Working from home was slowly killing me. I remember sitting in front of my computer and just staring at the screen. Not because I had nothing to do…but because I was lonely, and confused why I couldn’t couldn’t shake these feelings.
Nothing was stopping me from going to a coffeeshop and working, or making plans to meet up with friends after work.
But there I sat, with a million things on my to do list, no motivation, and literally feeling like sitting there all day…doing nothing.
I wouldn’t even call it depression because when I was engaged in a project I really enjoyed or working with someone else in person I loved my job and what I was doing.
When my relationship started to suffer, I knew I had to do something to get out of this rut or I was going to have to quit my job, and when the CEO asked why, I wouldn’t have a good answer.
Contrary to what some lifestyle entrepreneurs will tell you, leaving your job because you are depressed is NOT a good reason to quit.
It’s more important to figure out why you are feeling this way, battle back, and then make a logical decision when you can see beyond the doom and gloom of working from home.
Of course, I didn’t always feel like this.
I use to really enjoy working from home.
But as I got more comfortable in my role, the company grew, and everyone got busier, I noticed my attitude towards working from home was changing.
I found myself working on a lot of projects alone and having a hard time juggling all of my responsibilities because of how unproductive I had become.
I had a tough time focusing on the task at hand because the feelings of isolation, and boredom kept creeping in and taking me off to Reddit and Facebook to feel a sense of community and social interaction.
Deep down I wanted to get out of the rut and wanted to be productive. After 6 months of trying to dig myself out, I finally found a working solution for myself and I need to share what I have learned. My hope is one of these tips will help you dig yourself out and make you more productive and feeling less isolated.
How I overcame the feelings of isolation when working from home.
#1 Mornings are my time
I use to sleep in and justify it as a perk of working from home. If I needed to be online by 9:30 I would wake up at 9:00am.
I had to get real with myself and realize that was part of my problem. I had no time for reflection, personal growth, or doing any of the things I wanted, I just woke up and started working.
Now, I wake up at 6:05 every morning, pour myself some coffee and read a book. I try and read a book a month (so far so good as I have 9 books down in 6 months).
After I read for a bit I write a blog post.
I have found that this is the best time to write (for me personally) because my mind is engaged, I have just read something thought provoking, and it feels amazing to have these accomplishments under my belt before I start work.
If I have extra time I listen to a podcast or watch some online tutorials (I am teaching myself how to be a programmer).
I even go so far as to plan out my mornings in Google Calendar. I plan out how long it will take me to read a book, which podcast to listen to, etc.
I don’t always follow it to the letter, but getting an email every morning reminding me of my commitment to self-improvements gets me going and let’s me know what I should be doing.
By 9:30 I have accomplished a ton of important personal growth tasks.
More importantly, I LOVE waking up and getting into my routine.
I always drag my feet going to social gatherings.
Not because I don’t like them but committing to them, driving in traffic, trying to find parking, and meeting completely strangers gives me anxiety.
I always try to get out of it.
I made a promise to myself that I would go to 1 meetup a month for 6 months.
I find a meetup on meetup.com that interests me and I go. It’s really as simple as that.
Sometimes I meet really cool people (who also work from home) and other times I just enjoy being in the company of others and listening to a speaker give a talk.
Either way, it gets me out of the house, forces me to think about what others are working on, and opens up the possibility of networking with like minded individuals.
#3 Get in the car and drive
When things get bad and my productivity falls off completely, I have the luxury of driving to a co-worker’s house.
The thing is he is a couple towns away (about 120 miles round trip).
But we work really well together and get a lot done.
I try and drive to his place once a month (sometimes more) to have days that re-energize me and remind me what a productive day is suppose to feel like.
I realize not everyone has this ability. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for it.
Find a mentor, a person in a similar work situation and meet up once a month to work together.
You will be surprised how fast 8 hours goes by when you are jamming on all your projects.
#4 Embrace the feels & write about it
This last one is really interesting to me. I would sit in the house all day thinking about how miserable I was, then someone would say something like “you seem off, is everything okay?”
I wouldn’t even know how to explain my feelings.
To solve this issue I started writing down what I was feeling, researching what experts thought, and reflecting on how all of this made me feel.
I started to notice that my feeling of isolation was because I wasn’t creating anything. The more I create (either for my company or personal projects) the more happy I was and the easier it was for me to be productive.
Writing my feelings and thoughts, especially when I was having a bad day, showed me how closely my happiness is tied to solving problems and engaging in learning new skills and technology.
Now when someone asks why I seem off, I am much more in tune with my feelings and have a better guess as to why they are picking up on that.
I generally can answer along the lines of, it’s slow at work and my productivity is suffering.
In closing, what are you doing to get over your feelings of isolation?
I pulled myself out of the rut. But I’m not out of the woods yet. I will always have those feelings of isolation and boredom while working from home.
I know what it feels like to hate working from home. You feel like a prisoner, and for no good reason.
Sure you could walk to the Starbucks down the street, but you know, and I know that isn’t going to solve the problem.
Plus, only a select breed of workers can be productive in a Starbucks.
So what are you going to do about it?
My big breakthrough came when I started to structure my mornings around me and doing things that I wanted to do, and learn about things that I wanted to learn.
When you feel accomplished first thing in the morning you feel GREAT.
If you feel alone at work, embrace it.
Understand why you are having those feelings.
- Would you feel alone if I was in a public place and working?
- Would you feel alone if I had a regular meeting with a coworker during the week to look forward to?
- Would you feel alone if I joined an online group of freelancers to discuss productivity?
- Would you feel alone if you started a blog and started attracting a following of people in the same place in life as you?
If you answered yes to any of these and you aren’t currently doing them on a regular basis, that is where I would start.
Get out of the house, read more, take the time to work on yourself.
Either way, you are working from home and it’s up to you to make the best of it.
No one can pull you out of your funk, except for you.
You got this.