Apparently, I'm an ESTJ
At least I am according the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). For those of you not familiar with this particular profiling tool it consists of a questionnaire aimed at identifying how you perceive the world and make decisions, and provides you with a four-letter score based on the four dimensions of
The score in itself wasn't a revelation to me as it just confirmed what I suspected
- I'm a practical and realistic organiser, good at (and adamant about) implementation and like to have a clear set of logical standards to follow -
but the ensuing discussions, and examples the tutor gave as we worked through the programme, made a light bulb go off in my head.
I'm not cut out to work at home alone all the time.
When I tell people I run my own business from an office at home I nearly always get the same response - Envy. Everyone seems to dream of being in charge of their own diary, not having to answer to anyone, saving time and money on the commute and even working in pyjamas if they want to. But as with most things in life, there's inevitably a downside.
Not having to answer to anyone and being in complete charge of your time is great. But without regular deadlines and structure, or someone who's checking in with you to help keep you on track, it's all too easy to slide down the slope into procrastination, become bored, demotivated or even depressed. The isolation of working alone for long periods of time, even for those who enjoy their own company far more than being with others, can creep up on you and it can take quite a while to recognise what it is that's sapped your motivation and dissolved your productivity. And that can be dangerous for your business.
The regular, forced interactions such as the commute, the ritual of greeting co-workers or just nipping out for a sandwich at lunchtime, all provide us with images, ideas and inspirations that you just don't get if all you have to do is roll out of bed and into your desk chair.
I'm a pretty sociable type but I also love my privacy and I'm happy with my own company. But it turns out I don't like 'just me' as much as I thought! I don't know about you but after several days on the trot being out and about and busy with my clients and team, I relish the thought of a few days in the office with no meeting commitments and time to catch up and get things back on track. It almost feels like I'm having a few days off, and those are the times when I appreciate the fact that I work from home and have so much flexibility in my life.
But I've begun to realise that after a few days my motivation and productivity begin to dwindle and feelings of isolation start to creep in. I went through a period of questioning every aspect of my work to try and identify what it was that was making me feel at times, quite frankly, lonely, but it's only recently, and with the help of the MBTI, that the penny finally dropped.
Being a true ESTJ I set out to find and test the potential solutions and was thrilled that they actually seem to work. The trick is to identify the right mix of the different elements you need in your work routine to create the perfect balance, and then to be disciplined in making them happen. Here's what worked for me:
#1 Schedule calls first thing
Schedule phone calls and online meetings for first thing in the morning so that you're immediately connected to the outside world. This can make a huge difference when you've no-one to answer to that day and you're finding the time you get out of bed is closer to lunch than breakfast.
#2 Keep up with Social Media
Devise a plan that keeps you connected to your business network on a daily basis and make it a daily ritual. But, be strict about your time and make sure you log off when you've finished so you haven't created a permanent distraction.
#3 Get out of the house
At least once a day. The answer for me was to get a dog! Not only does she keep me company if I am at home but she keeps me fit too (and she's super cute!). So many of my self-employed friends beat themselves up (me included) about doing non-work things during the working day; as though we're bunking off. But for many, that flexibility was one of the main reasons for creating the business in the first place. So resolve to structure your breaks but to make the most of your situation and not to feel guilty for having created such a successful and enviable way of life for yourself.
#4 Work in different environments
Get the necessary kit and make the most of your freedom. Set yourself a mission to find other environments that suit your needs and that you enjoy being in. For example, I can run my whole business from an iPad Pro and my iPhone and I've found no end of lovely cafes, tea rooms and libraries where I can get a good internet connection (either free wifi or tethered from my iPhone) and can feel part of the world at large whilst I crack on. I was recently in New York and was really inspired by the amount of people that worked remotely from cafes and restaurants and even on the grass in the middle of Central Park. As usual, the Americans did it first!
#5 Attend events
Get out and join in with networking events in your area, or, if you're 'location independent' and don't necessarily want to attend events in person, join in with one of the numerous interactive webinars or conferences available online. Either way, the aim is not to go with the intention of gaining new clients, but more to build yourself a mutual support network.
So that's what worked for me, how about you? Do you have any useful tips to help make working from home a success? Perhaps all you need is an Accountability Partner to help you stay motivated and on track? I'd love to hear from you.
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