When you work a more traditional kind of job at a more traditional kind of workplace, you can expect a certain level of predictability. Some people might call this mundane or monotonous, as epitomized by movies like Office Space, but the truth is that having a reliable, predictable pattern to your typical day can be a great source of comfort and stability in your life. But, what happens when you work from home? What happens when you work for yourself?
Despite the fact that you may have all the location freedom and time freedom in the world, it might actually be in your best interest to impose a certain level of structure and stability to your work day too. Sure, take advantage of that added flexibility and freedom as needed, but your typical day should still be exactly that: typical. This is not only for your productivity, but also for your mental health.
Switching Your Mindset
Yes, your skill set, your work ethic, and your network of contacts are all critically important in determining your short-term and long-term success. Luck certainly plays a role too. (You just have to be prepared to meet Lady Luck when she knocks on your door.) But, perhaps one of the most important elements is your mindset.
In this way, just as you have to get away from thinking about how to trade hours for dollars, you also have to shift your mind from “home life” to “work life” when you start your work day too. This is true whether you’re a blogger, vlogger, Internet marketer, podcaster or whatever else. To this end, it helps to establish a series of “triggers” that get your mind into “work mode.”
The Best Part of Waking Up
When you worked a more traditional kind of job at a more traditional kind of workplace, there’s a good chance that several of these triggers were already in place. You just may not have noticed they were there. Your morning coffee is a terrific example of this. As you go through the process of making that coffee, you’re waking yourself up and getting ready for the day.
There’s no reason why you can’t leverage this same kind of natural transition when you work from home for yourself. Speaking for myself, the morning coffee ritual really helps to start my day. Lately, I’ve been using a Chemex. But, before that, I used an Italian stovetop espresso maker (sometimes called a “moka pot”) or the Aeropress.
In all cases, there are several steps involved. It’s not just about the caffeine. It’s also about the ritual and routine. This is why “easy” coffee (like a Keurig) might not establish the same kind of trigger.
The Faux Commute
This one is going to sound completely counterintuitive at first, but it actually makes a lot of sense when you stop to think about it. I know that part of the reason why some people decide to get into blogging full-time or choose to start their own home-based business is that they want to eliminate the stress and obligation of the typical work commute. Walking down the hall to your home office sure beats sitting in rush hour traffic, sharing the road with idiot drivers. I totally get that.
Here’s the thing. That commute provided a natural segue between your “home” life and your “work” life, a clear separation between your “home” identity and your “work” identity. The transition process is obvious, whether you drove on the highway or you took the subway. There’s getting your keys (or your subway pass), starting your car (or walking to the subway station), and so on. Again, several steps, just like my “complicated” morning coffee.
When you work from home, the walk down the hall doesn’t really provide the same kind of mental trigger and transition. Something that you might try implementing in your own life is the fake commute.
I recognize that everyone’s individual circumstances are different, so adapt this to your own situation accordingly. Something as simple as taking a short stroll around the block for 5 or 10 minutes can serve as a faux commute. For me, driving my daughter to school has effectively functioned like a morning commute. Once I drop her off, I come home, head into the office, and start my work day.
Get the Hamster on the Wheel
While I’ve discussed the examples of a morning coffee ritual and a faux commute to the office here, it’s up to you to come up with the exact routine that works best for you. But, it’s clear enough that establishing a predictable routine can work wonders, helping you establish that flow state that we all desire.
Now, go ahead and get to work.