Skip to contents

The Coronavirus Issue: Solitary Refinement, by Helen Zaltzman

Next up: some tips for working from home, courtesy of the great Helen Zaltzman, host of The Allusionist. “I think I was built for working in solitude,” said Zaltzman, when I asked for her work-from-home tips. “It hit me hard at age 25 that I didn’t want to work in an office.” She’s been living nomadically for the past few years, and is currently anchored in a seaside town somewhere in the UK.

Here’s Helen:


First: GET DRESSED. In something with a bit of structure, i.e. not sweatpants; wear something that instills some self-respect. You could even try out more fun or avant garde looks than you would usually wear and haven’t had the nerve to try out in public yet, since nobody’s going to see you. Even if it feels silly or unnecessary, a little interest is like a small visual treat to yourself.

Second: have a few buddies in a similar situation where you check in on each other. Message or Facetime, separately or together. Even if you don’t do similar jobs, you can be accountable to each other for Getting Shit Done. Maybe you need a sounding-board for your thoughts.

Third: if you don’t need to keep to a particular schedule, consider when you are best at doing certain things. For example, I’m shit in the mornings, so I save them for boring or basic tasks that don’t require much creative heavy lifting — or that’s when I do what other people might save for the evenings (socialising, watching TV, reading the internet).

My best hours for getting more demanding work done are 3-7pm or thereabout. The really creative stuff tends to happen 10pm-3am, though I am too old to handle the late nights any more. But anyway, if you can, program your work so it hits at the times when you’re more likely to be in a productive headspace.

Fourth: install the application SelfControl and block as many forms of communication and amusement as you can for an hour at a time.


You can find Helen on Twitter here, and listen to The Allusionist, or her other podcast Answer Me This (with Olly Mann), or her other OTHER benz podcast, Veronica Mars Investigations (with Jenny Owen Youngs).

Oh, and do complement these tips with this great thread from Flash Forward’s Rose Eveleth, which contains more specific advice on working from home when you have a partner in the house!