Routine to the Rescue

We recently read Andi Arndt’s advice for at-home professionals adjusting to a full house and thought it was valuable for the ACX community. Andi graciously agreed to let us republish it below.

This is for you if you’re a home studio narrator (or other freelancer) used to having the house to yourself during the day, and find yourself (courtesy of the pandemic) surrounded by people unused to structuring their time. Routines can be so reassuring, without us having to say a word.

In the last week I’ve gone through what we all have, and noticed how it made my sense of day/time a bit swimmy. Fell into some news/social media habits I don’t want. By Friday I realized that I need structure in my work days, and it is going to be up to me to establish it, and ask my family to respect it, or I am not going to get much done.

Some suggestions:

  1. Get YOUR head together first. Do a brain dump, on scratch paper or in a journal or wherever, of all of your thoughts, fears, hopes, big and small, related to this whole situation. Get all that noise on paper and look at it, own it, set it aside. Not a bad way to start or end each day for a while if it helps…kind of like morning pages in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
  2. Look at your work commitments, schedule, etc. and erase the things that were canceled. You’ve probably already done this. 
  3. With the things not happening, do you have more time to meet deadlines? If so, rather than taking on more projects, can you plan a condensed workday / work week? Consider a policy of not working after dinner, not working weekends. You could do 10 hours in 4 days instead of 5.
  4. Consider your family’s daily rhythms now. Do you have little ones who are up with the sun, or teenagers who sleep in? When you look at your work day, plan work time that is congruent with these rhythms. Save yourself frustration wherever possible.
  5. Plan your in-the-office calendar. When will you be in your office / studio? How much of the time will be recording, how much time for admin tasks? Build in a couple of stretch / walk around breaks as needed. Set TRT goals for each recording block. Make rules for non-work internet use. Use apps that lock you out of news / social media during certain hours if necessary. This version of your schedule is more detailed and it’s for you.
  6. Now look at your detailed calendar and zoom out a bit. What is work and what is not work? This is all that matters to your family. Summarize your workday. For me, it’s 8:30-12:30, 1:30-4 with an option to be done at 2:30 if I was super-productive in the morning.
  7. Post your schedule on the family bulletin board, fridge, wherever everyone sees it. Also post it on your office door. Your detailed schedule can be in your office.
  8. Communicate about it. Your only goal this week is to try your hardest to hold to your plan, and to patiently communicate with your family. It’ll take time for everyone to settle in. Emphasize that routine can be helpful for everyone at a time like this, that you are sharing your routine that helps you, and encouraging them to come up with a daily routine that helps them. For younger kids, agree on a few times during the day they can count on to connect with you. When those times come, “pencils down” and keep your promise.
  9. Hold steady and keep your patience, both with others and with yourself. Your schedule is not a battle line, it’s not a punishment, it’s not a declaration that you are more important than others. For kids, you are setting an example. For a spouse or partner who misses the rhythms of the office, your work rhythms can give them that same sense of the day/week they had at work.

If people aren’t understanding the difference between work and not-work time, it might feel silly but you can actually talk as though your office is outside the house. “Ok everybody, heading to work now, I’ll see you around x:xx for lunch!” might feel silly but it underscores that you are not going to be available to do household things for a bit. If people are asking you to do household or fun things during work time, you can always Obi-Wan that person: “that sounds really fun! I look forward to doing that with you at x:xx.”

I’d love to hear how it’s going with everybody and what helpful hints you would like to share, problems and how you solved them, all that. We are going to need this virtual water cooler now more than ever, so I thought I’d get the conversation started.

Good luck and good health, and may we all be back to normal soon!

Andi Arndt is a full-time audiobook narrator and Executive Producer of Lyric Audiobooks. As of March 13, 2020, her husband is now working from home and her teenagers’ high school is now online.

This piece originally appeared on Andi Arndt’s LinkedIn.

3 responses to “Routine to the Rescue

  1. Whatever plan you decide to follow, might we suggest that you place an ‘open mic’ somewhere outside the home studio, recording 24/7? Imagine all of the SFX you’ll capture should the time arise when you decide to produce full sound design, multi-cast serialized audio dramas. (You can thank us tax time, April 2021).


    Ralph & Kendra
    ‘On the cutting wedge!’ (TM)

  2. Pingback: If you’re freelancer used to having the house to yourself during the day, and find yourself surrounded by people unused to structuring their time – Freelance Work from Home

  3. Thank you so much for these thoughts. Of course I have to personalize this to fit my needs.
    Is there some thoughts as to how I start moving forward? I have been watching videos on “how to” and getting my equipment together and my studio (closet) together and at the same time watching, reading and absorbing all that I can to get going. I realize that practicing is vital and listening to voices for pacing and tone is as well!! I just want to be available to get started as quickly as possible, and yes I’m a little anxious but mostly excited,,, thanks for your helpful suggestions!

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