Maintaining Your Sanity When Working Alone

  •    Freelance writer focused on web development, email marketing and baseball. He lives in Los Angeles, but wishes he lived in Tokyo.

Spending all day alone, with no one around and nothing but empty air to bounce your ideas off can be one of the more frustrating parts of early entrepreneurship. Even if you have a spouse or children around at night and on weekends, not having any co-workers (no matter how frustrating some of them may be) can be a difficult adjustment.

​One of the very best episodes of the Twilight Zone, "Time Enough at Last," tells the story of a banker who wants nothing more than to be alone all the time so he can read. He ultimately gets his wish, but this being the Twilight Zone (and not, say, the Good Times Realm), getting his wish does not lead to a particularly happy ending. Avoid entering your own personal Twilight Zone with these tips.

Make a Work Schedule

When you lose the structure of a regular job, with no boss to hold you accountable and no co-workers around to help you ignore some of that accountability, two things can happen and might even happen interchangeably:

  1. Your work will start to devour your life, leaving you with next to no free time.
  2. You'll start getting up late and putting your work off, leaving you less time to accomplish your goals.

How can you avoid either scenario? Determine the number of hours you need to work each week and create a calendar. Your schedule doesn't need to be traditional: you can work from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and then from 7 p.m. to 12 p.m. if that's best for you and your business allows for it. What's important is that you stick to it while keeping the non-working hours for non-working activities. Be sure to also allow for breaks during your scheduled work, since studies show that you get more done (and do higher quality work) when you step away for a bit.

Whether your calendar has you working at the moment or not, you should always:

Find Lots of Reasons to Leave the House

No matter how much you enjoy being alone, it's very unlikely that one of your business goals is to become a shut-in who rarely sees the sun. If you're not careful, though, you may begin to feel isolated and see your social skills dip, which could ultimately affect your business relationships.

Join a Networking Group

There are numerous business networking groups in every city. Your local Chamber of Commerce (or a quick Google search: "Your City + Business Networking") should turn up several. They're a great way to get advice, make sales/gain referrals, and meet new friends.

Have Lunch or Drinks with Former Co-Workers

A great way to keep those socials skills going, plus you'll get to gossip about your old company and remind yourself why you decided to leave in the first place. Do this at least every couple of weeks.

Go Outside

Even if you're just going to spend the day working from home, go outside for a bit. Some fresh air will give you a burst of energy and a different perspective then you're getting from staring at the walls of your home office.

One good reason to leave the house is to:

Exercise Regularly

Whether you're taking a stroll through the park every few days, preparing for a 5K or trying to become The Rock Jr. down at the gym, physical activity provides a huge boost to your cognitive and creative abilities. You'll be leaving the house, becoming smarter and getting fit all at the same time.

Even if you're doing all of the above, it can also help to:

Get a Pet

If the house still feels empty while you're working, a pet could fix that right away. A dog would force you to take breaks and go outside for walks, a cat would interrupt your work to force you to pet it and a goldfish would give you another living creature to talk to without feeling like you're getting in the habit of talking to yourself and may be going crazy.

Being your own boss can provide the kind of freedom that a regular job never could. However, if you don't manage your own work/life balance properly, you may soon find being your own boss is more restricting and less rewarding than working for someone else. That's why if you make time to go outside, see other people, exercise and relax you'll find yourself happier, and saner, for it.