My day always starts with a tea. More recently a decaffeinated tea, but I have started to migrate to coffee. By 10 a.m., I’m back for a third or fourth cup. It’s my fuel for writing, but it’s also my chance to leave the comfort of my performance chair, shake out a few of the cobwebs in my head, and enjoy the light of day.
See, for the past 2 years as a business coach, I’ve worked alone. Before that I worked alone most of the time for 4 years. Not to make this too depressing, but it’s a rather lonely existence. It’s great when business is great, but lousy when things are tough. Too much time in your own head.
Maybe you can relate. I know plenty of entrepreneurs who get started work alone—for hours on end–in their own homes. The trends would suggest that many of your employees are also working alone part of the week, as telecommuting is on the rise. Faster broadband speeds, innovative videoconferencing systems, and a desire to save the planet by driving less are big contributors. And there’s the fact that most of us are just more productive working solo.
Or are we?
Silence is a breeding ground for introspection. Without social interactions throughout the day, there’s a risk of becoming slightly myopic and interpersonally stunted. It’s also a catalyst for other issues that can spiral out of control given breathing space.
Fortunately, I’ve been looking at a few tricks to make sure this isolation doesn’t get the best of you and your business.
1. Change your scenery.
Although it’s been somewhat discredited, the book “Imagine: How Creativity Works” by Jonah Lehrer explained how a change of location can spur imagination. I firmly believe this. So, I work at least a day per week in a coffee shop. I’ve also been known to have two places to work, commuting between them. Driving gets me outside, moving, and part of the working population. You can even try some of the networking hot design events that are popping up all over the place.
2. Develop accountability partners.
Ever since the beginning, when I dropped out of the corporate world and stuck out on my own, I’ve relied on accountability partners. A friend who is a marketer probably knows more about my job than anyone. Meeting with one friend every week to clear your head out for a few hours and pull you out of your own world is a great idea.
3. Banish the silence.
OK, this trick is rather old. have some music playing. Listening to talk radio, different music stations than normal is a good thing to do. It expands your horizons as well as your musical tastes / dislikes. The lesson: Hearing sounds and voices is a way to block out the fact that absolutely no one is around. Try it.
4. Stay out of the vortex of random website clicks.
Admit it–it happens to you, too. To combat this near-addiction, I’ve started using tools like 20 Cubed that pops up a reminder every 20 minutes to take a break for 20 seconds. It’s incredibly annoying–and highly effective.
5. Use social tools to be, well, social.
I rely heavily on social networks. A few colleagues make fun of me about my constant activity–posting quick jokes, linking to articles, jabbering with PR folks. It’s amazingly helpful. The non-social part of my job can be depressing, but Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Pinterest all help me see there are people out there to engage.
6. Drop whatever it is you’re doing.
Of all the methods I use, there is one that seems to work the best. I take a pause. This is something I’ve learned over the past few years. In some cases, it’s a time of reflection: why am I writing about this topic, who am I trying to reach, what is the purpose of this task? Other times, I walk outside and find a living person or drive to the supermarket and buy a salad, (or something unhealthy).
I don’t think there is a way to completely banish loneliness when you work alone–but walking, moving, pausing for reflection are all great antidotes. They get you into the right ‘state’ to carry on doing what you want and need to do.