five things to do when working from home (when you don’t want to work)

I’ve been working from my home or in a studio apartment for the five years ever since graduating from college and taking Jess LC full-time.

Over those years, I’ve grown to love working from home more and more. I love being able to spend time in a place that I love so much. And though working from home isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, more and more people are doing the same.

One of the best things about being self-employed, and working from home too, is that you get to make the rules for your business. As I’ve mentioned before many times, if I don’t like my job, I can only blame myself. Because I make the decisions and have the power to change my short or long term strategy.

Some of the habits I’ve created for my own work from home culture include getting fully dressed everyday, and working consistently from 9:30am to 5:30 or 6:30pm. After that, barring anything super duper important and urgent, I’m off on nights and weekends.

I have been doing this for five years and I’m going to be doing this for the rest of the foreseeable future. So I have set an intention to pace myself to avoid burnout. Which means my personal life has a schedule devoted to it, just like my business.

On the other hand, you’ll find me weekdays during business hours at my desk or working in some capacity. Though I do sometimes take a lunch with Mr. Lively downtown after a meeting or grab groceries on the way home from the bank.

Last Friday, however, after a very long and draining week, I had very little energy and motivation to do any work whatsoever. But with everything on my plate, taking the day off wasn’t really a good option.

So I decided to shake up my working routine and think of ways that I could get work done which didn’t make me feel like I was working.

Here’s a few ideas I came up with that other Work From Homers might find helpful too:

Turn on the TV.

Though I don’t have it on during workdays, when I really didn’t feel like working, the white noise and energy from the Food Network gave me a bit more pep, and made it feel like a special treat.

Work in another room.

As I mentioned, I usually work at my desk, but I also could work on the small couch in my bedroom. Because when the weather is crummy, going to a coffee shop to work doesn’t always seem that appealing.

Wear a weekend outfit (or pjs).

Again, normally I put on an outfit that is comfortable and cute (jeans, flats, and blouses mostly). But when I really didn’t feel like working sticking to jeans and a t-shirt without makeup was a nice change of pace.

Mix up the activities.

Instead of working straight through the day, I broke it up by doing a few fun things I enjoy (aka: painted my nails) in between the work oriented activities.

… And when all else fails, call a friend or go to happy hour.

By the late afternoon I had very little energy to put towards anything else. So I called it a day and talked with a friend on the phone. After that, it was time to head out and hang out with the corporate crowd for happy hour. Though it meant that I did a bit of work over the weekend instead, it was nice to end early.

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Kate

    I love this! I love working from home, but sometimes I get annoyed when I haven’t left the house all day. These are great tips!

  2. Great timing! I’m actually composing a post right now that talks about working from home – although not quite as helpful as yours (you’ll see what I mean tomorrow!).

  3. This was so needed. I just telling a friend last night that I need some discipline and routine in my life. I did have some, but I have been traveling for the past five weeks and my routine got shaken up. I really hope to be back on track next week when i get home.


  4. Love this list! I work from home as a freelance writer, and just like with any job, sometimes the routine and familiarity dull my desire to work. When the weather is especially nice, I also find it hard to focus, so I take my work down to the coffee shop where I can’t do much besides work (and sip a caramel macchiato, of course).

    One thing that most people overlook when it comes to working from home is how isolating it can feel after a while. With no coworkers to chat with or a team to bounce ideas off of, you sometimes need to shake things up and get some human contact so you don’t go insane! For me, this is part of doing different activities instead of working straight through the day. It totally helps! 🙂

  5. What do you do when you feel overwhelmed and like this every day? 🙂 Self discipline will always be my issue.

  6. Maybe this is kind of weird, but I will usually shower mid-day unless I have a morning appointment. That way I spend the morning on correspondence and social media, dive into a thinky or designy project, get stumped at some point, and hop into the shower. It’s a nice diversion and I think really well in the shower. Plus if I get ready first thing in the morning I always feel like most of the morning is already gone (especially if I’m working with an East Coast client or company).

  7. Helena

    I let myself take a break to clean. I know this sounds like “not a treat” but if I take a break to load the washing machine, take out the trash, sweep, etc., I feel “productive” while also giving myself time to remove myself from what I’m working on. Cleaning is generally so mindless that I can think over other issues or problems while I’m doing it.

  8. Love all these tips! I use the ‘treat’ incentive as well. Sometimes I’ll take an hour lunch, just like I used to do at my old job, and will catch up on bad reality TV shows then. The hour ends and it’s tempting to keep on watching, but I try to treat it just like a regular lunch break — enjoy the time away from the desk, but also use it as a chance to refresh and focus for the rest of the afternoon.

  9. I can definitely see how this would be helpful. Love the idea to do a little fun activity (like nail painting) mid day to break up tough tasks and get motivated again. And obviously, happy hour is just sensible. 🙂

  10. thanks for the tips! it’s interesting though, because i’ve found i work best when i DO get fully dressed, and when i’m in a public place like a coffee shop.

  11. Kim

    This is great and really helpful as I’m starting my own blog and company from home. I think it is also important to allow yourself personal time or days now and then, just like you would if you worked in an office. When your work from home, it is easy to be working constantly, even without realizing it. Especially when blogging and reading other blogs is part of your work, you can be on your computer until 10PM at night with no real time for yourself.

  12. Jess

    It’s so awesome to hear all of your tips and own ways of working from home and incentivizing yourself! : )

  13. Thanks Jess – I’ve been working from home for a few months now and so often even forget how some background noise (not from my snoring pug but from the radio) can help!

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