You’ve achieved the dream, dumped the job, and are working at home. Now what?
Many people have the dream of getting out of the corporate rat race, leaving the stressful commute behind, and starting a business working from home. If you’ve managed to make that happen, Yay, you!
So now that your commute is down the hall instead of down the freeway, how do you structure your days so that you succeed? I’ve been working from home for over fifteen years and I’ve developed some essential strategies to make things work.
Okay, this sounds too simplistic. Of course, you’re going to get up. But let me tell you, the temptation to lie in bed late can be strong if you’re not naturally a morning person. But remember, you’re still getting up and going to work so lazing in bed in the morning isn’t an option.
If you’re like me and live on the west coast, those folks on the east coast who may be your clients have already been up and working for three hours before your eyes open.
One of the perks of working at home is that you can work in your pyjamas. Who’s to know, right?
However, there is a certain mindset that goes with being in your nightclothes and that is that you’re still on leisure hours. Besides, how you do one thing is how you do everything so sloppy is as sloppy does.
If you conduct business via Skype, or Zoom, where people will see you, it is doubly important that you look presentable and professional. Fix yourself up as though you’re going to the office, because you are.
While we’re on the subject of sprucing up, it’s also a good idea to make your work space presentable. One reason for this is because of visual calls online; the other reason is that a neat work space makes doing your job easier.
Besides being a writer, I’m a visual artist, and like most visual people, I’m happier when I can see what I need. But honestly, it gets away on me frequently. The “I’ll just put that here for now” method of dealing with incoming materials means it doesn’t take long until I’m overwhelmed with messes.
I’m not saying that you have to constantly be cleaning up, just regularly tidy up your space. The best way to stay on top of that is with systems, which we’ll look at in the next article in this three-part series.
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There is always time to do something you love.
I can almost hear the protests:
We all have busy lives, some busier than others. However, I believe that what usually stops us from doing things that we really love, is prioritizing.
For example, I’ve decided that I want to do a sketch every day. Nothing fancy, just a little sketch in my pocket sketchbook. Am I doing it faithfully? No.
The reason I haven’t done it yet is because I have to re-arrange my schedule to make room for a fifteen-minute sketch and I haven’t done that. I could spend that much less time watching Netflix in the evening, or I could get out my sketchbook and draw something while I eat breakfast.
While I want to do it, I haven’t made the decision to fit it in.
If you think about something that you’d like to do more of, ask yourself what has to happen before you can accomplish it. Can you get up a little earlier in the morning? Or, go to bed a little later at night?
Perhaps exchanging one activity for another would make the space for what you would like to do. It might require a little imagination, but really, we often do a lot of things in a day that aren’t strictly necessary. It’s like time clutter. Clear out the non-essential and there is more space.
Put simply, it comes down to this:
If you want more time, do less.
1. Appreciate something
Looking for the negative is an easy, and bad, habit. To change how you habitually think, you have to…change your thoughts. A good way to begin to do this is to choose to appreciate the good things you already have.
Did you have a good sleep last night in a comfortable bed?
Do you have someone with whom to share your breakfast?
Do you know at least one person who loves you?
Is the sun shining through your windows?
Do you have friends to talk to?
When you begin to look for them, you will see myriad ways to appreciate the good things in your life. Doing so will raise your level of happiness.
2. Relax about life
Most of us stress out about a lot of things that don’t really matter. If your spouse doesn’t load the dishwasher in just theperfect way, come on, the world won’t come to and end. Other drivers can up your stress levels, but only if you let them. Don’t think about or judge them and you will be a more relaxed driver.
Have you ever seen water on a duck’s back? Nope. It rolls right off. For that matter, have you ever seen a duck wracked by stress? I thought not.
3. Do something kind for someone else
Kindness is good for the soul—yours and someone else’s. There is something about getting over yourself that makes us all more stable human being, and happier ones. Whenever you have the chance to do a kindness for someone, take it. That will make two people happy at the same time.
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I have a friend who claims she hates change. She balks at the possibility of change and even at new opportunities, because they may require change in her life. When confronted by a new idea, her first reaction is usually, ‘Hold on a minute. What if…?”
It took me a while to recognize, but I believe the reason for this reluctance to change is that the first things my friend sees are all the possible negative consequences. These terrible outcomes loom so large, that she can see little else. Then she makes her decision based on what she fears. In essence, she says, “What if these things I fear turn out to be true? If they do, then I don’t want to go there. I’m afraid.” Even though she denies that her reasons are based in fear, in fact, fear is her strongest motivator.
Amazingly, many of the difficulties we experience in life stem from our fears. Think about it. If I’m resisting something that I know I should do, or want to do, or I even believe will be good for me, I can be sure that there is probably some kind of fear hiding behind that resistance.
Take a closer look at such habits as self-sabotage and procrastination. Neither of these serve us, so why do we continue to indulge in them? Probably because we are afraid something bad will happen. Without analyzing why we hesitate, we worry, we fret, and we put off taking action.
Do you have areas in your life where you feel stuck? Is there something you need to change? If you feel that you come up against a wall every time you try to make a move, or even think about a proposed change, then take a look and see if there is a fear behind it. And don’t be fooled. Fear masquerades in many disguises, such as these:
Take a moment to follow the trail to the fears that may lurk behind these and other common excuses and you will find that they are nothing more than lies. Identify and confront the lies that are stopping you in your tracks and look past those fears that pop up automatically when you face something new. Once you’ve identified those fear-lies, then turn them over and look at the other side. You may find the truth was there all the time, just waiting to be recognized.
