It is well-known that working at home can be both awesome and horrible. As a first-time, near-broke, entrepreneur, this is pretty much the only option I have. If I had money, a co-working space may work out. If I had even more money (funding), maybe an office. But, as of now, those aren’t possible.
This is how I learned to love working at home.
Customize your working space.
This is one of the best parts of working at home. You can set up your workspace any way you want: take advantage of it!
First, I highly suggest getting a standing desk. One of the problems with working on computers too much is that we sit way too much. Not only is all the sitting bad, but many of us have bad posture. We hunch our shoulders forward, stick our necks out, and lean forward towards the monitor. After hours, it wreaks havoc on your body. And over the years, it is no good. Standing promotes more movement, and if set up correctly, allows you to work upright.
I bought the UTBY underframe, a table top, and the FRANKLIN high chair at IKEA. The table was a bit low, so I went to Home Depot, and got them to cut some 4×4 blocks that I bolted to the bottom of the underframe.
The FRANKLIN high chair is perfect. It allows you to take breaks from standing a occasionally sit. You can also sit on it like you would a bar stool, partially on the seat, and partially standing on one leg. More importantly, it is not a comfortable chair. This forces you to constantly shift your position as you work, and not sit for too long.
Here is a picture of my work space and my standing desk.
Besides the standing desk, you might notice a few things:
- Speakers: I love music. One of the perks of being at home is that you can listen to whatever music you want as loud as you want.
- Tennis ball: If you’ve worked as long as I have at the computer, you get knots in your back, neck, shoulders, etc. Take an occasional break and work them out! Tennis balls are perfect for self massage.
- Foam roller: Another approach to working out knots is to use a foam roller. I keep one next to my desk, and use it along with the tennis ball.
- Basketball: My fingers occasionally get tired from typing. Some people use the little balls that you squeeze. I like to pick up my basketball, and squeeze it with my fingers as you would with palming the basketball.
Having a custom workspace makes it much easier to be happy work at home. Everything you need is there exactly how you want it.
Separate working space.
Make sure your work space is separate from your regular living area, especially your bed room. You want to separation between work and living, and this is the best way to do it.
At first I set up a regular desk in my bed room, and a standing desk in an unused part of the living room. My thought was that I could switch between areas and get a change of pace. Very quickly, I stopped using the desk in the bed room. First, having a bed to lay on makes it easy to take a nap (and who doesn’t love naps when you have all day for a nap?). Second, you get used to thinking about work in your bed room, and it make it hard to separate from work when you actually want to sleep at night.
You will do yourself a huge favor my moving out of your bed room. Even better is to go somewhere you don’t normally go. I put my standing desk in an area of the living room behind the couches for watching TV. It is an area that I never used to spend much time before, so my mind treats it as a new area of the apartment.
Have daily rituals that makes you happy.
The days at home can get monotonous. And there are ups and downs to working on your own stuff. It is good to put together a routine, preferably a morning routine, that makes you happy. It helps to start the day with something you really like.
I love coffee. I love making fresh coffee. I love the smell of coffee
First thing I do when I wake up, is start boiling water. It forces me to walk out of my bed room, down the stairs, into the kitchen, and then back up the stairs. By then, I’m a lot more awake, and am anticipating the coffee.
I get ready for the day as the water boils. When it is done, I grind up some freshly roasted beans, put it in the french press, wait 15 minutes, and voila.. awesome coffee!
Other rituals are good too. One thing I have started doing is taking frequent walking breaks. I go outside, look around, appreciate everything around me (to be fair, its much easier with the great California weather), and then go on a walk to clear my mind.
Pick whatever makes you happy. Just make sure that there are a few things you do each day that truly make you happy.
Make yourself happy beyond rituals.
Beyond rituals, make sure you consistently take breaks and do things that make you happy.
I love food. So, treating myself with good food every-so-often works well. As a near-broke entrepreneur, it is so easy to fall into the trap of trying to live as cheaply as possible. I started eating ramen or black beans and rice all the time. Don’t!!
It isn’t hard to do things that are nice, but don’t cost much money. They just take a bit of effort to make happen. For example, get out to your Farmer’s Market, buy some fresh food, and make something that puts a smile on your face!
I believe humans are wired to be social. We need some form of human interaction. No matter how good your work setup is, nothing replaces a real person. So get out and work with people!
I have gone out to work with friends in their co-working space, or just met up with people to hack together (or just trade stories) at a coffee house. Even better, if you are an entrepreneur, use this as a opportunity to meet new people and expand your network.
It’s now been 15.5 weeks for me working at home, and things have been pretty awesome. If you make sure to take advantage of your freedom, do things to make yourself happy, and occasionally connect with others during your week, I believe it is possible to work from home indefinitely. That said, one day I wouldn’t mind some funding and a great office space to customize :).