Working from home is an incredible privilege. I’m super grateful to have the option to simply commute downstairs rather than two hours each way as my husband does a few times a week (bless him and the things he does to provide for our family). With the onset of coronavirus and the mandate to work from home, I figured this is the time to throw in my two cents about how I manage to stay productive working in a small backroom in the isolated suburbs. It’s also a question I often receive from readers and listeners of my podcasts.
I’ve provided helpful Amazon affiliate links to direct you to where to buy this stuff. Mind you, these links are particularly beneficial for me, as I’m currently on maternity leave and writing this in between feeding and soothing my newborn baby. And well, doing all that and not working still costs money. If you can throw a couple of cents my way by using my affiliate link, I’d appreciate it. This is me disclosing it!
Back in January, I was a guest on a podcast called Tools They Use with Francesco D’Alessio. I meant to promote the episode a bit more at the time, but I was nearing the end of my pregnancy, and my energy levels were so low I could barely walk out to the end of the driveway to collect the mail. Whether you’re quarantined at home or merely looking for some advice on working for yourself, now is an excellent time to give the episode a listen.
The (physical) tools Flo uses
First things first, if you’re going to work from home, make sure that the area you’ve set aside is not only aesthetically pleasing but inspiring, as well. I like to have art, figurines, and my pin collection handy for motivation mojo. I also prefer my work area to be nice and tidy, though some folks find messiness and chaos to be stimulating, too. Whatever works for you!
My office doubles as a podcasting studio and video set when the time calls for it. It’s also a great space to retreat to when I need some time alone.
My computer is nothing special, but it gets the job done. It’s a Dell Inspiron 5559, and though its specifications are outdated when held up against today’s 9th-generation Intel processors, it’s able enough to play Elder Scrolls Online and process hundreds of RAW photos in Lightroom. I recently purchased extra RAM, hoping it’ll help move things along in Adobe Audition. I’ve yet to do the deed and see if it fixes the issues I’ve had editing audio. I can’t wait to get a new computer. For now, all the money goes to the new baby first.
Many of you have asked about my keyboard. After my newborn, it’s my current pride and joy. It’s this white Qisan mechanical keyboard from Amazon outfitted with the DSA Magic Girl keycap set from The Key Company. The desk mat is also a part of the same set. The Korby key is a custom keycap by Tiny Makes Things. As for my mouse, I use the Bluetooth-connected Logitech MX Anywhere 2 as my daily driver, and the wired Logitech G203 Prodigy gaming mouse when I’m streaming or playing through my Steam library.
My other computer is a Chromebook—specifically, the trusty Google Pixelbook that your Twitter feed won’t stop raving about, even after all this time it’s been on the market. It’s nearing the three-year mark at this point, but because it’s Chrome OS, it’s still purring along quite nicely. The laptop goes nearly everywhere with me. It’s always in my car or adjacent to my side of the bed for those late night throes of inspiration. I keep it protected with this purple-colored hard plastic shell.
For podcasting and voice-overs, my kit of choice is the Heil Sound PR 40 Dynamic Cardioid Studio Microphone. I suppose I’d also consider this my pride and joy. I have it hooked up to a Focusrite Scarlett Solo for now, but while I’m on leave, I plan to switch over permanently to the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, which enables me to record up to two audio tracks at the same time. I initially bought it to help me more easily record guests for Honestly Tech on a separate audio track. But when I became too pregnant to function, and my vertigo kicked into high gear, the podcast had to take a backseat to constant self-care.
You’ll probably make fun of me for my monitor setup because it’s just a monitor I found on sale and bought out of desperation over not wanting to hunch over a laptop screen. I have a 21-inch ASUS LCD monitor propped up on this particular mount I found on Amazon. I hate clutter, though the desk I bought is a tad small for my working lifestyle so I’ve resigned to implementing cranes whenever possible. My office looks like Mission Control when you walk in, which is fine because that’s precisely the illusion when I sit down to work for a few hours at a time. We could all use a bit of fantasy to help curb the societal obligations of capitalism.
How Flo gets going in the morning
Every morning, without fail, I wash my face. I run the water until it’s comfortably lukewarm, and then I start my facial bath. I rub the crust out of my eyes and the dry spots from the edges of my mouth. I get a little water behind my ear lobes, too, for good measure. Then, I lather up with a mild facial cleanser (I love the COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser). When I’m finished, I pat myself dry with a towel, then apply moisturizer to keep my face feeling soft and supple throughout the day. Once in a while, I’ll layer on a day time serum. Consistency is key. The facial pampering effectively replaces what used to be my morning makeup routine when I worked in an office. And it ensures that even if I’m having a shit day, at least I gave my skin a little love.
How Flo manages her time
As a freelancer with no set daily schedule, I tend to plan meetings and appointments later on in the day. I prefer to jump into work right as I wake up rather than playing catch-up while staving off the afternoon snooze. If I’m having a trying day, or enduring aches and pains as a result of periodic hormonal fluctuations, I’ll rest between 2 PM and 4 PM, then work from bed until my husband comes home. In the seasons where daylight savings introduces an extra hour of sunlight, I go for a hike or spend some time at the gym every other day of the week. It depends on my workload and how I’m feeling. And honestly, every day is based primarily on how I’m feeling. Because if I’m not able to produce, it’s not happening.
I have no qualms about working from bed.
Mondays are slow. I eat breakfast, put on some music, and try to fill out my paper calendar for the week based on what I’ve previously marked in Google Calendar. Tuesdays are fast-paced, and the afternoon is typically reserved for All About Android prep. If I’m driving into the studio, I’ll start grooming around 2:30 PM. It takes me an hour to get to Petaluma. It’s a gorgeous trek.
On Wednesdays, I’ll work on pitches in the morning, then record the Material podcast with Andy. Once the audio is finalized and uploaded, I’ll have lunch and watch an episode of 90210 or whatever I missed on Bravo the night before. I have to take that mental break after podcasting because my mind is shot after being “on” for nearly two hours. Later in the day, after a brief rest, I’ll focus on writing copy for whatever assignment I have due at the end of the week.
Thursdays are crunch days. It’s when I grind the hardest and work the longest. It’s all writing and research and hunkering down to make word count. During the summer evening hours, I’ll treat myself with a visit to the farmer’s market. Then on Friday mornings, I’ll do a thorough edit of what I finished the day before, polish it up and ship it to the editor expecting it. After lunch, I finally have a chance to work through the week’s emails.
If I’m experiencing writer’s block or difficulty for whatever reason on any of those days, I’ll attempt to fill in that time with necessary administrative work: responding to emails, updating my books, and planning out social media posts. Somedays, I work entirely from the bed, especially when my body and my mind are struggling to sync up.
My working life before motherhood informed much of this blog post. I don’t know what life will be like when I return to freelance work, and the baby is having a fussy day. Eventually, I hope to write about my life postpartum and what’s changed from before I had a kid, including how I manage to keep up with personal projects—like editing Honestly Tech.
Coming soon: Flo’s app toolkit
In the next portion of this series, I’ll follow up with the Android, Chrome OS, and Windows 10 apps and services I use to manage my business, file stories, and create content. Once it’s filed, I’ll replace this paragraph with a link to the article for your convenience. Until then, be sure to check out Francesco D’Alessio’s podcast linked at the top of the post. And feel free to share your work from home tips in the comments below!