It’s easy to get on with it when you’re stuck into a job, when you’ve done the reading and you know what your references are going to be and you’ve given yourself a bit of time to develop a reasonably deep understanding of a subject so that you can just write what need to be written. It’s the in-between bits, where you’re sort of trying to focus on what you need for the next job, that the postman and dishes and social media suddenly become very important. Today I’ve gone to the library to work, as there are people in my house doing some work, banging and sawing and going in and out of the room I work in (I say ‘alright’ every time, and I don’t think I need to but what’s the alternative? Ignore them?), the internet keeps going off and on and my partner is in the house with a hangover. None of these things are conducive to a good working environment, and if you weren’t your own boss you’d be asking your boss for a better place to work.
The library is okay but you run the risk of bumping into an ayurvedic baby massage group or singalongatoddler or any of those other awful, awful things that happen in libraries these days. There are some mothers singing Christmas songs to oblivious babies right now. This is clearly bringing out the worst in me. Both my mother and partner have separately asked if I wanted a Lit and Phil membership for xmas so I could work in that beautiful, blessed bastion of librarian silence, and I said no and I can’t remember why. I bet they don’t let people sing When Santa Got Stuck Up The Chimney in there.
Since writing the above, a former colleague has passed by my seat with her baby. I didn’t ask if she’d been singing, and I didn’t preemptively apologise for being curmudgeonly in case she later reads this. Oh dear.
My Plan For Being Able To Work From Home (Without Going Mad)
- Have some kind of routine: this is always on people’s listicles about how to work from home, so I thought I’d include it in mine. Actually, flexibility is the absolute number one top best thing about working from home (I expect), so we can ignore this one, or at least observe it irrespective of context: get up in the morning, go to bed at night, eat proper meals, drink plenty of water. Work whenever the hell you want.
- Pace yourself: further to ‘work whenever the hell you want’, I’m currently at ‘work every minute you can because you never know where the next job is coming from… rely on no one’ and not pacing myself very well. I have lots of work… but I might not next week. But I MIGHT… then if I don’t do what I’ve got NOW, I might have to turn more down in the future, and I can’t do that so… work work work. Get ill. Work work work.
- Dress for success: I always thought I’d leave nursing tunics behind for a job where I could wear my own choice of fabulous clothes to work (I love clothes). Currently my own choice of clothes is fleecey pyjamas and a grubby dressing gown. I swap the dressing gown for a hairy coat and a pair of boots if I’m going out.
- Keep a diary/calendar/schedule to organise your work: When I left work my colleagues gave me a lovely diary (the front cover is a picture of a cactus that looks like a willy) with lots of space to write down my projects and deadlines (and all the nurse bank shifts I’ll pick up whenever I get The Fear). It starts on the 1st of January, though, and it’s the 4th of December now, so I’ve currently just got a scrap of paper floating around with ticky boxes and scrawled reminders of what I need to do, like ‘Au Ben thing’ and ‘NZ one’ and ‘cauda equina’ and ‘Thing for tomorrow 17/11’. It’s currently on the bench in the kitchen next to the paprika. Or maybe it’s in the front room somewhere. Anyway, I can usually say ‘Argh, where’s that Very Important list?’ and it turns up.
- Interact with The Humans: unless avoiding human interaction is the main reason you wanted to work from home, and you’re genuinely happy being a recluse. I am slightly reclusive*, and for a long time now I’ve worked awkward shifts and just enjoyed the sort of friendships where you don’t have to see your friends that often. I’m excited about work being more flexible and my being able to see people more, and I’m quite aware that I might need more of that now I’m not forced into an intense camaraderie each week.
I plan to revisit and rewrite this list in a year (I’ll put it in my cactus willy diary) when I’ve actually got some experience and wisdom and hindsight, and shame my previous (currently current) self. Of course I’ll probably be too wealthy and important from all this freelance medical writing, in which case I’ll just get my PA to do it while I sip brandy on my solid gold yacht.
*about 97% of the time, and then AGGRESSIVELY GREGARIOUS for the remainder.