Now that many of us are working from home…
When I was a new entrepreneur, there were days I realized I’d done nothing but stare at my computer screen, coding for eight straight hours or more.
There were times I realized I hadn’t spoken out loud all day until my husband came home from work.
There were times I realized that I hadn’t left the house in days.
There were times I realized that I hadn’t heard any news from the outside world since I couldn’t remember when.
There were times I realized I hadn’t seen any of my friends in weeks.
There were even times I realized I hadn’t eaten all day, and if I did, it was just a bowl of microwaved cheddar cheese.
None of this is good. None of this is how a human being was meant to live. I needed to find new ways to stay sane and feel like a human being again.
It took me a while for some reason, but I finally realized that the way I was working was not conducive to happiness, health, or a sense of mental or emotional well-being. My priorities HAD to change if I wanted to stay sane. So I changed them.
Work is important, sure, especially when you’re your own boss and you’re doing the work of several people. But I finally remembered that I’m important too, and that I should be on the priority list along with everything and everybody else! Sleep is important. Eating is important. Socializing is important. Enjoying the life that I’m creating is important.
So here’s what I’ve changed so far, to balance my life. I’m happier, healthier, and I feel more rested and peaceful because of it.
I Schedule Social Time
Once every week or two, I make a few coffee or lunch dates with friends. I FaceTime with distant friends or family. I text with friends or family members that I don’t see very often.
Socialization doesn’t have to be face to face, but that would be ideal. Unfortunately, much of my family lives in other states, and so to socialize with them I need to talk on the phone or FaceTime or Skype, or text. These all work for me because it’s the interaction and connection that’s important.
I find a pleasant space to hang out, nowhere near my workspace, so I can fully focus and enjoy the interaction.
Whatever type of socialization works for you, do it!
I Have a Schedule
There was a time when I preferred to code for hours without any breaks, but that was not helpful in the long run.
One time, I started at 10 PM and the next time I looked up from my screen it was 6 AM. I had no idea. When I was new to working from home, I didn’t want to have “a schedule”. I really felt that the beauty of working from a home office was that I could work “whenever” I wanted. And often I wanted to work very late at night.
It didn’t take long for this new found “freedom” to negatively impact my sleep cycle. Having the freedom to work “whenever”, wasn’t working for me at all. I wasn’t tired at night when I should be sleeping, and I was tired all day when I was also working and taking care of other responsibilities.
So I decided to have more structure in my days and nights. In order to keep that feeling of freedom I now use a loosely defined schedule, beginning anywhere between 7 and 8 AM and ending anywhere between 4 and 5 PM. But it works for me. I work only half a day on Friday and I don’t work most weekends.
Making myself stick with this structure has fixed my sleep cycle and given me back a sense of control over my life. It impacts how I plan my days. I can work more, or less, depending on what I need to get done.
I Take Breaks
Now that I have a schedule, I still have a tendency to get immersed in my work, sometimes to the exclusion of everything else.
When I first started taking little breaks, I worried about how “behind” I was getting in my work. But I soon realized that for some reason, my mind worked better, my thoughts were clear and I was actually more productive after I took a couple of breaks! I had no idea that would happen simply from taking a little time away from my work throughout the day. So I decided to keep taking breaks and make some of them a little bit longer.
I’m getting all of my work done and I don’t feel like I’m falling behind on other responsibilities while at the same time, I stay sane.
During a 30 minute break, I might do a little banking. On another break, I’ll make myself a nutritious snack or lunch. On a shorter break, I’ll play with the dog.
See what I mean? I don’t have a set break schedule but I’m aware that I need to take them and I honor that. I take them in the morning and in the afternoon, at various times and for various lengths, depending on my needs. I no longer drive myself like a workhorse. I’m kinder and more considerate to myself, and it shows in my work. Go figure, huh?
I Get Out of the House
I think one of the best ways to stay sane is to get out and about. Even if it’s just to make a quick coffee run, pick up the dry cleaning, or go to the grocery store for 2 things, I DO IT.
Some ways you can get yourself out of the house are:
If you have a dog, take her for a walk or go to the park for an hour.
Join an exercise class.
Join a small business club or your Chamber of Commerce. These types of groups often have get-togethers, so not only will you get out of the house, you’ll meet other entrepreneurs, hear new ideas, learn new things and build your network. All good for you AND your business.
Check the mail or take a short walk. Get your muscles working and your blood pumping. Your body will appreciate movement, you’ll get to look at something besides your computer screen. And that brings me to the next thing:
Make a Change of Scenery
I started working from a different area after each break. So on some days, if I’ve had three breaks, I’ve worked in three different areas, including outside. This one really helps me stay sane.
My advice to you: change up your workspace now and then. Work in different areas of your house or sit in a different chair or in a different room, so your view changes. Work outside for 30 minutes if you can, sometimes in your front yard, sometimes in the back. Work from your favorite coffee spot and change-out the location now and then. Not only will you have a change of scenery, but you’ll meet and interact with different people.
I hope you’ll try a couple of these yourself and see if it makes a positive difference in your life. 🙂