How to work at home successfully

We have been snowed in for three days.

At first, it was just a hint of being snowed in, people stopping and talking in the grocery store. Not that I would know. Because the farmer told me I should probably go buy extra food in case we’re snowed in and I ignored him. Melissa and I were too busy scheming, figuring out how we can do a business together. Finding a good idea for a business takes a lot of thinking, and arguing, and diagramming failed ideas on big sheets of paper.

Then it started snowing. A lot. At first it was fun. School got out early so the farm kids could get home before the roads were unpassable. Unpassable spellchecks as not-a-word, and my editor hates that, but I swear that’s what they call snowed-in roads in the country.

The blizzard was fun. I tucked in my goats and then my kids and then Melissa, who is from Texas, needed extra layers and long underwear to sleep. I told myself it was okay that I was getting no work done. Some days are like that. All days cannot be equally productive. And anyway, I’m an ENTJ, so I’m happy as long as I’m taking charge of something—starting a company, running a family—so as long as people follow my goal, I’m just fine.

When we woke up, the blistering wind made the house feel cozy warm. I showed the kids how to build obstacle courses through their bedroom and we invented recipes for cookies that sometimes came out right.

We baked and baked until we ran out of the sprinkles.

Then I started sneaking glances through my in-box between movies that I warned the kids were too gruesome to watch. But that was before it was a snow day.

The farmer does not take snow days well. He is an ISTP, which means he’s great with a snow plow and most other machinery and he almost never calls for help. So I knew the snow drifts were really high when the farmer had to wait for some other guy who has a bigger plow to come clear the snow. Another thing about an ISTP: they crave action-oriented tasks. So the farmer spent a lot of time outside, walking through the cold, longing for the more regular rhythms of the farm.

The next day there was no snow falling, but the snow piles were six feet high. Melissa is an INTJ. She needs to build systems to improve stuff, but it’s hard to be organized with stir-crazy boys, freezing animals, and a too-soon depleted pantry. But, proving that all personality types find their true-to-self way of working from home, Melissa spent the day calling airlines, switching tickets, telling agents that a snowstorm is a reason for a refund. And when she finished with her own tickets, she started rearranging for her friends.

Finally, the snowplow guy arrived and transformed the barren landscape to a winter playground. And while you’d expect me to take my kids outside with me, I can’t think unless I have alone time. It’s my favorite part of working from home, in fact. That I can be alone whenever I want. Except on a snow day.

One of the most important requirements for a successful home office is staying stimulated—making sure we experience new things all the time. So I slipped outside without a word to the kids, and tested the terrain.


53 replies
  1. Blessing
    Blessing says:

    Seems like you had fun doing just that! I love to work from home on snow days…The fact that its a work day makes it different.

    Thanks for sharing

  2. Roberta Warshaw
    Roberta Warshaw says:

    My company seems to be getting more comfortable with us working from home. My biggest problem is the software. We use Adobe Creative Suite 5. It costs close to $2000. Almost more than my laptop. So until I can either get them to buy it for me or bite the bullet and buy it myself (gulp) I won’t be able to work from home other than checking my e-mail.
    Recently they sent around a survey though asking us how often we work from a coffee shop. I had to laugh out loud at that one. I am not a twenty-something after all.
    But at least it means they are realizing that we can work from pretty much anywhere now. I think this is thanks to your generation. The Gen-Xrs!

    • Molly
      Molly says:

      Perhaps you could use to access your work computer from home. It’s very easy to use, and allows you to access everything on your computer, as if you were sitting in front of it.

    • di
      di says:

      Roberta, I work from coffee shops all the time and I’m certainly no twenty-something (I work there because I periodically need to get out from my normal day of working from home). And actually, a lot of the other people in the coffee shop aren’t twenty-somethings either. Get yourself to a coffee shop sometimes, Roberta. You’ll find it’s a great place to work!

      And Penelope, get yourself some snowshoes. They’re great fun when working from home on snowdays.

  3. Marni
    Marni says:

    I like this one. I think you should do more on personality types because it’s so relevant to how we function with work and play.
    Melissa’s pics are great.

    • alice
      alice says:

      Right — the personality types, particularly since we now know the players enough to recognize why you’ve assigned these rubrics, are fascinating and useful and funny.

      And the photos are terrific. I heart you, too.

  4. Harriet May
    Harriet May says:

    I work from home some evenings, and then once a week I have a twelve hour shift by myself. I always work that one at my parents’ house. Because I cannot spend twelve hours by myself in my box of an apartment. Not with my dog. At my parents’ house there is a dog door so she can take herself outside to pee. And if I’m alone too long, I tend to retreat into myself to the point where I’m content and no longer even want to venture into the outside world. It’s dangerous. I am, after all, an INFP.

