Working for yourself is not something that most people can grasp until they jump right in. I certainly didn’t. I quit my job and decided to try my hand at working from home. While its not the typical work from home job, and I do get to travel around ( a lot) I am thankful for the flexibility to be able to have some control over my own schedule.
It wasn’t long before I realized the problem with having no set schedule. I would stay up until 3 or 4 am working on a project and be up and ready to go for 8 am meeting the next day. Lack of sleep = dependence on caffeine. Dependence on caffeine = lack of energy and having a very unhealthy diet. Unhealthy diet = lack of energy to work out. Its a cycle.
Its not just my body that suffered, but my mental state was getting worn down as well. That is extremely unproductive when you work for yourself. Networking, meetings, and being my charming self was what attracted my clients to me. I work as a Business Operations Consultant, (or a Project Manager depending on what the clients need) and I almost always work with developers since my niche is tech startups. Being mentally sharp is vital to my growth and the people who depend on me.
Here are some of the things that I’ve learned over the last 7 months of working for myself.
1. Improve your business by working out.
I love playing soccer. The high that I get from running around for 90 mins is unparalleled. And since I play in a co-ed league, it also me to work out some of my aggression.
I understand that no everyone is a huge fan of playing soccer, but I can not stress the importance of working out or playing a sport. It strengthens your body, balances your blood sugar, decreases stress, lifts your mood and clears your mind, all of which allow you to better focus on your business. There are tons of way to work out for 30 mins and still get the benefit of an hour’s workout. This comes down to making it a priority. I have started scheduling it in my calendar, and that way I don’t double book myself with meetings. Its easy to get carried away, but it also comes down to making your healthy a priority.
Tip : Find a sport that you like and go out and play. Not only will this allow you to spend time with other adults in a non-work setting, but you’ll have fun doing it.
2. Sleep is your best friend.
I tend to do a thorough audit of all my work at the end of each month to understand how many billable hours each project took. It’s amazing to see how something that takes me an hour on Monday morning took me 5 hours on Thursday night. So the times that I stayed up till 3 or 4 am was completely pointless as I could have just slept and gotten the work done in 1/4 of the time the next day.
Tip: Know when to turn your phone and laptop off. I turn my work email off Friday night at 7, and jump back in sunday afternoon(mostly because I want to start with a clear inbox on mondays)
Tip 2. Use something like Boomerang where you can schedule your emails to go out later. So when I answer emails on sunday, I make sure they go out Monday morning. This stops people from thinking that I am available all the time.
3. Coffee is not your friend.
Coffee is known as entrepreneur’s juice. There is a sense of pride that comes with knowing that you’re burning the midnight oil and are on your 7 cup of coffee. Working in coffee shops is also a flexibility that we have that most 9-5ers don’t. And boy, do we take advantage of it. I didn’t even like coffee until I started working from home. It quickly because what I lived on.
While there are some benefits to drinking coffee, it’s important to know that it inhibits your absorption of essential minerals, such as iron, magnesium and zinc, as well as B vitamins. It can also task your adrenal glands, sending your stress hormones way out of whack.
Tip. Try different types of drinks. I personally love green tea, but even decaf will help fill the void.
4. Irregular sugar intake causes you to a dip in your energy level and focus.
Have you ever been so focused at the task at hand that you’re skipped meals and had your thoughts impaired? Or, do you ever get such a high from a sugary snack or drink that you have a momentary bout of ADD? This happened to me all the time, and its a bad sign. Side note: This is how you end up putting on 15 pounds, but I digress.
When your blood sugar is too low, your brain thinks you are starving to death and literally won’t let you think about anything but food. So, if you walk into a meeting with low blood sugar you’ll not only be hungry, you won’t be able to focus on the business at hand. On the other hand when you spike your blood sugar high out of the normal range with soda, donuts, cookies or highly processed carbohydrates, your brain thinks it’s drowning in blood sugar and quickly goes to work using it up. Once it’s all taken in, you’re back in the low range. This vicious cycle of highs and lows destroys your concentration and shatters your focus.
Tip: Low-glycemic diet filled with protein, healthy carbs and good fats are your friend. Not only does it help regulate your energy levels, but it also helps you maintain or lose weight. Also, try to eat small meals every 2-3 hours.
5. Alcohol lowers your energy levels.
Networking is part of the game. Working in the startup world means that you live by the 3 ft rule. Socializing and meeting people is all part of the game. I mean how else will anyone know about your business until you tell them. This includes meeting people for drinks, dinners, networking events, social gatherings. And what do all of these events have in common? Drinks! Yes, having a few drinks in your helps calm the nerves and gives your the false sense of bravado.
But it also dehydrates you and decreases your sleep quality. Besides its full of calories that your don’t need since you’re eating well anyway.
Tip: Try and drink less than 4 drinks per week, and stay away from sugary mixers.