Self-employment. Freedom. Creativity. No uniform. No pointless meetings. Many dream of it, some want it, you are doing it. Amazing isn’t it?!
But going from working within a team, having the support and presence of your colleagues, to working alone, with only yourself for company, can be at times difficult and daunting. So in reality, it can require much discipline. Admittedly, I lack discipline so I thought I would write about the tips I use to ensure I get shit done.
Schedule & Structure
Although it’s freeing not being on anyone’s schedule and not clock watching when you’re bored at work, when working for yourself, you need to set yourself some sort of schedule for the day otherwise, if you’re anything like me, it’ll be a struggle to get started and you’ll find many other things to do besides starting work. Think about your productivity – are you better in the morning’s or afternoon’s? Decide on a time you will start and finish work each day, of course this will change depending on your work load or other things going on but it’s important to know in advance what times you’re working within. As an example, I am better in the morning’s so I prefer starting at 8am and finishing around 4pm. I’ve found that after that, I can be seriously unproductive unless I’m on a deadline. I also tend to not have an official lunch break but instead keep on working because I have also found that if I stop, I find it difficult to start again, so instead I just have small 5-10 minute tea breaks and if anything, I’ll read a blog or two whilst I munch my lunch.
If like me, you start off checking your emails and an hour later an email has lead to a facebook post, which has taken you to instagram and you’ve ended up on pinterest, you’ll need to have structure in your day. I now only allow myself a maximum of 10 minutes to check emails and either action them or add them to my to-do list.
Speaking of which, a to-do list will become your best friend. If you write everything down you’ll not be able to forget something. Always have a notepad to hand to scribble down information during phone calls, conversations and so on. Have a diary, whether it be a pocket diary or a desk diary, whatever works for you. This isn’t to write birthday’s and anniversaries in (although the latter is advised or you could be in trouble) but instead to write down networking events, meetings, to schedule your blog posts or social media posts, the date something launches, the dates a deal begins and ends etc. Plan ahead as much as possible, the more organised I am, the less stressed I have found myself.
You won’t have your co-workers and superiors to lean against when shit hits the fan and you’re in stress hell. But you can learn how to manage your stress. Building up a network of great business and personal contacts that you can get advice or a lending ear from is important. Taking yourself away from your desk and your work environment and doing something you enjoy could be a great stress reliever and one of the perks of being self-employed. I’m not suggesting you take a week off and go partying, but perhaps finishing up early and going for a massage or a long beach walk could be just what you need to clear your head and rid yourself of tension. I tend to go for a walk or treat myself to a Chai Latte at a local cafe. I never usually get them so it’s my thing.
Make sure your work environment is working for you. If you’re working from home, are you disciplined enough to do so? Are you able to distinguish between work and home life? Do you work well without anyone around for several days? Perhaps you could mix it up and have one or two days of your week working from a coworking space so you have the interaction, the conversation and the possible leads, contacts and ideas? If you already work from a coworking space, is it working for you? Are you happy with your spot in the space? If not, ask if you can move to one that works better for you. Are you getting what you want out of it? Some people may just want a desk, a chair and a plug. Others may want the opportunity to socialise especially as they no longer have the forced office drinks, work Christmas party etc. They may also want to tap into the contacts and opportunities that may be there. Coworking spaces tend to be full of creatives, start up’s, self-employed people etc so if you want the most from such a space, be friendly, get chatting and get involved!
Do you remember being little and having a sticker chart for good behaviour, chores or achievements? I was literally obsessed with the stickers that said Well Done and the gold stars. These days, being nearer to 30 I can’t quite get away with shiny stars and happy stickers. But, I can have things to look forward to, treats if you like. For instance, once a week I love going out for breakfast during a work day. With everyone else at work, it feels so naughty and luxurious to be enjoying a leisurely breakfast with a girlfriend who is also self-employed, working as a journalist. This one is a weird one but I really like getting my household chores done before the weekend. Again it feels like I’m winning because I don’t have to waste a minute of my precious Saturday and Sunday with my other half doing laundry and cleaning the floors and bedding – all of which require several hours of your time. I usually do them on a Thursday afternoon if I’m not working and I really feel so pleased with myself. Writing this down makes me realise how strange it is but I’m sticking with it.
Thanks for reading,