Six months ago I made a big change in my career. I left a corporate office setting because I was unhappy with my work. I decided to turn my passions into a self-employed business and work from home.
After I split from my previous job, I barely had time to catch my breath before I realized that I was a textbook career changer and I had a whole world open up to me.
The switch to working from home has not been easy, but it’s still something that I highly recommend to others. Why? Because I have freedoms that allow me to build my own schedule and self-motivate in my new career.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that your diligence and your habits pay off big time. Often, it’s your habits that keep you sane and motivated to keep working, even when you’re dealing with the distractions or isolation that come from the work-at-home lifestyle.
I want others to learn from my experience. If you’ve ever wondered about making a big career change, hopefully, some of these habit-forming tips can help you find the perfect work-life balance, all from the comfort of your own home.
1 Don’t be a hermit – seek out social connections
One of the biggest challenges I faced when starting my journey to work from home was the isolation. All of a sudden, the days of being surrounded by a bustling office filled with chatter and conversations were gone.
Don’t worry though – it’s still possible to get face-to-face connections at home. Depending on your industry, there’s a chance you can build it right into your schedule.
If you talk regularly with clients, why not schedule some phone or video calls instead of relying on email and instant messaging? There are lots of virtual tools to connect people online.
Another great option to feel connected is to keep in touch with old colleagues and friends from the last job you had. Unless you left your last job ungracefully (hey – we’ve all been there), keeping at least some professional relationships can be a great source of inspiration and can help balance the isolation though you work from home.
2 Separate your work life and private life to work from home
Another thing that initially drove me wild about working from home was that I felt chained to the job. Since I worked and lived in the same space, I felt like I could never escape.
After working all day at the kitchen table, it might drive you crazy to have to cook supper in the evening, then clean up and get your workspace ready for the next day. If you combine your private space with your personal space, the two activities can start to blend together and you might lose your mind!
That’s why it’s important to keep your home life and your work life separate. Any career coach would recommend to have a dedicated space for you to work. Ideally, try to convert an extra bedroom into an office space, if you can spare it.
Or, if you live with roommates and are lacking in extra bedrooms, think about setting up your own desk somewhere in your apartment or house. No matter how small the footprint, having a designated work space can help clear your mind of clutter.
3 Fresh air is good for you
Just because you can sit around all day and browse on your laptop, doesn’t mean that you should. It’s important to get outside and go for a walk at least every once in a while.
Even light exercise can help get you through the tedium of the day. If you can’t get outside because of the weather, try some light exercises at home. Yoga is especially good for keeping you focused.
You shouldn’t feel like fresh air or exercise is a time-wasting activity. Researchers at Stanford University found that taking a break to go for a walk can help boost creativity. Studies like these show that by taking care of your body, you can take care of your mind, which is good for your creativity and productivity.
4 Stay focused, but entertain yourself
Just like it’s important to take time out of your day to go for a walk, you shouldn’t ignore the importance of entertaining yourself. While working from home, the quiet of staying in a confined space can turn an otherwise productive day into a dull one. That’s why you have to take some time to entertain yourself, if your schedule allows it.
No, I don’t mean you should browse social media or watch Youtube videos while you’re working with a client over Skype.
But, with proper scheduling and restraint, a quick break to browse Facebook or check out a friend’s new Instagram post can be a good way to keep your mind active.
A study from the University of Melbourne found that leisurely internet and social media browsing at work can help boost productivity and attention spans at work. If leisure is important to you, then build it into your schedule. You’ll thank yourself later when you feel less burned out and more productive.
5 Eat right, eat smart
Over the long-term, it’s easy for bad habits to creep into your daily schedule while working remotely. That applies especially to your eating habits. Try to avoid living on microwaved ramen noodles. Sometimes the fast lunch while working at your desk isn’t always the best lunch.
It may feel right at the time, but unhealthy eating and spending your lunch working will eventually catch up to you. You’ll burn out and have a higher chance of feeling stressed. Instead, healthy foods and a dedicated break away from your desk is better for your overall state of mind.
6 Follow safe business practices
Your last corporate job may have had a large IT department to protect you and your customers from security threats, identity theft and viruses. Now that you’re on your own, that responsibility rests in your hands.
Work from home and keep your data safe. Here are some best practices to keep your data safe:
- Invest in a good antivirus program.
- Keep strong passwords for your devices and any online platforms you use.
- Don’t let family or friends use devices that you use for work.
- Use multi-factor authentication (MFA), which adds a layer of security, like a phone number or photo ID to your software.
- Secure any personal or financial data on an encrypted drive. That way, if a security breach does happen, the data will be meaningless to hackers.
Getting the most from your career change
To work from home may seem overwhelming, especially at first. Take it from me – a career change to home-based work is challenging. Luckily, with the right habits, the transition doesn’t have to be impossible.
By making sure you stay on top of productivity-boosting habits, you can gain an edge even while working from home.
After six months of doing it myself, my experience has been positive and empowering. Sometimes it may not be easy to keep myself focused and prevent myself from losing my mind, but learning from the challenges has been fulfilling on both a professional and personal level. Soon, I hope you can say the same, too!
Want to learn more?
If you want to learn more about a career change you can read Susan’s experience with a career change.