Rather than listening to the fears and concluding the worst, why not try asking yourself instead, “What if it turned out differently? What if these good things happen?” Then list them. This view changes everything. By seeing the positive side, we can clearly make a balanced decision or take action.
For example, “What if I mess this up?” when flipped over becomes, “What if I do really well?”.
“What if everyone laughs at me?” becomes, “What if everyone cheers for me?”
“What if my work is no good?” becomes, “What if my work is great?” or even,
“What if only a few like it, but I derive great enjoyment out of creating it?”
Find an appropriate positive thought, statement or truth to counter the negative one and next time that little fear comes up, confront it with its opposite. Keep on doing this until the fear gives up and slinks away in defeat. It will, you know, and you’ll be the winner for your efforts.
It is considered common knowledge that people fear and resist change. Not true. What people really fear is that change will bring negative consequences. If what you plan will make you happy, you don’t fear change at all, do you?
Change is not scary when you plan for positive outcomes. I encourage you to switch from listening to your fears to expecting the best. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how much easier it becomes to make decisions and how much more fun your life will be.
Being fearless is a wonderful way to live.
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Creating new habits isn’t easy. Here are six simple tricks that will make it a little easier. Use them until you’ve internalized your new creative habit and don’t need them anymore.
Schedule It And Put It On The To-Do List
Sometimes we forget to do that new thing we were trying. Maybe we forget that we’re supposed to be writing first thing in the morning instead of reading the news, or that we need to get that daily walk in that charges up creative energy.
Schedule your new creative habits or make them part of your daily to-do list until they become something you do automatically.
Make It Public and Be Accountable
Let family and friends know what new creative habits you’re trying to establish. They will call you out if you don’t stick to your plan and get you back on track.
You may even go as far as sharing it publicly on Facebook or write a blog about your new journey. Knowing that others read it and know about it might be just enough to keep you going when you feel like throwing in the towel or slipping back into old routines.
Piggyback On A Habit You Already Have
Whenever possible, add the new habit to one you already have. For example, if you fix a cup of tea or coffee at 4:00 pm, and you want to get in the habit writing in your journal, make the new ritual to do your journalling while enjoy your tea.
It’s much easier to amend an existing habit or ritual than creating an entirely new one.
Make Slip-ups Costly
Here’s a fun idea. Put a jar on the kitchen counter and each time you slip back into your bad habit or forget to stick to the new one you have to put five dollars in the jar. It will quickly help you remember to skip wasting time surfing Facebook instead of working on your creative project. For extra motivation donate the money to charity at the end of the month or hand it over to your spouse to go spend.
Find A Partner and Help Each Other Along
Find someone with the same or similar creative goal. This could be a writing partner or fellow artist. Keep tabs on each other and encourage each other to keep going. It’s much harder to skip if you know someone else is depending on you.
Make It A Group Challenge
If one accountability partner is good, a whole group is even better. And they don’t even need to be local. Find a supportive group creative online and challenge each other to stick to your new habit for the next 30 days or so. Not wanting to be the first one to give up will keep all of you going until you establish that new habit.
Give these simple little tricks a try. Keep using the ones that you find helpful until you have made new creative habits you can stick with without the help of any tools or support.
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ome time during my first year of marriage, my husband told me that in his family he had learned to wipe his body down with the damp washcloth after a bath or shower. The idea was to remove excess water from the skin before drying off with the towel. After a while, I adopted the same procedure, never giving the practice much thought—until recently.
One day last year, while standing in the shower wiping my dripping body down with the washcloth, I began to wonder why on earth I was going through these motions. The more I thought about it, the more it made no sense. I began to examine the possible source of this habit to see if there was any validity in continuing. I followed the trail back through the family habit history and figured it out.
My husband was born in England several years after World War II, where towels were few, heating scarce, the climate damp, hot water infrequently available, and children plentiful. Under those circumstances it made perfect sense to keep the few towels the family owned as dry as possible as the kids filed through the bathtub on Saturday night. After all, mom couldn’t just toss the wet towels into the dryer to emerge fluffy and ready for the next wet child.
While Canadian-raised if not born, my husband still had parents who remained, in their habits at least, resolutely English until their dying days. They managed to pass on a great many of their English habits to their offspring. Washcloth pre-drying was one of those.
So, some thirty-five years later when I stopped to ask myself why I did this, I had to admit that the reasons behind the habit did not exist in my life. I have more towels than I can use at any one time. I have a clothes dryer, a warm dry house with forced air heating, and no one is going to use my towels after me. Furthermore, by dropping this habit, I shave about five minutes off my time spent in the bathroom at shower time.
I did a quick calculation and discovered (if I got the figures right) that I’ve spent a total of twenty-two days of my life just wiping the drips off my skin before wrapping up in my towel.
By now, I’m sure you’ve figured out that this is not about the washcloth. It’s about habitually doing things that have no basis in need but that we keep doing anyway because we never stop to examine why. These little habit can get in the way of doing other things of more value. It’s also about questioning why we do the things we do and whether they hold any value anymore.
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