Lone working can be, well, lonely, it can limit your perspective and be detrimental to your health. If you are prone to “the blues” spending lots of time on your own can be bad for your mental health too.
I have spent many years working on my own from home and I have learned what is good for me and what helps make me be more creative, helps keeps me fit and in good mental health. Here are my top ten tips:
- Get out more Looking at the same four walls can, literally, drive you mad. Don’t get stir-crazy – make sure you punctuate your day with little outings and get at least one walk of at least twenty minutes every day.It is widely known that being outside is good for your mental health and the physical exercise will help keep you fit and alert too.
Sometimes the confines of a home work space can limit your mind as well as your physical form. Getting away from your electronic devices and into the fresh air can help free up your mind to do that essential creative and problem-solving work that your business thrives on.
Don’t let the weather put you off either; being out in the elements – dressed appropriately – can be exhilarating, freshen up your mental processes and invigorate your whole being. So get out in the wind and the rain sometimes, as well as when it’s sunny.
- Join or Start a Virtual Group Whilst it’s great not to have to deal with office politics and those petty games people play, when you work on your own you miss out on the social side of work. Even those “photocopier moments” play an important part in maintaining our natural social needs and unless we go out of our way to make sure they are met the lack can have a detrimental effect on our mental health as well as our perspective.Social media brings its problems but as long as you can pick your way through the nonsense, and there’s plenty of that on Facebook, joining a Facebook group can bring you into contact with like-minded people, help you generate new ideas, bounce problems off others, and even simpy have a bit of banter and a laugh.
Facebook can be a terrible distraction, though, and you have to be careful not to let it drain your time and energy. So my suggestion would be to have a Facebook break now and then, perhaps when you are having a coffee, and don’t have it switched on the whole time – it’s just too tempting to respond to those tantalising pings.
There are also common-interest forums on Yahoo and other, similar platforms
Pick a group that’s a good fit for your occupation and if you can’t find one you can always start one.
- Socialise You don’t have to go tearing up the town but we humans are naturally gregarious creatures. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive either – just get out and do some things with other people.Actually it gets easier as you get older because you don’t have the same agenda as when you were young. You’re (probably) not trying to pull or to impress, you don’t want to get ripping drunk or stoned and you’re not necessarily looking for those expensive thrills.
You could take up dancing, which is a great social activity which is also very good for your physical health and mental well-being (salsa, ballroom and jive are examples of dances that are readily available in most areas of the UK).
- Change your activity frequently It’s easy to get stuck in front of the computer for hours on end and stand up at the end of the day dazed and wondering where it all went. Make a habit of getting up and doing something else from time-to-time – set an alert if necessary.You don’t have to stop working but maybe change where you are working – move your laptop to the dining table or sit in your living room making notes instead of staying at your desk.If your work is sedentary and you spend most of your time at your desk make a point of doing something physical to break up your day. I make bread and I can do it in stages so it never takes more than about ten minutes for each stage and it breaks a day up very nicely. What’s more, at the end of a day I have a yummy fresh loaf to enjoy as well as the results of the work I have done.
- Join or start a business group You can kill several birds with the one stone by getting involved with a business group in your locality.
By meeting up regularly with people in a similar situation to your own you can get a lot of good ideas as well as establishing some valuable contacts. Even if you meet just once a month you can enjoy the benefits of picking other people’s minds as well as getting out and socialising.
You can find out about local business groups just by Googling or you could ask your local Chamber of Commerce about their networking activities. Facebook is another good source of information as physical groups often have a virtual presence on social media too.
