Due to the incredible nature of my work, I’m able to work from home or on the road. And I planned it that way.
I still remember my first airplane ride – looking down and realizing that I wanted to have the freedom to travel as an adult.
But unless I was prepared to become an airline stewardess (not such a bad idea) or a travel writer (life reserves special places for those people), there were limited ways for me to make my dream of travel come true.
Enter social media in 2009. Much love and thanks to a professor who told us the first day of class to “get a Twitter,” which I did that very evening!
By the time I graduated from UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Mass Communication and Journalism, I had landed two excellent (one paid) internships managing social media and was addicted.
All of a sudden, I saw the heavens open and the path to working from anywhere IF I could create a successful social media business. Within 6 months of graduating, I had launched my business.
That was over three years ago, and I’m still going strong.
Besides the typical social media questions, one of the most asked is how I maintain focus on the road or working from home, and it’s a great question!
Many people see the lure of working from home/on the road and run towards that dream without understanding what it takes to do it. I was certainly one of those people. I’ve failed many times, been crazy broke, went door-to-door looking for business, but have become adept at doing what I do very well.
I tell you all of this because when I give you insights into how to maintain this kind of lifestyle, it’s important you know that it’s coming from someone who does it everyday.
These are my tips on how to be successful working from home or on the road.
1. Take care of your body, mind, and spirit.
If there was anything I’d say is 100% necessary to being an entrepreneur – it’s the care of yourself.
When I first started my business it was easy to lose myself in work for days on end, and that pace landed me in my first “burn out” period. If you haven’t ever experienced this, it’s somewhat akin to a MAJOR hangover where your brain simply won’t turn on and everything is fuzzy.
As I was lost in the haze, it dawned on me that I had been working non-stop for almost 3 weeks without one day off, sun up to sun down – and that wasn’t going to cut it.
But of course once you become the sole factor to making money, it’s tough to turn off. However, it’s necessary to the growth and productivity of your business.
If you don’t learn how to take care of yourself in the early stages of your business, it will become harder and harder to break those habits of wondering back to your computer after work time or working on an off day.
So what does taking care of your mind and body look like?
1. It means getting the appropriate amount of sleep every night. Some folks don’t need as much sleep as others, but sleep is critical for me. I traded late night fun for feeling fabulous early in the morning a long time ago. You can’t be a party animal or stay up all hours of the night and expect your body to perform day after day.
2. It also means exercising your body on a daily basis. That exercise can be whatever you want it to be, but I suggest doing something that takes you out of the house, away from electronics (yes, leave your phone), and gets your heart rate elevated. For me, I like to start out my day with walking/hiking/running outside. Being outside calms my mind and offers some of the most creative time I’ll have all day. I like to end my day with yoga and/or have it scheduled out somewhere in the evening. It releases the stress from the day, and has made a MAJOR impact on my sleeping schedule, which was almost non-existent before finding yoga.
3. Eating healthy food. This one might make you roll your eyes, but when you become your own boss, no one is going to take care of the business when you’re sick or not feeling well. So ensuring that your machine (you) is running at optimal level is key, and what we eat plays a vital role in that health. These days, I don’t eat for pleasure as much as eating to fuel my body.
4. Find a spiritual outlet. I’m not going to tell you what to believe or spend your energy on, but having a spiritual place to go when things get tough or something to rely on will help in the chaos of life. For some people, this is infused through volunteer work, and for others it’s praying to the god of their choice. Whatever it is, make sure it feeds your soul because money never will, and at some point, you’re going to start asking what all this entrepreneur madness is about.
Bottom line, if you don’t take proper care of yourself, it’s going to greatly impede your progress. And I can promise you that if you don’t slow yourself down then your body will do it for you with sickness, aches, sleepiness, disease, etc.
Don’t mess around with your health.
2. Build a routine.
Routines are pretty unsexy, but very necessary to being successful with working at home or on the road.
My day starts out with a very specific routine: coffee/reading (usually the Bible or a devotional book), journaling, prayer, and exercise.
Without this morning routine, I’m off all day. It centers me from the very beginning and offers me a place to start, and if you know anything about starting – it needs to go well because it affects the path of the day.
Past my morning routine, I have routines of when I like to eat, take breaks, and shut down my day.
These are crucial because if you want to change up your environment, you’re going to need something that makes you feel stable regardless of where you are.
Which brings me to adaptability.
3. Learn how to adapt.
If you can’t adapt quickly, then being an entrepreneur is going to be very tough, and quite frankly – you probably won’t make it.
Being adaptable means being able to go with the flow, change up according to what happens in your day or what might pop up, and believe me – MUCH will pop up.
When I’m on the road working for a client, I have to be able to adapt my morning routine to my traveling schedule, which means I may not always be able to work out, journal or have coffee. Praying is a non-negotiable for me, but that can be done anywhere and at anytime.
And that doesn’t just apply to life on the road. You never know when the internet will go down or someone randomly stops by or the electricity goes out.
Life happens, and you’ve got to be able to deal with it positively.
4. Establish a place in your home/hotel to work.
Environment is key to being able to get down and productive. That means finding a place in your home or naming a spot in your hotel where work will be done.
Now the key to this is making sure nothing else happens in these places. Don’t hang out there for fun or even eat there (more on that in a minute).
If you can be precious about what that area is for then your mind will acclimate when it sits down, and you’ll be able to get in work mode super fast.
5. Do not eat at your desk. Ever. Like, seriously.
I call it the new entrepreneur 15, and it’s no joke, especially among my female entrepreneur friends.
