I am an extrovert and extroverts get energy from being around other people. Many positions and ventures that allow you to work from home mean that you will be on your own most of the time, unless you do something about it. The reality is that even my traditional office job became isolating…the lyric “so close yet so far away” comes to mind.
If a main part of your desire to live differently means transitioning to a solo work-from-home situation, here are a few tips for the extroverts who want to seize an opportunity that they know will cause right-down-the-hall co-workers to no longer be a resource:
- Plan your people time, professional and personal. Whether you are scheduling dinner with friends or in-person business meetings, give these events special significance (colors, all caps etc…) on your calendar to remind you that you that you get to look forward to these get-togethers. While working in a traditional office space, these gatherings probably happened more spontaneously. It may help you to become more intentional about keeping up with friends, colleagues, and former co-workers.
- Give yourself breaks and take a timeout when necessary to be around people. In my transition to work from home, I discovered that my neighbor, a stay-at-home-mom, enjoyed walking with other friends in the neighborhood. Sometimes, when I need some connectivity, I will see if she is available for a walk. This way, I get to be around people, get my body moving, and just feel connected to the outside world. In addition, I met a few more of my neighbors!
- Consider working in a coffee shop to be around others or even a shared office environment if your budget permits.
- Consider leaving on the television or radio for background noise. If you can stay focused in this way, sometimes just having voices in the background can help you feel more energized. Sometimes I will pop in a movie I’ve seen a million times so I know I will not be tempted to get fixated on the story, but the familiar voices and sounds are comforting and distract me from silence.
- Work in errands that get you out of the house during the day and throughout the week. Great news! If you have a flexible schedule, you no longer have to cram all of your errands into a weekend or the last few minutes of your evening after work! Space them out to give you “out and about” time if you can.
- Take a “brain break” and sidestep your sense of solitude by interacting on social media or reading the news. While working from home, you may or may not have co-workers accessible online as if they were down the hall. If you don’t, consider the world of social media as another point of contact. If you are a business owner, your time on social media will also most likely help you promote your services or brand while you seek to connect with others for continued motivation and energy.
- Volunteer. Perhaps with your new schedule, you now have time to become involved in other activities. Take on a volunteer project, or join a class or club. This also does not have to involve you with the same activities as your business. Perhaps with your new schedule and mode of business, you have time to indulge your hobbies and other curiosities. In the beginning of my work-from-home life, I volunteered for a couple of events to benefit local nonprofits whose missions are close to my heart.
- Try to resist falling into an isolation trance or slump. It will happen though try to predict it and plan against it. On the other hand, don’t spend all of your energy fighting yourself or criticizing yourself. You are who you are, so work with it! Sometimes, when I feel my body asking for some rest or a distraction, rather than argue with myself, I allow myself a short nap or I grab a snack or gaze out into the backyard. The point is, you also don’t always have to combat your own inclinations. Sometimes when you jail yourself in a “must work” mode, you only ultimately delay real productivity while you are mentally and physically “stuck”.
- You may need more breaks than you imagined. When you are on your own, this often means you have complete autonomy over your schedule and the pace of your work. Remember that the constructs we invented such as the 8am-5pm workday are not magical. Work is done outside of these hours all of the time. Also, if you are on your own, you might be able to accomplish much more in a short amount of time. There is also nothing magical about an 8-hour or 10-hour work day. Allow yourself to get creative in designing a work mode for yourself that suits your needs. You might desire a short break every hour or every two hours. You get to be the CEO of this time in your life. Use your authority to play to your strengths and energy.
- In the end be real with yourself. Do you need to partner with someone? After all, this time in life is about being real, taking some risks, and making significant decisions. Do you need a committee? An advisory board? Working for yourself does not equal having to do everything alone. We all need connections and support. When you work alone, you just have to be that much more intentional about seeking people out and asking for connectivity and even mentorship. That is not easy for all of us, though give it a try as an essential ingredient for success as an extrovert in a “sole champion” role.