On our first AIM-DBI program orientation we were asked what we do to keep ourselves sane during the quarantine, I answered the usual – exercise, playing the guitar and bingeing on Netflix. But then I realized, not much has really changed in my routine during the lock-down. I mean, I’ve been doing this (work from home) for the most part of my professional career that I subconsciously structured my life in a way that I can be successful and well for the most part.. sane.
People think that working from home is straightforward, how hard can it be, you just sit in front of the computer the whole day. Not gonna blame them though, there’s a lot of “get rich quick – work from home” schemes out there, but make no mistake becoming a successful work from home professional is no easy feat. There’s a lot of hurdles to overcome.
Have your own workspace
Can be a room, a cubicle or just a desk, whatever it may be you should treat it as a “safe zone” where you are free from non-work related stuff. Maybe you have a kid who constantly nag you, or you share your room with your annoying sibling, or you probably work in your living room. No matter your situation, your workspace should be sacred. It’s your job to make sure that people around you know that. It’s your chapel, a place where you can think clearly, organize your thoughts and focus on your tasks. No one should be able to disrupt your train of thought, you must impose restrictions, one example can be to require them to ask for your permission to talk to you (drastic but effective) when you are in your space.
Get up and exercise
Being active releases happy hormones and working happy is a success in itself. You will be more creative and it helps you think more clearly. But not all physical activities are the same, just because you sweat doesn’t mean you are exercising (doing household chores doesn’t count). You have to dedicate an hour or two everyday for an actual exercise – bike, yoga, run or body weight training. Commit to a workout plan and soon you will see what a well maintained body does to your thoughts. Another benefit of being active is that it keeps you occupied hence no time for negativity. For me, it gives me time o think of all the positive things I want to accomplish.
Read and learn new things
Keep learning, your knowledge is your edge. Aside from being active physically you should strive to keep your mind active as well – reading books, attending online classes, watching tutorials are great ways to learn new things. Knowledgeable people more often than not give better solutions to client problems and guess what, your boss appreciate workers who have gumption to resolve their their problems. It also show to potential clients that you are open to continued learning if ever a need arise.
Have a schedule.
Have a schedule and follow it religiously. Repetition leads to success. Make your bed @ 6am, run @ 7am, it’s really up to you, completing a task however small it may seem gives you confidence to do the next one which will eventually carry over to your work and so on. But be careful not to overload your day, tweak it little by little to come up with something that works for you. Do, assess, revise, repeat.
Backup Backup Backup.
Have a cloud based backup and one or two external drives. Trust me, this is the best investment you can do for yourself. Better have copies laying around for when the time comes, it will save you tons of hours of work. There were several instances where I lost all my files because I was too complacent that my main machine won’t bug down and my drives won’t be stolen (yeah, burglar/s went in my apartment). I lost all my files and had to start everything from scratch. Have multiple backups, your future self will thank you for it.
Secure your workspace
Aside from software security you also have to deal with physically securing your laptop (whatever your main weapon is) and your backups. This may sound too cautious and that’s what I thought too until the burglar incident. They stole all of my laptops, my backups and in one day all of my life’s work were gone entirely. Remember, you are not working in an office environment where there’s 24/7 security, this is going to be your responsibility. Have a safe if needed.
Legitimize your services
It took me years before I finally decided to legitimize my online services but when I did there was no looking back. Aside from the prestige and benefits of having your own business, all big companies require an official receipt in order to pay your compensation. In order to land big clients you have to be legit. Registering your service as a freelance professional was a complex endeavor, back then the requirements were for brick and mortar businesses, I was moving a lot so that was not really an option for me, but in the last 5 years it has became easier to register yourself as a professional.
Strive for work life integration
For me work life balance is overrated, it’s work life integration that we should be after. It’s not your regular 9 to 5 work day where you can clock out at 5 and leave work behind, you have to be able to come to work at 9, put it on hold for a while (to do private things) and get back an hour later to where you were, this happens several times a day until you are ready to call it a day. It can be weird at first, but integrating work as part of your life is one of the key factors to become successful. The saying “find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” is applicable in this type of setup.
Working from home is a marathon not a sprint, just be patient, be consistent and have the courage to do the small things, pretty soon you will be doing amazing things! Good luck.