Working from home definitely has its benefits, but I’d be the first to admit there are also disadvantages. I’ve worked out of my home on and off for nearly three decades now. It can be hard to disengage from work. Soon or later though, I’ve learned, bad habits will catch up with you. So why not make a point of establishing good daily practices?
Here’s what I’ve discovered about how to be productive and happy working alone.
1. Commit to a schedule.
Just because you have the freedom to work anytime day or night, you must recognize: The rest of the world is working nine to five. There are times when I’d prefer to work at night or on the weekends, but in reality, I think keeping a schedule that aligns with your customers and the partners you rely on is extremely important. Being available is crucial to your success. So even though, yes, you have freedom -- you should work with the system at large.
2. Maintain a calendar.
I'm not much for calendars. But I’ve realized setting due dates and actually putting them on my calendar helps me complete projects. Set goals each day that you can actually achieve. By all means, plan big. But really, it’s going to take you little step after little step to get there.
3. Have a dedicated office area.
Someplace you feel comfortable and secure. Of course, you need the right equipment -- the tools necessary -- to conduct your business. My office is not at all fancy. I have just the bare minimum of what I need. It blows my mind I can sit upstairs in Lake Tahoe and communicate with students around the world.
4. Act as if you were leaving the house.
Just because you work alone doesn’t mean you don’t need to mentally prepare yourself for the day. For me that means waking up early, having a cup of coffee, taking a shower, getting dressed, shaving, etc. Basically, all the things I would do if I were going to leave the house.
Okay, I’ll be honest. I stay in my pajamas for the first couple hours, then take a break to shower and get dressed. It helps provide a much-needed rhythm to the day.
5. Communicate with others regularly.
I like working with other people. Working from home can get lonely. So make sure to contact others through Skype and other forms of communication. Creating opportunities for personal contact outside your home really is important. The view from my window is great. But I still actually need to get out there. Try incorporating taking a walk or another form of exercise during the day. Even just going into town can be reinvigorating.
6. Reward yourself.
Whatever it is you do, I guarantee there are some aspects of the job you enjoy more than others. My advice is, do those things in the morning. Schedule preferable tasks in the afternoon.
7. Take breaks.
It's pretty easy to roll out of bed and walk up to my office. I have a bad habit of dropping in throughout the weekend. I can’t help myself. But let’s be real. Your work will always be there. If you’re an entrepreneur, your day is never done. Force yourself to walk away and goof off.
8. Stop sitting.
Sitting is the new smoking, haven’t you heard? I for one agree. I’ve developed pain in my neck and back due to poor habit. So now I try to get up throughout the day. I walk around. I stretch. I get on the bicycle. Do anything but sitting all day long! It’s a terrible habit.
9. Stock your pantry with healthy snack food.
The fridge is always right there! I like to snack. Have snacks around that will fuel your day.
10. Limit your activity on social media.
It's hard not to check Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn during the day. We all do it. But set some boundaries. Check before work and maybe then again at lunch. If you wait until the end of the day to follow up, you'll find you’re more productive.
Working alone takes discipline, that’s for sure. But knowing you have the freedom to set your own schedule, to take the afternoon off or to walk outside is extremely rewarding.