Monday, July 30, 2018

How I, an Extrovert, Work From Home

When I first took the leap into full-time freelancing, I envisioned a dreamy setup where I’d casually roll out of bed onto my yoga mat at 6:00 a.m., make some avocado toast, and be ready to hit the inbox by 7:15. What this self-employment fantasy of mine failed to neglect was, ahem, one small thing: my personality.


The problem with my thinking wasn’t necessarily the early rising (I don’t crave waking up before the birds, but I can if I need to), but rather the solitude of it all. I love me some solitude, but I’d rather have that quiet, meditative time at the end of my day instead of the beginning. Enter: the definition of “extrovert”.

There’s lots online about introversion vs. extraversion, but I hear people misusing the terms a lot, too. For instance, being an extrovert doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t value alone time, and being an introvert doesn’t always mean you’re shy. It’s more about how you gain energy and what motivates you. So, a simplified guide is extraversion = gains energy around others, and introversion = recharges alone. Here are some links to helpful pages explaining the two: Wikipedia, Changing Minds, Meyers Briggs.

I loved working from home for about… two days, and then I realized it was a little lonely. Since I gain energy from being around other people, I was feeling drained in a way where I’d given everything I had to the project I was tackling, but never felt the “nailed it!” factor I was accustomed to aiming for in work. I would finish my workdays feeling like I’d just run a marathon, and possibly (probably) had forgotten to eat lunch. Over the last year, I’ve tried a few different approaches to switching up my work-from-home routine, and here are some successes I’ve found.


Keeping the House Clean
To me, a cluttered workspace or desk is a huge distraction. And when you’re working from home, sometimes the dishes are in view of your “office”! My desk at home literally faces a wall, which isn’t the most glamorous view, but it helps me to focus in on what’s in front of me when I’m working there. It’s just my computer and that brick wall, really, so I’m less likely to get distracted by my housecleaning chores.

Run an Errand/Phone a Friend
Often, if I have an errand to run that fits in with my work day, I like to do it first thing in the morning. This motivates me to get up and out of the house, seeing other people gives me energy, and I can come home and get to work on my project with more vigor. If it’s not an “errand day”, but I know my energy is low, sometimes I’ll call my mom or another friend just to say hi. It’s like the morning chit-chat you have with coworkers, kind of! For a while, I Skyped with my friend Hallie who also owns her own business, and that was a good motivation to get out of bed and get dressed, too.

Set a Timer
I don’t always use this trick, but I pull it out of my arsenal when I find I’m hitting a wall with my productivity. I’ll set a timer and say to myself, “I’m going to work on this project for 40 minutes”. The timer isn’t always set to 40 minutes, sometimes I vary it depending on the project at hand or how much time I’m trying to save. A set amount of time that I’ve committed to being free from distractions — no Pinterest, no phone, etc. will always help me get going on a goal, and 9 times out of 10 I finish it faster than I would have without the timer. It kind of feels like I’m participating in a race on a game show. How fast can this freelancer edit her photos without compromising quality?? Stay tuned to next week’s episode, airing at 9/8 Central! The same magic somehow works when I light a candle. I can't explain it!


Listen to Podcasts
Pretty sure “listen to podcasts” is a tangible step in every element of bettering your life. It feels that way sometimes! There’s such a variety of great content being produced on this platform; I’m putting it out there — we are officially in the golden age of podcasting. Anyway, I can’t always listen to podcasts while I’m working because a lot of my job is writing, but sometimes I turn ‘em on while I’m doing photography projects, and I always smile when I do.

Don’t Actually Work from Home
So, this may sound like cheating, but most of my success “working from home” is really just working from a coffee shop. I’ll go to quiet places where there are people around — coffee shops, sometimes my parents’ house… I’ve even been known to work from a restaurant or two. I find that I gain energy by being in the same room as other people, and knowing others are working in the same capacity helps me to stay on task. The key to being an extrovert is that I don’t have to talk to every single person in the coffee shop. Sometimes just seeing others, maybe eavesdropping in on their conversations 😉, and knowing I’m not alone in the world does the trick.

It’s been a journey, but now that I’ve been at this freelance thing for over a year, I feel like I’m getting more into the swing of things! Cheers to waking up (semi) early and chasing your dreams, however that looks for you.

P.S. If you’re new here and are thinking, so what exactly do you do for a living?, here’s a link to my portfolio site.

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