After challenging tradition and working at home for the past 6 months, I’ve gathered a great deal of new perspectives. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I want to do with my life. I’ve learned that being your own boss is a dream come true. I’ve also learned that there can be bitter elements to even the sweetest treats. But more importantly, I’ve learned a lot about how to make the best out of this spectacular experience.
When I wrote about the downsides of working at home (which you should read before reading this), I was amazed at the responses from everyone that shared the same sentiments. Clearly, we’ve all had a taste of a good thing going bad when served in bulk. What really hit me was that, while everybody had their own version of their rants, the majority still whole-heartedly enjoyed working at home. Good – there is hope after all!
The key to livening up the work-at-home lifestyle is to minimize the things that can turn the experience sour, and to take advantage of all the new opportunities that the cube life just doesn’t offer. I’ve combined a few things that I’ve learned to do over the last 6 months and the responses that some of you offered to put together a list of 13 ways to liven up your work-at-home routine. I hope you enjoy it!
1. Choose hours that work for you
Often times people new to working at home, especially those transitioning from an office job, subconsciously fall into the mindset that you must still work 9-5. However, realize that you can make slight adjustments to your work schedule and still complete all the work you need to do. For example, I prefer to work 10-6 instead. Pushing the work day a hour later may not seem like a lot, but it’s sufficient for me to either catch up on more sleep or do one of the next two tips. This puts me in a better mood already to work through the rest of the day.
Note that in some cases, the work schedule you choose will be dependent on the nature of your business and the clients you serve.
2. Jump start your day
In the comments, Tristan recommended getting a good start to your day by doing a morning workout. I’ve started to put this thought into practice by going for an early jog to wake up the senses for the day ahead. I guarantee when the lung-exploding exhaustion has passed, you’ll feel like a million bucks. Showering after the workout is critical to jump starting your day as well (and for good hygiene too).
3. Have breakfast
It really is the most important meal of your day as it gives you just the right boost of energy to get you going with your busy day (I sound like a Kellogg’s commercial). It also works well with the morning excercise – which combined together doesn’t have to take any more than 45 minutes.
4. Define work time and play time – and stick to it!
When you live where you work and work where you live, you need to have some limits in place to create that necessary separation between the two lives. Do this by defining specific times to work, and specific times to do anything but work. For example, if you specify your work time to be between 9 and 5, then the minute the clock hits 5, you must force yourself to get away from the computer. If you don’t, you’ll just keep working and forget about the other aspects of life – like living it.
5. Take your work on the road
Tired of working at home? Then work somewhere else! Freshen up your mind by working in a public place like a local coffee shop. Interesting people and overpriced caffeinated drinks can do wonders for you. For those in the Toronto area, I recommend the cliched Starbucks for a quiet and relaxed environment, or Tim Horton’s for a more social space.
6. Make your virtual team a real team
There are a million benefits to working virtually with your business partners, but every once and awhile try to change it up a bit and meet up in a physical location to work. I find myself often visiting my old campus to meet up with my partners and working there. It sort of brings me back to the roots of where I started this crazy venture and just breathes some new life into my work.
7. Face-to-face meetings for the win
Aside from all the great business reasons to ditch email for face-to-face meetings that FreelanceSwitch recently wrote about, doing so also gives you another good opportunity to step out of your home and get a breath of fresh air. Meeting people physically, whether it be your team or your clients, also gives you the social interaction that your day at home is missing.
8. Teach yourself something new
It’s not very often that people get the opportunity to continue building their palette of skills on a daily basis. But because you are your own boss, you get to set how your time is allocated. So take a hour or two out of your day, break out of your regular work, and learn something new and exciting. Google up some Photoshop tutorials, or learn something you didn’t know about CSS, Flash, or anything else relevant to your line of work. As you grow your competencies, your business will grow as well. Plus, it adds that bit of novelty to your day.
9. Give your work environment a face lift
If your home office has grown stale, do what I did and give it a face lift! Whether it means painting your walls a fresh new color, getting some new furniture, indulging in some new toys, or all of the above, changing your surrounding means you’re less likely to get tired of it. A happier work attitude will surely follow.
10. Run your home office like a real office
A few of you told me that you could relate to falling prey to the added household responsibilities that come with working at home. Solution? Put your foot down and run your home office like a real office. Close your door and make it clear that while it’s closed, you shouldn’t be disturbed. This requires some self-control on your part as well – don’t catch yourself playing guitar in your office while you should be working.
11. Take your breaks away from the computer
Breaks are really important to avoid a burn out. The problem is, I know a lot of people (myself included) naturally use their computers for liesure as well as work. If you’re taking a break away from work but haven’t even moved from your computer which you do work on, you’re far more likely to cheat your break time and continue working. Do yourself a favor and take your breaks elsewhere – take a walk, watch some television, or bust out some yoga. Yea, that’s right, yoga. It soothes your soul.
12. Arrange for after-work activities
Probably the best way to put a limit on your work time is to arrange for some after-work activities. David regularly plays football or heads over to gym, as does Brian. I used to, in the warmer seasons, play tennis, and I’m looking forward to doing that again once all this cold white stuff we call snow has melted. My friends and I are even planning to rent out an indoor gym to get weekly games of basketball going – something I’m excited to do as I know it’ll get me out of the house and away from work. It doesn’t even have to be an athletic activity – make plans to get a few drinks, spend some time with the girlfriend, or go watch a new movie. Anything that helps you further separate your work and social life is good.
13. Set daily goals
Aside from setting ambitious short-term and long-term goals for yourself (which you should do), it’s important to set daily goals as well. With an infinite amount of things that you have on your to-do list, it’s impossible to get it all done in a single day. But I know you’ll try. And that’s the problem – you’ll never stop working because you’ll never stop having things to get done. Manage your work more wisely by breaking your long list of to-do’s into daily tasks. This will give you a better sense of when you know you’ve done a sufficient amount of work for the day, so that you can switch off and enjoy other aspects of life. This will leave you less mentally and physically exchausted, which will naturally keep your spirits high for the next day.
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I think it goes without saying that nobody truly needs to be convinced that working at home is a unique and rewarding lifestyle to lead. The purpose of this article was to help you get the most out of it and to help make sure you don’t spoil it for yourself. There’s no need to incorporate every one of these tips into your day, but a few now and again will certainly help to pump new life and energy into a sometimes mundane routine.
Embrace the incredible opportunity of being your own boss and always remember the thinking that brought you to this point in the first place – you saw something you weren’t satisfied with (i.e. your desk job) and you changed it. The same principle applies here – if you find something bumming you out, change it or get rid of it. You have all the flexibility in the world, so leave your excuses at the door.
Got some remedies of your own?
It was great to hear all of your personal rants on the downsides of working at home. Now let’s hear the successes you’ve had with implementing remedies of your own!