- I was homeschooled from first through eighth grade, and now I’m a work-from-home writer.
- Years later, I still use my homeschooling experience to create a healthy and productive work routine.
- These are my 10 tips to get the most out of working from home.
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Homeschooled from first through eighth grade with my three brothers and one sister, I grew up in a strict orthodox group and was generally only allowed outside of the property to take walks for P.E. class, the church, ballet class, the library, and the grocery store until I was 14 years old.
There, the internet password was a secret, the TV was kept in a cupboard, and only 30 minutes of screen time was allowed on the weekends – including video games. In our free time, we played outside, read books, or created art.
Today, I use my homeschooling experience and apply it to my work-from-home life as a writer. Here are my top tips to maintain productivity, mental health, and sense of self while working or studying mobile.
1. Keep a paper calendar, planner, or bullet journal
During my homeschool years, our mom would set each of us lesson plans in a three-ring binder articulating the week’s assignments – it’s simple enough for a first-grader to do alone, and there are all kinds of formats, including styles targeted toward neurodiverse adults.
As an adult, I love having a beautiful planner with monthly pages and weekly spreads so I can plan events, daily deadlines, and monthly budgets while watching my progress. I never forget a deadline because I have a dedicated place to write everything down immediately, and I always know where to start my day as soon as I sit down.
2. Leave your home at least once a day
In homeschool, we would regularly meet our elderly neighbor outside for a brisk, three-mile walk at 7 a.m., do indoor ab workouts, and take long family hikes and bike rides on the weekend.
Working from home, it’s easy to accidentally become sedentary as the weeks pass. I make sure to at least walk to the mailbox or take out the recycling, plus I incorporate yoga and light weights into my day.
3. Have at least one extracurricular hobby
We were each allowed to choose one extracurricular hobby growing up, and mine was ballet. I danced, and I could also be found cheering for my siblings on the sidelines of a soccer field or watching their horseback-riding lessons at the barn.
Even when I can’t get out of the house now, I fill my free time at home with things that bring me peace such as yoga, typing with my vintage Royal Tab-O-Matic, or reading library books. My sister enjoys spinning, knitting, felting, and crocheting. Creative hobbies like these are the key to avoiding becoming a TikTok couch potato in the off hours.
4. Make a routine for starting the day and for winding down
I use tips from Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit” to set up my cue for my habit loop, be disciplined enough to sit down and write, and then get my reward – in my case, playing Nintendo Switch after work.
Every morning, I wash my face and brush my hair and teeth, and then I’m ready to sit down and work. In homeschool, we would sing the national anthem and some prayers every morning before starting.
Before bedtime growing up, we always chanted group prayers after reading something like C.S. Lewis aloud. Now, the hour before bedtime is my sacred, screen-free time to read books, journal, meditate, set goals, or just think. Pull a tarot card, read a bible verse, or whatever resonates with you, but take quiet time to connect with your spirituality, if applicable.
5. Make yourself a hot brunch
While discipline and keeping to a schedule are important to sanity, it pays to be flexible in other areas. Most days, I make myself hot brunch in the late morning and a healthy afternoon snack instead of traditional mealtimes.
Homeschool meals inspired this, as they could be anything – grilled-cheese sandwiches, toasted bagels, oatmeal, or even blueberry pancakes and muffins.
6. Have a dedicated work zone
Commit a space for work that you don’t have to set up or take down. Some projects need to be spread out for days – like childhood crafts, a manuscript, or a newspaper layout. In our homeschool, we shared a big dining room table in our schoolroom, each of us having a place, a shelf for books, and a chair.
Sometimes it’s OK to grab your laptop and change up the scenery, but using a small screen all the time gives me migraines. Now, I’ve gone back to my habitual ways and installed an oversized desk for my iMac and a tall bookshelf in an exclusive area.
7. Manage your breaks
As a child, admitting to boredom resulted in farm chores such as bringing in logs for the wood-burning cast iron stove, trimming the fruit trees, or harvesting berries and veggies from the garden.
I still take intentional breaks today. For a short break, I manage the budget or do household administration. For a medium break, I make the bed, do one step of laundry, or do the dishes. For a long break, I swiffer, vacuum, or clean the bathroom.
8. Cut your own hair (and self-care)
My mom has never gone to a hair salon during my living memory. My dad would always buzz my brothers’ hair, and my two options were to keep it long or have dad bob off my ponytail.
This is a tough one for me as an adult, but I’m choosing to let my hair grow long for now – however, I deeply enjoy an elaborate daily skincare routine to keep me grounded, even when the salons are closed.
9. Clock out when you clock out
Growing up, if I didn’t finish all the homework on my daily schedule, I would sit there all evening working on it – even if my brothers finished at lunchtime. I could break at bedtime at 9:30 p.m., and then would start up again on the task in the morning – in addition to the new day’s agenda.
If I didn’t finish all the piled-up tasks by the end of the school year, I would have to continue the course over the summer. If I failed an exam, I had to retake new versions every week until I passed.
Today, even when I don’t write as much as I want, I set the work aside when I hit the appropriate deadlines or 2,000 words a day. I use time-management skills to know when I can still hit all my deadlines – and when I’m burned out for the day and no longer efficient.
My new mantra is: You did enough for today. There will always be more than enough work to do until bedtime, and you still have a full to-do list for tomorrow.
10. Dream about a long-term goal
As a child starting a new year at school that was destined to be exactly the same as the last, I told myself someday I would grow up and go out to experience the whole world.
As an adult in 2021, I dream about the day we will be able to plan trips to Hawaii, New York, and Sacramento again – the places we were supposed to go, but were canceled. I can still research and plan the trips, and studies show the anticipation alone can have mental health benefits.