The idea of working from home always sounds most alluring to those who have never actually done it: no commutes, flexible schedule, no coworkers lurking behind your back when you’re online planning your next golf trip. And with ObamaCare eliminating the shackles between full-time employment and health insurance, there’s never been greater temptation to cut the office cord and strike out on your own. But I have a strong feeling that the following scenario may sound all too familiar to those of you drafting copy, creating code, and navigating the business world from the supposed comfort of your living rooms.
You wake up in the morning, maybe eat some breakfast, say goodbye to your girlfriend, wife, kids, or roommate. Then, oh no, what do you do? The silence in your house mocks you. Your day sits in front of you as empty (and scary) as a blank screen to an author with writer’s block. Before you know it, it’s 3 p.m., you’re wearing whatever you slept in, you haven’t showered or accomplished a shred of work, and you’ve spent hours online comparing deals on moustache wax — when you don’t even have facial hair.
Here are five tips to help you maintain your sanity, be productive, and make working from home live up to your dreams:
Just because you don’t have a boss, doesn’t mean you don’t have to pretend you have someone to answer to. Every morning make a list of the most important items you need to do that day. Prioritize them. Enter them into your digital calendar. And then stick to the timeline as much as possible. Think to yourself (or say it aloud — why not?), “Yes, virtual boss, I will get that proposal written by 4 p.m.”
This is a tough one. It’s all-too easy to jump out of bed and onto your laptop, get totally immersed, and then not move a muscle to eat, stretch, or breathe for the next eight hours. Don’t do it. Your creativity will suffer. Your body will ache. You
Emerge from your lair to greet the sun first thing and grab a coffee. Meet other human beings for lunch. Take an hour to hit the gym. And, for crying out loud, please remember to start your day with a shower.
Tip #3: Lonely No More — Find Your Community
There’s nothing lonelier than working all by your lonesome. It’s enough to make you long for the vicious office gossip that used to drive you crazy. But — and this is important — don’t use loneliness as an excuse to ring up your long-lost best buddy from when you were four and catch up on the last 30 years.
Instead, use online platforms to find other flesh and blood people who are putting in time from their sofas. Especially those in your field. Learn from them, brainstorm with them, and take the novices under your wing. They will help you find clients, hone your ideas, and ultimately be your community.
Tip #4: See Ya Later, Facebook (and Other Rabbit Holes)
You probably saw this one coming a mile away. Social media is a productivity killer. Between the hours of, say, nine to six, you’re just going to have to (virtually) step away from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and whatever other time-suck rabbit hole you tend to fall down.
Don’t get me wrong. If you’re using social media to build your client base, position yourself as an expert in your field, or simply to find your work-from-home community, keep those windows open. But — be honest with yourself — are you able to login to Facebook and not lose hours lolling about among yesterday’s sunset photos, your ex-roomate’s new job announcement, and the top ten cutest pugs of all time? If not, just don’t go there.
Tip #5: Between Gigs? Build Your Brand
When you work for yourself, you’ll have ups and downs. There are weeks when everybody wants to hire you and you have to turn them down in droves. And weeks when the email stops pinging and the phone stops ringing. Don’t despair. Embrace the downtime. This is when you can do the deep thinking about who you are and what makes your business unique. Update your reel/portfolio/website/LinkedIn profile, shoot promo videos to post in online marketplaces, and cull your network to find and reach out to more potential clients.
None of this easy. And that’s why working from home is a best-laid plan only for the self-starters among us. It takes proactivity and discipline. But if you’ve got the stick-to-it to follow these tips, you can reap the rich rewards (just not in your bathrobe, please!).