Have you recently left your 9-5 life to work for yourself from home?
Now comes the part that many of us didn’t think too much about. Removing the 9-5 job removed our daily structure. In order to be effective and happy in our new role, we need to create that structure for ourselves. This is challenging for some people and the following 3 tips to help you make the shift are an easy way to get started.
1. Establish a morning routine that partly mimics your old 9-5 day.
A 9-5 job comes with a built-in morning routine as a result of planning your commute. You plan your morning to start your commute at a certain time and arrive at work on time. When you’re working for yourself from home, the commute may be no further than 20 yards to the spare bedroom turned into your new office. Consider this one of the first perks you’ll benefit from as you continue on this journey: you no longer have to commute! However, DO NOT use this as an excuse to sleep in, or otherwise change your old morning routine.
You may think not having to go into the office means you don’t have to go through the morning ritual of showering and getting yourself presentable for your coworkers, but I suggest you continue those rituals. They’ve been a part of your day throughout your past 9-5 job and your brain is wired to get into working mode as a result. Keep doing these things and your brain will shift to work mode on it’s own, as it’s already trained to do. The main difference now is you don’t feel the stress you might have before. Instead of going into a 9-5 job that made you unhappy, you get to continue with your day on your terms.
2. Remember to move.
It may sound basic, but remembering to get up and move is important. Your body benefits from the activity and your mind takes a break from your work to process what you’ve accomplished so far. A 9-5 work environment introduces ambient activity, impromptu visits from coworkers and likely a calendar of meetings requiring you get up and move around. All of that is gone when you are working for yourself from home. You need to give yourself guidelines for your work and activity throughout the day. For some, this may come as a regularly scheduled gym visit, dog walk, or a stroll to the nearest coffee shop.
Like an artist who steps away from their painting to come back later with a fresh perspective, you also need to give your brain occasional work breaks for the same reason. Let the work you’ve done sit for a little bit. That might be 10 minutes while you refill your water bottle, or it may be overnight while you switch gears to a different task. Either way, the act of breaking from your work gives your mind a chance to subconsciously digest what you’ve done. You might come back to your work with new ideas you hadn’t thought of before.
A popular technique for implementing regular work breaks is called the Pomodoro Technique. It’s name is derived from the famous tomato shaped kitchen timer. You can learn more about it on wikipedia, but the basic steps are as follows:
- Decide on the task to be done
- Set the pomodoro timer to 25 minutes
- Work on the task until the timer rings
- Take a short break (3–5 minutes) This counts as 1 pomodoro
- After four pomodori, take a longer break (15–30 minutes)
Shorter work periods of focused attention lead to greater results. Try it for yourself.
3. Schedule coffee or lunch dates with friends.
This might be the most important of the 3 tips in this post. Think about how often you went out to lunch with coworkers, or sat in the office kitchen while eating lunch and talking. Working for yourself from home can be an isolating experience for some. I’ve found scheduling coffee or lunch dates with friends or colleagues keeps me from feeling isolated. I enjoy the time by myself to work, and am connected with others via several communication channels on the internet, but nothing compares to an in-person visit with someone.
My coffee and lunch dates aren’t always with people to talk about work. Sometimes they are a chance to reconnect and give my brain that mental break from work. There are times where these visits turn into very inspiring brainstorm sessions discussing new ideas or helping a friend with their work challenges. The goal of these visits is always to get some real world interaction with others, to step away from the computer, to let my work brain do some background processing.
Do you have any techniques or rituals that helped you transition your 9-5 mindset to a life working for yourself? Share them in the comments.