If you take the plunge and decide to leave the full time nine to five world behind you (and the overbearing bosses and politics that come with it) you may find that the freedom that this life offers you can quickly grow stale if it isn't approached with balance and a decent dose of discipline. Being your own boss is great, as is having the option of "going to work" in your pajama best. But the clicks on a keyboard, the glow of a monitor and the static view from the seat of your home office can become boring colleagues. Particularly if you live alone or do all of your work on a computer, a strategy to preserve your sanity and remind you that you are still part of the "real" world may be in order. The following ten tips can form part of just such a strategy:
1. Have a routine
Just because you don't have to get up early â€“ doesn't mean you shouldn't. Set your alarm and get up early just like everyone else. Without a proper routine and some structure in your life, you may lose motivation and efficiency. When that 6AM default tune rings in the morning, great it with a smile and let it remind you that you're getting up for a reason â€“ you've got work to do, you're doing it your way and its important. Don't let the lethargy kick in, get up on time and get your day pumping.
2. Dress for success
Clothes can be a big deal. No one really feels good in an oversized T-shirt that should have been thrown out eight years ago and a track pants with last night's spaghetti stains decorating the sides. Show yourself and what you do some respect and get dressed like you're ready to confidently face the world. This doesn't mean donning a three piece suite, it means not looking like you live in a cave and will never interact with people again. Be as comfortable as you choose but look presentable. If you look good, you feel good â€“ so dress like you have a purpose and leave the pajamas for after hours.
3. Divide your duties
Divide your work into what can be done out of the home office and what must be done in it. If you do anything on a laptop or in writing that doesn't need a printer, scanner or non-wireless internet connection, it counts as "out of office" work. This depends on what you do, but make sure you have a few duties that you take away from home â€“ something that gets you out the house for half the day and lets you know that you're part of the community around you. A change of scenery if necessary to stimulate your brain and keep you motivated, and keeping yourself chained to a home desk every day can be just as bad as any other job. One of the perks of working from home is the freedom, make sure you use it.
4. Eat at home
This may seem like a strange tip, but it's a useful one. If you're leaving the house in the morning, have a good breakfast at home. If you're leaving for the afternoon, make sure you've had your fill of lunch before you set off. The point of going out is to still be productive, just in a different environment. When you're distracted by hunger pangs and the tasty options of available to you in the outside world, not only does it turn your work time into a lunch meet with yourself (or whoever may be around), but the cost can add up. You're not going out to catch a snack or to be slowed down by a staple diet of junk food - you're going out to work.
5. Pick your spots
Pick a few spots where you enjoy working. These are the places that make the world your office. The local cafÃ©, the coffee shop in the supermarket, the food court at the mall, the restaurant on the corner, the local library â€“ anywhere that you choose. Places that are close to home are best, they cut down on driving time and are easy to get to. You have the freedom to go where you choose, but driving around looking for a new venue that suites your mood isn't helpful to your work life â€“ have a few favourite spots and go there directly, ready to be productive. More than one and less than five is usually a good idea â€“ that way you will have freedom of choice while still maintaining some stability to keep up a good routine.
6. Get greeting
Whether you like them or not, having work colleagues is more necessary than you think. Human interaction is one of the perks of not working from home, so make sure that when you make the world your office, you remember that you now have close to 7 billion colleagues. This is one of the best ways to keep away the isolation niggles at bay and really make you feel a part of it all. All it takes is a simple greet. Say hello to the faces you recognize, offer your greetings to the people you pass as you frequent your favourite work spots. Not only will a simple greet keep your spirits up, it's necessary for tip 7â€¦
7. Get talking
As above, having colleagues is one of the joys of work life â€“ it gives you a different perspective, connects you to the world and offers you a glimpse into stories other than those floating in your head as you work on your own at home. Not only that, but if you get chatting and tell people who you regularly see what it is that you do, it motivates you to do just that. When Bill at the corner cafÃ© asks you "so how are those articles coming along?", it gives you an opportunity to discuss your progress â€“ which is a great motivator to keep things moving. Let the people around you cement the image of what it is you do, let them remind you that you don't work for a boss but are doing what it is that you choose to do.
8. Don't be distracted
Wherever you go, just remember that you're still on the job. Don't be distracted by everything around you. Have your spots, know what it is that you need to do, and sit down and do it. If one of your spots is at a mall, remember that you're not there to shop. If it's at a coffee shop and you see someone you know - there's a difference between a quick chat with a colleague and an hour long chat over coffee and croissants. There will be plenty of time to take advantage of the freedom of working from home when you've finished your work for the day.
9. Divide your hours
If you have things that need to be done, get them done as soon as possible. Instead of relying on the fact that you have the whole day to do certain tasks (perhaps minor ones) â€“ set certain times for yourself to get them done. If 10-11 AM is your order processing time or admin hour, then make sure that's an extremely productive hour where you do that task and nothing else(unless completely necessary). Try to not go back and forward between tasks â€“ if a late afternoon order comes in then it can be processed during your "order hour" first things in the morning. Obviously this will have to be worked out according to the type of work you do and what works for you, but this type of routine can give you direction and if you work hard and get things done during these set hours, it will give you more freedom for the rest of the day.
10. Enjoy working from home
People often say that running your own home business or working as a freelancer from home can mean more work and stress than a 9-5 office job, but this doesn't have to be the case. You chose to work from home for a reason, so don't get caught up in stress and numbers at the expense of the perks that come with the freedom of working from home. Take some time every day to do something that you enjoy, to use some time in such a way that you wouldn't be able to do were you tied to an office building or retail store. Whether this is taking up a hobby during hours that you free up in the afternoon, enjoying the view of one of your favourite "mobile office" spots or just having extra time to do something that you need to do (or have to do) â€“ be sure to remind yourself what you appreciate about being able to work from home.
By following the above tips daily, you will be able to be productive, feel part of the world and at the same time remember that you are free to set your own hours and go where you choose to go â€“ one of the main reasons for working from home in the first place.