A Routine Will Keep You Sane: Advice for Remote Workers & Freelancers
When we started our home business, we’d both just finished working a 7am-5pm job at a major publishing company. For a while, we thought that staying on a schedule was the exact opposite of what we wanted to do. That was too similar to our “old” lives; now we wanted to be free to do what we wanted, when we wanted. Instead of sticking to a schedule or routine, we would often triage our days (client work always took priority, of course, leaving little room for other creative endeavors). We did, however, set goals that we wanted to accomplish.
Following the advice of the late, great Zig Ziglar, we wrote those goals down, put a date on them, listed our obstacles, identified the people we’d need to work with, spelled out a plan of action, identified the benefits, and then got to it. However, because we were lacking a solid routine, we faltered, and many of our goals became harder and harder to achieve.
It felt as if we were drifting, isolated from friends, family, colleagues, and other freelancers we knew. Our clients lived across the country (and sometimes across the globe), and our sleep schedules were all over the place, with 'lights out' creeping ever closer to dawn. And even when it felt as if sanity itself was slipping through our fingers, we remained stubborn. We didn’t want a routine, or a schedule. Wasn’t independence and freedom the entire point of working alone from home?
It wasn’t until we hit rock bottom that we finally came to terms with the fact that we had been horribly, horribly wrong.
A routine is absolutely necessary in order to stay sane. In fact, it's the only way to live a life that actually works. And now that we’ve finally emerged from a world of absolute chaos and reacquainted ourselves with order, here’s what we believe is essential for anyone working from home as a freelancer, independent contractor, small business owner, or remote employee:
1. Wake up at the same time every day.
It doesn’t have to be 5 or 6am. You can choose the time that works best for you, but stick to it. It’s harder than it sounds, especially at first, but my god, is it worth it. You have to regulate your circadian rhythms because they regulate your mood. And if you’re in a bad mood all the time, or feeling overwhelmed, simply making this one little change will work wonders for you and your business.
2. Eat breakfast.
This seems obvious, but it’s not. In the past, it’s been easy to start the day with a cup of coffee, dive into a project, or end up writing a ton of emails only for the hours to fly by without eating so much as a piece of toast. EAT!! Try a bowl of oatmeal, or soft boiled eggs with some sort of vegetable or fruit. Personally, we love our homemade sauerkraut with eggs…but that’s a story for another day. Just eat! Otherwise, your blood sugar will start to really mess with you, and that’s not good for business either.
3. Move yo body!
We can’t even begin to tell you how many times we sat all day at our computers, frantically trying to get work done, without so much as going for a walk. That’s not healthy, and we’re not alone. There are so many stories from individuals working with startups or small businesses who get stuck in this vicious cycle, where they aren’t eating or working out or even seeing the sun because they’re dead set on finishing something else first. Don’t let this happen to you. Try to move your body for at least 30 min a day. At least. Take a long walk. Get a jump rope and work in intervals. Do some lunges around the apartment, or pushups while watching the news. You can’t just sit in front of the computer all day. In fact, it’s bad for your brain and makes your work suffer - so get up! Do ten jumping jacks right now. Something.
4. Face your weaknesses head on.
The quick fix is always much easier than the delayed gratification. Are you drinking too much? Are you smoking too much? Are you using other substances or drugs to get through your day? How is this hurting your work? How is this preventing you from reaching your goals? Where are you, right now, in relation to those goals? Where do you want to go? Why? What’s holding you back? What’s propelling you forward? Have a really honest conversation with yourself and dig deep into these questions. What is going on with you and your business right now? Make your criteria for success so clear and direct that if you deviate from the path, you'll know exactly when and why. That way, you can fix it!
5. Establish boundaries.
It’s so easy to just work-work-work all the time, Monday through Friday and throughout the weekend, especially if you’re working alone from home. Maybe you feel guilty about not working, but not working is necessary sometimes. You need to establish boundaries on yourself and your business because if you don’t have a life, or refuse to rest, your work will not only suffer, but you’ll slowly go insane. Take one day a week to veg out, quietly read a book, go on an artist date, or socialize with old friends who almost forgot you were still alive. And set some firm boundaries with yourself, even if it’s just “I will not answer emails on the weekends,” or “I will not do client work on Saturdays.” Those tiny little changes can make a really big difference in your life.
Don’t believe us?
Try making these changes for two weeks.
What have you got to lose?