I am a raging extrovert.
I know this to be true about myself, and my friends I’m sure would agree with a laugh. I thrive being around others. Interacting with people gives me tons of energy. I rarely feel the need to be alone. I constantly suffer from FOMO. And yet, I’ve spent the last two years working at home by myself every day. What’s my secret?
I have to admit, when the opportunity first came up, I cried. At the time, I was working for a consulting company in the marketing department and I loved our office, my coworkers, and being at the center of company culture. My husband got an offer for his dream job, one we couldn’t refuse, but it would require us to move to the Bay Area where my company did not have any satellite offices established. Instead of quitting, the company offered to let me work remotely from home and the idea terrified me. As I imagined what my new day-to-day would be like - sitting at home all day by myself never interacting with a real human until my husband came home - I broke down crying and thought I would never be happy with that life.
Long story short, we still made the move and I immediately began trying to find a co-working space in our new city so that I wouldn’t have to in fact be alone all day if I didn’t want to. True, these people would not be my coworkers and I would be sitting among a bunch of strangers, but at least I wouldn’t be alone, right? Well that situation worked out for a few months and it was great - until it wasn’t. I did end up establishing friendships with the other members at the co-working space, and there were even community events and meals, which was awesome. But the thing about putting a bunch of random people who are all working on different things together in one room is that it’s very DISTRACTING. Imagine all of the phone calls, conversations, client visits, and drama that was overheard in that room…after a couple of months I honestly found that most days I was leaving the co-working space early to go finish my work at home where there were less interruptions. After about a year of that, I decided to switch to working from home full time, and Johnathan and I moved to a two bedroom place so that I could use one room as my office. Haven’t looked back since.
Along the way, I’ve had to establish routines and rituals that help me stay healthy and productive while working in an isolated environment. Whether you’re looking to make the switch to working from home, about to start a business venture on your own, or even if you’re a new mom and find yourself at home and alone often, here are some of my top tips for not losing your mind:
Get physical activity in daily. Working from home means that I’m spending most of my day sitting in front of a computer. Even getting up for lunch or for the restroom requires me to move only a few steps away from my desk, so slipping into a very sedentary life becomes easy. I start every day by going to the gym in the morning and sweating. I personally love boxing, weight lifting, hiking, and yoga, but on days where I’m low on energy I’ll just walk on the treadmill and listen to a podcast. Anything to get my heart rate up and my body burning calories. Plus it’s an excuse to get out of the house and see people!
Schedule social visits in advance. Doing this gives me things to look forward to throughout the week, and gives me peace of mind that the week won’t pass without interacting with other humans. Whether it’s a coffee date in the morning, lunch with my husband, a wine night with my girls, having another couple over for dinner, or going out for drinks with friends, I make sure to plan social engagements into my calendar ahead of time. I’ll even volunteer to babysit my neighbor’s kids for a few hours - anything to get some face time in with others!
Leave the house at least once a day. Sounds dramatic right? But running my own business from home can quite literally mean never needing to leave the house sometimes. I try to make sure I have a reason to leave almost every day, whether it’s to run an errand, go grocery shopping, eat lunch on my porch, visit the library, or even just taking a walk around the block. Gotta get that Vitamin D somehow!
Create a separate space for work. I know everyone doesn’t have the opportunity to convert an entire room in their house into an office space, but even if it’s just a desk, a writing nook in the corner, or your favorite chair near a window, carving out a “space” for work has helped me make the mental adjustment from “home ” to “work ” even within the confines of the same walls. I appreciate that at the end of the day I can literally close the door on work and shift into life mode. Setting up that boundary can help with staying on task and avoiding distractions at home.
Take breaks, short but often. This has helped my mind stay sharp and focused. Every 30 minutes or so I try to take a short break, even if it's just lifting my eyes off the computer screen, refilling my water glass, or stepping outside to stretch in the sun. I try to check in on my posture and breathing during these intervals too, and see how I'm feeling.
Eat lunch away from the desk. I try to be strict with myself about not working through lunch, otherwise I'll look up and realize I'm ravenous and somehow it's 4pm. I make an effort to actually make a lunch every day, even if it's just a green smoothie, and sit somewhere other than my desk while I'm eating. Sometimes I'll read, listen to a podcast, scroll through IG, or just sit there watching the world outside while I eat, but it helps to have a mental break in the middle of the day. Nourishing myself with good food helps avoid the late-afternoon slump as well.
Get a pet. About 3 months after we moved to our new place and I set up my home office, we adopted our kitty Achilles and he has made more of a difference than I even expected. Honestly, it’s just nice to have another living, breathing creature around. When I need a quick break or am having a bad day, petting his soft fur is calming and comforting. I’m literally laughing as I type this because I know I sound crazy. But I love having him around the house. And he’s dang cute.