- Let your partner get a word in I do like to talk and being on my own all day makes it dangerous for my wife when she gets in for work. We used to laugh because the moment she walked in through the door getting home from work I would be chattering away about all sorts of things that had gone through my head during the day. I reckoned it took me about twenty minutes to get through it all before I finally said to her: “And how was your day?”. I have learned to let her tell me about her day first.You have to remember that your partner has had to deal with all sorts of stuff involving other people and situations you don’t have to encounter and he or she will need to unload all that stuff in a way he or she hasn’t been able to all day. She’s stored it all up just for you, so let her let it out and listen attentively. Make sure you really are listening too and not just waiting for your turn. And remember that you don’t have to solve all his problems – just let him get them off his chest. You might find that all that stuff you just couldn’t wait to get out wasn’t that important after all. On the other hand you may find that your partner is more attentive when you need him to be and might just venture valid opinions.
So let your partner get a word in first and then have your time.
- Change your workplace That doesn’t sound easy when you work from home but it’s possible. You just have to be a bit creative.
If you ever feel stale working from home when all your commute consists of is going up and down the same stretch of floor every day and you’re looking at the same stuff all the time you just have to remember that you decide where you work and what you do. And changing your work location can really help stimulate your creativity and make you more productive too.
You can change location within your house – take the laptop to the kitchen table and work there, make notes in the living room, do some mind-mapping in the conservatory.
One time, a few years ago our broadband failed and we were without a connection at home for a few days. The only way I could get online and do my work was to go to the local library. It was great – the computers were modern and fast and I was surrounded by an amazing collection of resources. I had a great week and got some really good ideas from a number of books and my computer work was uninterrupted by the usual distractions of home, including phone calls. Try working in your local library some time.
If your work involves only the use of a laptop and maybe a few papers you could take it literally anywhere. Try going out for a coffee to your favourite cafe and settling down for a couple of hours. You might have to buy more than one coffee but the change of scenery can really help sometimes.
- Have a plan Some people are at their best when their day is unstructured and hey can just “go with the flow”, and you might be one of them. But many people find that without a set plan they tend to drift through their days moving from one topic to another, their time being dictated by emails and phone calls and whatever come into their mind.Working at home has its many distractions, as we all know, and it would be easy to get side-tracked by the many tasks that need doing around the house and garden.
Having a plan for a day helps avoid those pitfalls and if your plan included, as it should, some goals it will be easy to measure, with some satisfaction, at the end of the day just how successful you have been.
Of course, your plan can and should include things like bread-making, your twenty minute walk, your business group meetings and so on. But having a plan will help make sure that all your time is productive, even that which is spent on exercise, socialising and other such activities.
- Indulge yourself If working for yourself from home isn’t a fantastic way of life then we wouldn’t do it, presumably. So make sure you actually enjoy the opportunity that you have. This is potentially the most liberating way of working so make sure your workplace is not your prison cell and enjoy it to the full.Celebrate the fact that you are free to choose your hours and place of work and what you actually do with your time and bask in the life you have. You are going to be working hard and probably very long hours so be sure to take advantage of your freedom to treat yourself sometimes. Decide to take an afternoon or even a day off now and then and do something that you really want to do – go fishing, watch a cricket match, go to the cinema or take a long walk. Do something just for you. Switch off and indulge yourself.
Most of all simply enjoy the benefits of working for yourself. One of the benefits of reaching the age of sixty is that you have gained wisdom and that is a great moderator and will ensure you work plenty hard enough. Don’t beat yourself up if you take a little time off now and then – you deserve it.
- Look after yourself Maintaining good mental and physical health often take a back seat when we work for ourselves as we strive to be successful and achieve. It can easily seem that we don’t have time for those things which are really good for us, especially as we get older and some bad habits can creep in.I don’t know about you but I want to give myself the best possible chance of not only being successful but of living long enough to enjoy the fruits of my labours.
Take time out to look at yourself objectively and see how you can improve your own personal care. Get or keep fit by exercising regularly and paying attention to your mental health.
After a certain age it can seem far too much hard work to lose those extra pounds that have crept on and taking the time to do that fitness thing just doesn’t bring the money in, Or does it?
I can tell you without any doubt that since I paid more attention to my physical fitness and well-being I have felt more energetic, more creative and more productive and have experience so many benefits that are making a major contribution to my income and my general well-being.
Click here to read more about getting fit over 60.