When you eat in front of your computer or laptop, you’re starting a very bad habit that will be harmful to taking care of yourself. Here’s what I mean:
1. You won’t be paying attention to how much you eat because you’ll be perusing online
2. You’ll start bringing all kinds of snacks in front of your computer at all times
3. You’ll get to the point where you can’t get in work mode unless you’ve got a snack
4. You won’t take much needed breaks from your computer
5. Your clothes will stop fitting, you’ll feel sluggish/sleepy, and productivity will dive
How do I know this? Because I’ve lived it, and constantly have to remind myself that I must keep eating away from my computer. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary.
Eat your food in another room if possible or in a quiet place, so your brain can reinvigorate itself. Take advantage of that break!
And if you’re on the road and have your computer with you – keep it closed until after you’ve eaten.
Always separate eating time with working time.
6. Find a local community for interaction/work environment.
Let me be straight – it’s HELLA hard to be an entrepreneur! But I wouldn’t have it any other way. However, it does lead to a lot of loneliness, isolation, anxiety, and depression.
But that can be greatly alleviated by getting involved with a local entrepreneur group or finding a work atmosphere to go to a few days a week outside of the house (cafe or work space).
We need to be around people – we are a human race that withers away in isolation, and it’s important that we have people who understand our way of living and can relate to the hard times.
By biggest issue with this “work from anywhere” trend that’s exploding is how little entrepreneurs discuss the hard times of doing what we do. When we are always focusing on the wins, it’s not realistic to those who are trying to establish themselves as entrepreneurs, and then they think they’ll failing because they’re dealing with major emotional issues.
Being an entrepreneur is hard because we can’t count on anyone but ourselves to cheerlead us along (loved ones do their best, but we are ultimately responsible for that), self-motivation can be fleeting, and success isn’t easily defined.
Bottom line – surround yourself with people who understand what you’re going through because they’re doing it themselves. This point really falls into #1 because it assists us in growing mentally strong.
7. Create systems for your work flow.
I’m a major systems person. I color code like a freak, and have to have everything laid out plainly for me to view.
But that doesn’t always mean I’m effective with my systems. Yet they are crucial to my routine and ability to adapt.
For instance, my agency work flows and outlines are lodged on Google Drive. That’s because I need to be able to access them anywhere, regardless of if I lose a laptop while on the road or something worse happens. Without systems, we can’t adapt as efficiently.
My main systems have to do with work flows and social strategies because that’s the nature of my business. But mainly, they’re there to organize my business and save time.
Time is the most valuable asset we have and without systems to streamline what we do every day, we will lose precious time.
This is especially important while on the road because if you’re at the beach, you want to work effectively and quickly, so you can put on that bathing suit and go jump in the water. Or if you’re at home, you want to be able to enjoy your loved ones.
8. Update your systems quarterly.
Speaking of systems, it’s important to constantly update what’s in place because your business will constantly change.
I update my processes on a quarterly basis because that gives me enough time to see if a process is truly effective, and evaluate new tools or variables that will affect the systems. In addition, it correlates to the flow of business change.
But don’t just think of this in terms of your business work flows – continually update how you eat, how you exercise or routines that are in place.
If we don’t innovate, we die, and innovation comes through updates in all areas of our lives.
9. Write out to-do’s the night before bed time.
This is a major one – plan the next day the night before.
The last thing I do before leaving my desk is plan out my next day. This allows me to list out everything that needs to be done the next day.
It allows me to sleep better, and enjoy my morning time more because I know what’s on the way.
Bottom line, it allows me to take better care of myself, and helps me to be super productive whether I’m sitting down at my desk or hotel station.
10. Get comfortable with lists.
Lists – ugh you say. Or you’re like me, and you rejoice!
Lists can be the bane of your existence, but they should be your best friend. Now remember when we discussed adaptability? That habit needs to be adapted to lists because if you get in the habit of making lists, it’s important to not become slaves to them.
Here’s what I mean:
1. Make a to-do list every night of what MUST be done the next day. These are non-negotiable, and include personal items, i.e. yoga at 6pm, etc.
2. Make a list of things you’d like to do the next day. These are items that can be tackled once your MUST do list is completed. Some days I don’t get to this list, so the items are pushed to the next day.
3. Make a list of dream items. These lists (there can be multiple) have to do with whatever you want to do and/or need to do at some point in the future. Maybe they contain things like: redesign the website, switch email providers, etc. The point is to have a list that keeps things that are important, but don’t have expiration dates. By writing them down we will find ourselves unconsciously opening up time to complete them.
Lists are a valuable tool when you’re on the road and/or changing up environments rapidly. They’ll help you feel grounded and stay productive.
11. Learn how to brain dump.
Have you ever heard of brain dumping? It’s huge. And very important.
Whenever you get overwhelmed with everything you have to do – do a brain dump. It means sitting down, preferably without electronics, i.e. a pen and paper, and writing down everythinggggggg you need to do.
Once you do that, cross out everything that doesn’t have an immediate need to compete.
Why is this important?
1. It will alleviate a LOT of stress
2. It’s a great way to get an overview of everything you have going on
3. It will allow you to re-evaluate what’s really important
4. It’s an excellent habit
Brain dumping is something that should be done regularly and will assist in keeping your mind open and calm for whatever comes your way.
I could continue adding to this list because there’s so many things that are important to have a successful business at home or on the road, but I’ll stop here and possibly do a second installment.
But what am I missing? How do YOU make working at home or on the road successful??