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How to Work on Your Own—Without Going Crazy

Navigate the challenges of remote work and solo freelancing with these tips on coping with loneliness, creating transitions, and setting up a smarter home workspace.

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When journalist Rebecca Seal set out to write a how-to guide to working alone without going crazy in 2019, she didn’t know that a global pandemic would soon make the advice relevant to millions of people now logging into staff meetings from their sofas. She just knew that after a decade of freelancing, she was frustrated that a better book didn’t exist for those managing the challenges of working solo from home. So she set out to research and write it herself.

Brimming with timely, genuinely helpful tips, her new book Solo: How to Work Alone (and Not Lose Your Mind) has the refreshingly direct tone of someone who understands the ups and downs of work-from-home life. Yes, the increased freedom and flexibility are great (not to mention the non-existent commute), but loneliness, burnout, and longer hours are real risks to your health and productivity. Seal explores not only how to structure your day and establish new rhythms and routines, but also how to design a personal vision of success and try to find some joy as we navigate new ways of working.

So whether you are job seeking, establishing a new freelancing career, or working remotely and missing your office routines, Solo has something for nearly everyone. Among Seal’s easiest-to-follow guidance? Keep a plant near your desk. It’s not just for the Zoom background benefits — the fractal patterns stimulate your brain.

She also recommends using different communication platforms for home and work. “Try to use the phone to talk to people that you actually love. Zoom is almost right, but not quite right,” Seal says. “Our brains have a difficult time decoding information we get through it. If we can give ourselves a break from that, while also genuinely connecting with people we care about, that’s a very good idea.”

Read on for a curated collection of articles that helped inspire and inform Solo, from the perils of ‘always-on’ behavior to how to rethink your home workspace.

Watch Pocket’s Q&A with Rebecca Seal discussing Solo and her practical tips for managing remote work.


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The Virtues of Isolation

Brent CraneThe Atlantic

Under the right circumstances, choosing to spend time alone can be a huge psychological boon.

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Three Reasons We Can’t Be Trusted to Set Our Own Work Schedules, and What to Do About It

Brigid SchulteSlate

Turns out that flexible work can actually bring out some of the worst in human behavior.

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Resilience Is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure

Shawn AchorLinkedIn

The very lack of a recovery period is dramatically holding back our collective ability to be resilient and successful.

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Micro-Progress and the Magic of Just Getting Started

Tim HerreraThe New York Times

Pardon the gimmicky phrase, but the idea goes like this: For any task you have to complete, break it down into the smallest possible units of progress and attack them one at a time.

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The Lost Art of Concentration: Being Distracted in a Digital World

Harriet GriffeyThe Guardian

We check our phones every 12 minutes, often just after waking up. Always-on behavior is harmful to long-term mental health, and we need to learn to the hit the pause button.

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Why Trees Can Make You Happier

Jill Suttie, Psy.D.Greater Good

Research suggests that being around trees is good for our mental and social well-being.

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How to Keep Your Employees Healthy While They’re Working From Home

Sophie DownesInc.

Poor home-office ergonomics and pandemic-related stress can cause health problems. Here's how to manage those issues in your (remote) workplace.

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Productivity Isn’t About Time Management. It’s About Attention Management.

Adam GrantThe New York Times

“Time management” is not a solution — it’s actually part of the problem.

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The Workforce Is About to Change Dramatically

Derek ThompsonThe Atlantic

Three predictions for what the future might look like.

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The Burnout We Can’t Talk About: Parent Burnout

Robyn Koslowitz Ph.D.Psychology Today

New research demonstrates parental burnout has serious consequences.

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Smart Lifts, Lonely Workers, No Towers or Tourists: Architecture After Coronavirus

Oliver WainwrightThe Guardian

Is the open-plan office dead? Can skyscrapers survive? Will our phones control everything from the lights to ordering coffee? Our writer meets the architects already shaping the post-Covid-19 world.

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The Happy Secret to Better Work [WATCH]

Shawn AchorTEDxBloomington

Psychologist Shawn Achor argues that, actually, happiness inspires us to be more productive.

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About the Curator
Rebecca Seal
began working on Solo after more than ten years of freelance experience as a journalist. She writes frequently for the Financial Times and The Guardian, and is also a highly regarded food writer, having written a number of bestselling cookbooks. Her podcast Solo Collective launches March 1. She lives in London.


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