Almost 10 years ago I graduated from college. I was ready to get my first big girl job, but it wasn’t long before confusion and frustration crept in. No one was interested in hiring me. Hell, I could barely score an interview.
I switched gears and got a second BA.
That didn’t help either.
A family member suggested becoming a virtual assistant. Desperate to use my degrees instead of waiting tables, I decided to give it a try.
I landed my first gig within two weeks. A week later, I scored another one. I was actually pretty good at this.
The virtual work revolution
The traditional route of going to college, grabbing an entry level position, and then working your way up the corporate ladder isn’t as cut and dry as it was made to appear when we were kids. In recent years, many people have been forced to think outside the box when it comes to their careers.
I was one of them.
It led me down a different path, and one that I rather enjoy. While not being accepted into the general workforce was a blessing in disguise, working from home was not as easy as I thought it would be. In fact, it’s actually hard to manage.
It can be done, however, and here’s how….
1. Create boundaries
I’m a parent, which means there’s basically no time of day that’s just “mine”. Originally I thought, “Hey! Best of both worlds. I can work AND have my kids with me!”
Oh how naive I was….
Working from home is, in fact, work. Children are also work. How successful were you last time you tried to tackle two very important jobs simultaneously? Not very, I’m guessing.
The first thing you need to do when you work virtually is set realistic boundaries. This can be anything from the number of hours you work in a day, to the time of day you work, to committing to a hard cut off at dinner time so you can spend time with your loved ones.
Work is important, but so is everything else. If you don’t create strong boundaries, the lines will get blurred, and you’ll find that you’re unsuccessful in both your professional and personal life.
2. Get out of the house
I won’t lie to you, being able to sit on my couch and work in my pajamas doesn’t suck. It can get a bit monotonous, though. It’s a good idea to force yourself out into the light of day now and again.
Working from home all the time can make you feel isolated, which of course isn’t ideal. Taking your computer to a park or a local coffee shop once a week is an easy and attractive solution.
While working from home can be amazing, there’s really something about putting on pants and joining the rest of the world that’s good for the soul.
3. Make wellness a priority
I don’t need to explain to you how exercise is good for your body or your mind. But I can say, that when you have the freedom to work from your couch, it’s easy to let both your body and mind lapse a bit.
If you plan on being successful at this whole working from home thing, you’ve got to take a holistic approach, and that means taking care of your body.
It’s easy to grab snacks from the pantry and sit back down at your computer without missing a beat. It’s easy to get so into your work that you don’t notice you haven’t moved from your chair in roughly 10 hours.
Get a standing desk. Go to the gym BEFORE you start your work day. Don’t keep garbage snack foods in the house.
It’s very easy when you work on your own time to put so much effort into your work that you forget to put effort into yourself. It’s the little changes you make to your regular habits that will help you stay healthy, both body and mind.
4. Allow a little distraction
There’s tons of studies, statistics, and articles out there about how the workforce wastes time via all manner of little distractions. In the name of productivity, the powers that be try to lock that nonsense down. As a freelancer, however, you can embrace them.
For the same reason that people who vacation more tend to be more productive, giving your brain a break while you’re on the job is a good plan if you want to get things done. (And do them well.)
Throw on the headset and go for a walk while you talk to a client. After an hour of writing or strategizing, spend ten minutes mindlessly on Facebook. Once you complete a task, get down on the floor and do a few pushups.
It’s easy, when you work from home, to get tunnel vision and not look at the clock for eight hours straight. Distractions can clear your head so you can jump back into your work refreshed and at full capacity…. So feel free to create some little distractions for yourself during the day.
5. Strive for balance
When you work outside the home, there’s an end to your work day. You can leave the stress, the worry, the hurdles at the office.
It’s not so simple when you work from home because there’s no place that ISN’T your office.
One essential key to being a successful virtual worker is to create balance in your life. Even if you absolutely love your job, it’s only one aspect of your life. It’s only one aspect of your identity.
The rest of you needs to be nurtured, and if you don’t step away from work and respect the boundaries you’ve set for yourself, balance will be impossible.
Working from home or working remotely is most definitely a blessing, but it’s hard to do. It’s very hard to do well.
Whether you are your own boss or you do work for clients all over the globe, success starts at home. You can be a successful remote worker when you strive to be aware of how this untraditional route affects you and strive for a holistic approach in business and life.
Originally published at medium.com