Last week I completed an early-morning workout, had breakfast, checked out my local paper and headed into Outspoken Media’s downtown office to start the day at 8am. When I got here, I realized something that made me smile: I had finally broken all my nasty work-from-home habits. Because I tweeted it, I received a few responses from folks wondering what I meant by that and what nasty things I had, in fact, stopped doing.
Well, I’ll tell you.
Eight months ago Outspoken Media moved into office space located in the heart of Troy, NY (I know, we still owe you photos). Prior, Rhea and I had both been working out of our individual home offices. While cost-effective, it wasn’t conducive to growth. We also noticed that our work-from-home lifestyle was packing on some unintended negative side effects.
Like, I don’t know, this weight gain. Or the fact that I was becoming a hermit. And that I was never wearing pants.
I wish I could say the bad habits ended the moment we moved into the office, but they didn’t. They had become actual bad habits. So, in 2011, I resolved that I would break them and take back my healthier lifestyle. Below is what I stopped doing over the past few months and why you really need to stop doing them, as well. These five work-from-home habits are killing your business and your body.
I’m a morning person and have been my entire life. But working from home changed that and, to some degree, changed me. Suddenly I was sleeping til 9:30am, instead of getting up at 6am like I was accustomed to. I was rolling out of bed and groggy-eyed walking straight to my office. There was no time to wake up, no time to eat breakfast, no time to get a work out in. It sucked.
Today’s alarm is set for 6am. Yeah, it’s not always fun, but it’s important. This one step has been the basis for many of the other things also on this list. It’s also helped keep me healthy while hustlin’ a startup. Just because you can sleep til 10am doesn’t mean you should or that it’s a healthy habit. Wake up earlier. It’ll change your whole day.
Eating When You’re Bored
Where do you head when you’re working from home and you’re in need of a distraction, a break, or relief from the monotony of what you’re doing? If you’re anything like me, you head to the kitchen and get something to eat. Not because you’re hungry but because you’re bored or you need to kill a few minutes. This little trick helped me to gain 15lbs in the year and a half I was working from home. Hot, right? I know. In 2011, I changed the habit.
Obviously, moving into the office has helped me curb my boredom snacking, but I’ve also made a better effort to stock up on snacks that won’t add to my waistline. It sounds cheesy, but it’s kind of a big deal. Mostly because I don’t want to be a big deal, if you know what I’m sayin. Snack less; snack smarter.
Not Having Set Work Hours
One of the perks of working from home is not having set work hours. But that means you also don’t have set hours when you’re NOT working. So you get up at 10am and you work until 8pm because there’s no one there to tell you to go home. Then, if you’re lucky, you’ll remember to grab dinner (this doesn’t always happen), only to go back to work til 2am. When you’re getting up later, it’s fine if you work later. Fourteen hour days are what working from home and the entrepreneurial spirit is all about right?
No. It’s not. And you’re killing yourself.
Business Week recently highlighted a new study that found people who regularly work 11 hour days or longer are 67 percent more likely to develop heart disease than those who regularly work 7-8 hour days. Get yourself into a schedule and make sure it’s you can you, ahem, live with. For me, designating my “at work” hours, even if I’m just working from a coffee shop, is what’s allowed me to get more done in less time and NOT live my life in front of a computer. It also hopefully means I won’t die of a heart attack by my 35th birthday. A schedule that doesn’t let you rest, recharge and eat isn’t something to be proud of. It’s something that needs to change.
Not Working Out
If you get up at 10:00am and work for 12 hours, when exactly is your fat ass hitting the gym or taking the time you need to take care of yourself? You’re not going to find it. And then you’re going to become depressed, not only because you’re putting on the pounds but because you’re not moving. I watched my father live a sedentary lifestyle when he was put on bed rest for a year. At some point last year I realized my own lifestyle wasn’t that different. He was sitting in a bed; I was sitting in front a computer. I wasn’t okay with that.
Being up by 6:00-6:30am means I have time to squeeze in a work out before getting to the office by 8:30am. Not working until 9pm means I have time to hit a kickboxing class (and a 110lb bag) before I call it a night. Getting myself on a strict schedule means I can commit to a 6 week boxing boot camp to get my body going again. It also means I have far less aggression when I come into the office, which I hear Rhea, Sabre and the other ladies are also happy about. ;)
Becoming A Hermit
When you work all the time, you don’t leave your house. You stop seeing people and communicate only through avatars. This is not healthy. As freelancers and consultants who work from home it’s too easy to become a recluse who never leaves or acknowledges a holiday. Do not become this person. This person is angry and is the one making all the weird comments when they finally ARE dragged back into society because they’ve completely forgotten how to act. Leave your house. Take a vacation. Hell, take today off. Pretend you’re sick. I won’t tell anyone. [Dear Rhea, I actually was sick on Friday. I swear.]
Those 14 hour days you’re pulling don’t mean anything if the work you’re producing sucks. And if you haven’t left your house in two weeks or played hooky lately, it’s likely your work sucks. Because you’re exhausted and your mind needs a break. So give it one.
Those are the five work-from-habits that I believe are strangling freelancers right now. You’ll notice that the action needed to change the habit isn’t anything extraordinary. It’s a combination of little changes that, in sum, will keep you healthier so you can produce better work and enjoy your life.
It’s a new week and it’s finally starting to feel like Spring. Let’s start fresh.
[The above post comes, in part, as part of my involvement in Nike Women's Make Yourself Movement. This month we were asked to discuss our New Year’s resolutions and whether we’ve stuck to them. I’ve kept my resolution to take back my health. The above is how I’ve done it.]