  5. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Ok, normally I can sort of see a connection between your post titles and your posts, but today? Sorry, no. I really just came here to say that I did a personality test you linked to ages ago, and I’m ENTJ too!! Snap! (sheepish lol) And boy did your statement ‘so long as people follow my goal, I’m just fine’ resonate with me. That’s me, in a nutshell.

    Oh and thanks for all the links!

  6. beans
    beans says:

    ok probably a million people are going to tell you this
    it isn’t unpassable

    im·pass·a·ble [im pássəb’l]
    1. impossible to use: impossible to travel on or through, e.g. because of being in bad condition or being blocked by snow, ice, or floodwaters

    love the post. love, love the pictures, melissa.

    • tiger
      tiger says:

      i was going to say that, but i figured “impassable” just sounds too high-falutin’ for country folk. in the heartland, “impassable” (and probably most other words that start with “im”) is just fancy talk.

  7. Tom
    Tom says:

    Great post once again.

    You really help me understand my wife, an ENTJ, maybe AS too. She’s like a force of nature. At least as strong as the snowstorm, often probably closer to an avalanche. That is actually how she was described by someone we met :)

    Not really an easy life we have, but interesting –

    Fantastic photos!


  8. Kathy B.
    Kathy B. says:

    Hi Penelope…when you start that company, PLEASE make it one that gives us “country folk in the heartland” some jobs. The ones we have are not panning out too well right now…..speaking for myself anyway.

    • Eva
      Eva says:

      Working on what, exactly? PT’s very subtly hinted that her resume is pretty much bogus and that her last company ditched her. So the title of this post is beyond misleading.

  9. Irving Podolsky
    Irving Podolsky says:

    So I’m reading, reading, reading, looking at the pictures, getting deep into your fairyland saga, wondering if the food is going to hold out, if the animals will freeze, if that bigger plow will ever reach you, if the house will stay warm, if Malissa will ever get home, if the cookies were edible, if the farmer ever returned to the house, if I care enough to review what an ENTJ means, or an ISTP (which sounds like a car oil additive) and I’m reading reading reading, and I get to your sentence, “So I slipped outside without a word to the kids, and tested the terrain.” And I scroll down the pictures of a babe in the snow, ready for more words and…WHAT?! That’s the end of the story?!

    I will not sleep tonight worrying about the farm.


    • Pen
      Pen says:

      Hee! I love your comments, Irving

      (This one because I was thinking the exact same thing, others because you are just so insightful, plus articulate and funny/absurd/ironic/wry/etc.)

      • Tom
        Tom says:

        I gotta agree. But the snow just must have been too much fun when the rest of the family found out about sneaking out!


  10. Mylinda
    Mylinda says:

    I love reading your posts. I forget how much alone time I need and then get cranky when I don’t get it. Well and I feel guilty that I need it. Even now that my children are almost all grown.

  11. me
    me says:

    Awesome pix! I really REALLY hate winter, but your pix reminded me of how much fun playing in the snow used to be ….

  12. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Who took the pictures. And did you make snow angels? I am now trying to triangulate, to figure out what, about snow angels, is parallel to standard work at home processes.

  13. jiva126
    jiva126 says:

    I’m new and already hooked on your blog. I wish my guy could understand that I need daily alone time. He is the polar opposite. I guess it’s true, opposites really do attract.

  14. Vincent
    Vincent says:

    I’d love to know more about managing yourself and your career when only two parts of your MBTI score are consistent. I would call myself a **TJ. Over many years, I’ve tested as an ESTJ, ENTJ, ISTJ, and INTJ. I can understand the dynamic between introversion and extroversion. For me, I’ve never hit either extreme end of this scale.

    At times, I’d love to be in charge of SOMETHING, but I’ve also been happy trying to make systems to improve stuff.

    I’d also love to know where I can take a Big Five test for free. First time I’m hearing about this one, but I had a feeling there were more personality-typing systems other than MBTI.

    Thanks for reading!

  15. Tzipporah
    Tzipporah says:

    Ha. I wonder if you aren’t more INTJ than ENTJ, given that your need for other people is simply for them to listen to you when you can’t stop talking about something… ;)

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  17. INTJ
    INTJ says:

    Well I’m an INTJ and also have tried to work from home as much as possible. And like Melissa I’m very into improving systems. So much so that I named my site after it. So this post combined a lot of my interests :) Thanks Penelope.

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