Working From Home Effectively
When I first began working for myself, I had grand dreams of what it would be like to work out of my home. I could wake up when I liked, cook a delicious breakfast, brew a pot of coffee, and then sit down in front of my laptop (while still in my pajamas) and begin the day’s work.
“But before I do, maybe I should throw a load of laundry in the wash,” I thought. “I really need to run to the grocery store. The dogs look like they need a walk.” It was very hard for me to not get distracted by home-related activities such as cleaning, cooking, and relaxing – the things I was used to doing in my home. I eventually managed to balance the distractions with working, but then I began to feel like I needed to work ALL THE TIME. My home had become my office, and while I was at the office, I felt like I needed to be productive and work on my startup. I started feeling guilty for relaxing or for working on a house project.
I finally realized that working from home wasn’t working for me, so I started working at coffee shops. Things improved drastically once I had a separate place for working and a separate place for living. I could be at home and do home-related tasks without guilt, and when I was working at a coffee shop I could sit – without distractions – and work until my tasks for the day were completed. While this may not work for everyone, it’s what works for me.
Whether you decide to work from home or from a place outside your home, here are a few things I learned that help me stay sane:
Get dressed every day.
No matter where you work (from home or outside of home), it’s important to present yourself as you would working for somebody else. I feel much better about myself knowing I brushed my hair and put at least a little effort into my appearance.
Stick to a routine.
One of the perks of working for yourself is that you can set your own schedule. I’m more inclined to stay up late and then sleep late, so that’s what I do. Even so, I make sure to get up around the same time each day and then go to work. I also try to reserve certain days of the week for things like meetings so that the remaining days can be free from interruptions.
Try new places.
When I started working from coffee shops, I worked from the same one every single day. Eventually, I learned that it was important to occasionally change your surroundings, whether that be a different coffee shop, a coworking spot, or working at a friend’s house. Changing it up helps improve creativity and ensures you don’t get stuck in a rut. Plus, who doesn’t love to try new places?
Working for yourself means you have much less social interaction than if you worked in an office environment – I think this is one of the biggest drawbacks. Not having coworkers to ask for help or to bounce ideas off of can really have an impact on your work. Every now and then, I try to arrange a “work date” with other friends of mine who work for themselves. Making friends at a local coworking spot is also a great way to get some social interaction that you might be missing out on. I also make an effort to schedule non-work-related dates with friends since I’m no longer around them everyday where those things happen organically.
Be part of the community.
Working at a startup or for yourself can mean ample opportunities for you to network or attend events like conferences, hackathons, meetups, happy hours, or talks. It’s important to strike a balance between being part of the community and also getting enough work done. When I first began working for myself, Jason and I found ourselves attending every event we got invited to. However, this had a negative impact on our work since it was so much time away from our startup. Learn which events are important to you (for us, it’s hackathons) and which events you can say no to.