When I quit my job to start freelancing, there were a lot of things that scared me. Would I be able to make enough money to pay my rent? Would I be able to find new clients? Was this whole thing going to work
But most of all, I worried about working remotely.
I’m a really social person, and the thought of relegating myself to a life without coworkers made me feel as wrinkled as a raisin. I would no longer have an audience for my jokes. I would have to create my own office space. Yep, the whole thing made me panic.
I’ve been freelancing for 8 months now, and I’m happy to report that I’m working remotely without driving myself insane. Here’s what I recommend to others who want to be productive in their remote work:
Try to find routine
According to Mason Currey, author of the best-selling Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, “a solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.”
Since I’ve started working remotely, I’ve tried my best to stick to a routine. The routine eliminates decision-making throughout the day, allowing me to concentrate on my work. For example, part of my routine is that I work out every weekday morning at 9 am. Now that I’ve been doing this for a while, working out isn’t something I have to decide to do. It’s simply part of what I do every day, just like brushing my teeth when I get out of bed.
Every evening, when I finish my work for the day, my boyfriend and I go take a walk somewhere. It doesn’t have to be long, but it ensures I get out of the house for a few minutes. For more info on forming habits and creating routines, read The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.
Find creative ways to get outside
When you work remotely, you spend a lot of time at your house. Before you know it, you can’t remember the last time you left.
One of the best ways to stay sane is to make sure you get out of the house and connect with the world. Here are some ideas for how to do it:
- Join a club or meet up group. Do whatever you fancy– improv, writing workshop, cooking course, soccer, or a cornhole team.
- Go to professional meet ups in your city. I go to CreativeMornings SD, which is a speaker series for creative professionals, and my local Freelancers Union Spark workshops).
- Work at a coffee shop or library. These places usually have Wifi, and are often filled with like-minded professionals getting stuff done.
- Join a coworking space. If you’re sick of your home office, considering getting a membership at a coworking space. Many are social places with free beer and weeknight happy hours.
- Visit clients and customers just to say hi. It’s hard to do this if customers aren’t local, but if some of them are, ask to stop by their office and have lunch with the team.
- Schedule lunches with friends. Most people that go into an office have an hour for a lunch break, so ask your friends to meet up for a sandwich.
Get a fitness tracker
You don’t move a lot when you work from a home office. Your biggest distance covered might be the space from your bed, to your office, to your kitchen and bathroom. Research shows that sitting all day puts you at higher risk for heart disease, and can also have a negative effect on mental health.
Working out improves mood by releasing endorphins, and it’s one of the best ways to combat anxiety and depression. A few months ago, I got a Fitbit to help me learn how much I’m moving around in a given day. I friended a bunch of other remote workers on the app, and we help keep each other accountable
Prioritize your home office
When I worked in-house at a tech company, I got a large desk and a comfortable office chair. My company made sure that my office space would ensure optimal performance. But as a remote worker, it’s up to you to make sure you have a good space to work in, and that you have the equipment to support them.
Start by making sure you have a relegated space to work– the kitchen table doesn’t count! Purchase a high quality, supportive office chair. I have the Herman Miller SAYL chair, which I love. A functional desk matters as well– a $40 desk from Walmart (yes, I’ve used this!) isn’t going to cut it.
Whenever a client wants to do a video chat rather than a phone call, I groan. It means I’m going to have to get out of my pajamas, comb my hair, and try to look presentable.
But every time I do one of these meetings, I’m surprised by how great they make me feel. Seeing someone’s face is a much more up-close-and-personal way to communicate, and it helps stave off miscommunications. It also helps me feel more connected with my clients.
I try to use video chat whenever I can, even if it means putting on a shirt.
Final thoughts: Working remotely can be peaceful and productive
When you work at home full time, it’s essential that you’re as productive as possible, and that you feel good about your work life. Hopefully, these tips will help you work remotely without driving yourself crazy. If you have other strategies for perfecting remote work, I’d love to hear. Please share in the comments.
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