zero chance of satellite companies existing. Depending on who your internet provider is and which package you pay for, the strength and speed of your connection will differ. If you are working from home, invest in the right package because the last thing you want is to lose connection during a video conference with an important client.

Whenever I was plagued with unstable WiFi, I immediately called my internet provider to help me troubleshoot. I called enough times to figure out that for the most part, they will only have me unplug the cable modem for 10 seconds before plugging it back in again. Unfortunately, this only worked a handful of times. When the connection remained stubborn, I requested for an appointment with a technician that would actually come over and help me get things up and running again. As a last resort for a quick fix, I used my cellphone as a mobile hotspot for WiFi connection. This won’t be ideal though because hotspots pretty much siphon all of your precious phone data (running up your monthly bill once you go over your data plan).

In order to avoid all this hubbub, I found that it’s beneficial to solve any connectivity issues I came across right away, rather than hoping for the best when I needed to meet a work deadline. It wasn’t exactly convenient to lug my things around and figure out where I could work for a few hours with a steady internet connection. Besides, I could only mooch off of a coffee shop’s WiFi for so long until I started feeling like a squatter.

2. Flexible Schedule

With flexibility comes great responsibility. This one is definitely more of a pro, but it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. Since most of us remote workers generally manage our own time, this means deciding that a 9 AM start time isn’t exactly mandatory if there are other things that need to get done around the house. While it’s great to have some leeway, it’s an unnecessary dilemma to get stuck in. “Should I do some work in the morning before I run errands? Or should I run errands first and then get settled into work?” Being riddled with a variety of options sometimes overwhelmed me.

As a result, I came up with a schedule to help create a little order for myself. So despite what time I would choose to start work, I would at least have some structure to my day. I even took the liberty to pencil in a couple of mini breaks and a 30-minute lunch to give my time some semblance of being at a physical office.

Working from home also sporadically blurred the line of when to disconnect from work. Just because I could bring my laptop into bed didn’t mean I should always have to be on it and working. So I found that outlining a schedule gave me a better idea on when to “sign off” for the day. More importantly, it helped provide me with a bit of workplace normalcy.

3. Nightgown Troll

During my second year of working from home, I relished in the fact that my days of dressing up for work vanished into oblivion. No dress code, no problem! Why go through the hassle of getting ready if I wouldn’t have to exist in the outside world? Subsequently, I felt inspired to seek out the most comfortable “work from home” clothes I could find. After wearing a variety (sweatpants, pajama sets, nightgowns, etc.) I learned that nightgowns were a fast favorite. They’re basically maxi dresses but with a night-friendly theme of cartoon sheep and stars.

Fast forward to a few years later, it’s shameful to say that I sometimes (read: all the time) wore nightgowns well into the day — 3 PM and still rocking nightwear. They were so comfortable I started to live in them, unabashedly. I definitely embraced hermit territory.

Wearing nightgowns meant not having to put the effort into my appearance. But my lack of interest in dressing up or fixing myself up started to bleed into my non-work life. It wasn’t until one evening when I was getting ready to go out, that I realized I almost had more nightgowns than regular clothes. What a wake-up call. I knew I needed to shake myself out of this work-from-home black-hole spiral. At the very least, I wanted to look presentable and less like Sasquatch should any of my neighbors catch a peek of me when I was outside checking the mail.

Gradually, I made the conscience decision to start putting effort into how I looked. Over time, these small steps evolved into larger actions. I was also surprised at what a fresh coat of nail polish could do for my outlook. I noticed that when I put more energy into my appearance, I felt even more productive than I normally would. It might sound silly, but swapping my nightgowns for work clothes was the breath of fresh air I needed. Of course, this didn’t mean that I tossed out all of my nightgowns (never!). It just meant I tried to save them for more appropriate times (outside of work time).

*****

Though I may have been grasping at straws when I conjured up these gripes of mine, I still appreciate the lessons I’ve learned. I understand that these obstacles pale in comparison to others. But if I’m able to walk away with a newfound outlook on how to better approach things, then I say it was worth it.

As a digital marketing professional, MK utilizes engagement strategies to contribute growth along social media platforms for her clients. When she isn’t working, MK can be found reading and spending time with her two dogs, Pepper and Lulu.

Image via Unsplash

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  • Summer

    I also work from home and this was incredibly relatable. My internet connection is usually solid, but there have been a few times I’ve had to pack up my crap and go work from somewhere else. It’s funny because I often think to myself how ~nice~ it might be to work from a cafe or coffee shop one morning a week just to mix things up, but it’s never worth the hassle to do voluntarily. (Especially since doing so means giving up my nice dual-monitor setup at home and reverting to working exclusively from an 11″ laptop screen.)

    #2 for reeeeeal though… I often find myself chasing my tail when contemplating whether to knock out some work and then tend to errands/exercise/cleaning, or if I should do that stuff first to get it out of the way and then settle in to work without other obligations hanging over my head. I’ve also found that I perform best on the days I schedule myself, and I’ve tried to start incorporating more non-work lunches. If I’m being honest, when I bring my food back to my desk to eat it I’m usually not actively working at the same time, I’ll browse blogs or twitter or whatever; but I’m still at my desk and therefore still accessible via Skype chat and still end up feeling like I’ve spent basically the entire day sitting at my desk. Throwing in the occasional lunch out or sitting on the balcony to eat my at-home lunch while reading a book is way more of a break.

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t also comment on #3… I don’t have a nightgown collection, but I do wear the same exact stuff all the damn time. I have two pairs of OLD (like 10+ years old) running shorts that are so stretched and worn out and not at all flattering, H&M workout leggings with a wide, comfy waistband, and an assortment of old, oversized tshirts, and some combination of these items is my work uniform. They’re comfortable and I don’t worry messing anything up while cooking or lounging around in the evenings. Unfortunately, this also leads to a false sense of feeling ok about myself because there is a big difference between a real waistband and the wide, stretchy, forgiving waistband of yoga pants. Sometimes I put on actual pants just to remind myself that maybe I really DON’T need a mid-afternoon snack just because it sounds good and the kitchen is a few meters away.

    • Great article! I also found it’s important to have a designated work area. As a person who has been WFH For over 5 years, it’s important to be able to “turn work off”. Working in bed, in the kitchen, living room, or backyard I found really causes me to associate home with work. I know it sounds crazy but if you have a dedicated area where you try to stick to, you’ll be able to simply close the laptop and be instantly transported to a non-work environment. Highly recommend for anyone looking to save their sanity.