When the first thing you do in the morning goes well, it can really put you on a roll. It gives you a sense that today you’re going to eat all your problems for breakfast, then eat your lunchbox problems at your desk at about 11am and be thinking hungrily about a three-course problem dinner by mid afternoon. The simplest things can start this chain reaction – finding an actual matching pair of socks first time, catching all the green lights on your way to work, or managing to plough through a few simple emails before the phone rings. My problem is that none of those are strictly relevant to me, because I work from home.
“Working from home” was a phrase I used to raise an eyebrow at when I worked in an office. It was a sceptical eyebrow that said, “just take the day off, why don’t you?”. In my mind the phrase meant lying around in your pyjamas, sending an email every hour or so to prove that you’re awake and getting nothing of any worth done at all. When I first realised that working from home was to become my reality, I made myself a promise that it wouldn’t turn out like that. I’ve actually partially succeeded, but only because I don’t own pyjamas. As for the rest, I have to admit that the sense of purpose generated by the simple acts of showering, dressing and leaving the house for a place of work has been proving a little hard to come by. It’s starting to take longer and longer for me to even notice that I’m still wearing a bathrobe.
I had never realised how the routine of work, so often derided and despised as soul-crushing and pointless, had taken root in me and made me, apparently, dependent on its familiar rhythms. In an attempt to create a diluted, medicinal form of structure, I started making task lists for each day. At first these contained valid but unhelpful jobs such as, “pull self together” or “take good look at life”, but I quickly constrained them to things that were actually possible. For a while I even wrote, “shower”, “get dressed” and “have breakfast”, just for the satisfaction of crossing things off and getting that feeling of momentum going. This was another partial success. Believing that these first few tasks would set the tone for the day, I got so caught up in perfecting them that I bought 10 pairs of identical socks and got rid of all my others. I could confidently reach into that drawer, pull out any two socks and they’d be fine. Boom. Easy win. This day is going to be great! Then I decided to make coffee an acceptable form of breakfast. Time-saving genius! Still in my bathrobe? I think you mean, “dressed in my housecoat”. I was flying now. Every day began with a rapid-fire burst of achievements. Eventually, I considered myself so good at mornings that I started to take a little break around half nine, to reward myself for my clear mastery of life. Usually this would finish some time after midday, when the trickling sense that I hadn’t actually done anything finally broke through my walls of misplaced satisfaction.
The eventual solution, I have found to nobody’s surprise but my own, is a sort of compromise. I now make a list of things that aren’t just part of being a functioning person and do those. I have drilled the showering, dressing and eating into myself and treat the lounge where I work as an office, behaving almost as if there are other people there. Even the most modern hipster company probably doesn’t let people just walk in half-dressed. Little by little, I have gradually forced myself to become the dedicated, self-motivating person that my CV has always lied about me being and with that in mind, it’s time I stopped blathering along here and get on with the next thing on the list, which I handily keep right here in the pocket of my bathrobe.