How To Avoid Zombie Brain When Working From Home
You have finally taken the plunge and quit your day job and are now going to be a successful business owner.
Well working from home is great when you need quite to concentrate, but as you have less interruptions you're going to get a lot more work done in a shorter space of time. Over a period of time if you haven't put the right things in place you will become demoralised and will suffer from cabin fever, and here is the bit people don't tell you about, your brain will slowly fog over if you remain in isolation - I shall call this zombie brain.
My First Weeks At Home - Zombie alert
I had decided by the age of 10 I was going to run my own business, I prefer my own company and I'm not bothered about spending time around people so I figured I'd be a perfect candidate for running a business from home. Also, by the time I quit London I was rejecting the entire human race...
Initially I felt great, I was getting 10 hours sleep a night. For the first time in 15 years I was no longer tired and I could think clearly and start planning the next stage of my life being self employed. I kitted out a room as my office, I made it perfect and could close the door at the end of each day and forget about work, I had set tasks to do etc etc etc; just like all the working from home self help guides had suggested.
But nobody tells you about zombie brain, after 6 weeks I was experiencing zombie type behaviour, eating lots of sugary foods and my mind being a complete fog of forgetfulness, not being able to hold conversations and becoming less productive. This may not happen to everyone, some may not know what it is but once you realise and change the way you work and create a life away from work your brain quickly comes back to life.
How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Working From Home
First off realise you are an individual and you will have to find your own way of dealing with working from home. The self help guides can give you some great tips but you will have to find out what works for you.
Make a list of what you didn't like about being an employee
First off I decided to go through what it was I didn't like about being an employee -
- too restrictive,
- long working hours without breaks,
- being tired,
- constant interruptions,
- pointless meetings,
- constant bombardment of people.
Making a plan to avoid the above dislikes
Straight away I decided I wasn't going to have a set time I started and finished work, although after a while a routine did come naturally. I recorded my time working and found six hours (working time) a day was the best for me. That could be a straight 6 hours, 2 sets of 3 hours or 3 sets of 2 hours - basically when I was going to be productive that's when I worked hard.
I only answer my phone and do emails at set times, I also have times where I close email and let the phone go to voice mail so I can fully concentrate on my current project.
All meetings are held once a month throughout one day.
As much as I would have loved to avoid people, once I was working from home and didn't feel so over whelmed by our huge population, I actually needed human interaction and started attending business networking meet ups, but only once a month. I went for the ones where you get to meet and chat and enjoy like minded peoples company because these make me feel energised, not the all out sell your service networking which is just exhausting.
This one took me a couple of years - I decided to work with only those clients I truly liked. They respected me as an equal, I liked them and their business and felt I could really help them. Sacking bad clients was very satisfying and it freed up so much time I was able to take on more clients I liked.
How to Avoid Zombie Brain
When you go out to work your brain receives lots of stimulation you aren't always aware of, such as interacting with people (the commute, greeting colleagues, office banter, lunch time and so on). You are also bombarded with images, ideas and personalities that you won't have when you work from home.
You won't even notice Zombie brain creeping up on you, one day you'll just realise you feel out of sorts and are de-motivated.
When you get the opportunity to meet up with other people working from home, they will only tell you how great everything is and they are doing well, so you start feeling even more isolated.
When you are no longer working beside other people there is nothing to compare yourself too, you only see other businesses successes as this is the only thing they will publish on social media (new award, big client, book deal etc). The picture of your own life will become distorted. Social Media is supposed to make us all feel connected, but it can actually make you feel quite inadequate.
Then you enter the danger zone, where you will start questioning if you are as good as others out there, and will limit the type of work you will take on.
After many years of working from home I've come to realise, just like a toddler I need to be stimulated through out my day and I need to challenge myself, here's how I tackle Zombie brain.
- Work never ends if you don't let it, you are your own boss, tell yourself it's ok to take a break or to finish for the night.
I know when I'm not being productive, or struggling with an idea. This is the best time to stop and get outside and get some fresh air. I will go for a walk for up to an hour while I think over a problem, its amazing how clear your mind becomes again after 20 minutes. I have a number of local cafes, restaurants and farm shops I enjoy going out to, they are all great ways of having some human interaction. Sit outside in your garden and have a cup of tea, no matter how cold it is.
Connecting with clients at this time of day immediately hooks you into life outside of the house. It also helps you priorities your days tasks.
It's even OK to chat to family or friends, but limit the time, and don't encourage them to call you throughout the day.
This is a great one, because you have to look presentable, you don't want your friends, family or business associates seeing you regressing into a caveman. The routine of keeping up with normal hygiene practices will make you feel human. Rolling out of bed, going straight to your desk in your PJ's is just a dream, it doesn't keep you motivated in the real world.
Social media should be used with a goal in mind (to bring in more business) limit the amount of time spent here because before you know it a whole day can be wasted. It's a great way to connect with customers and suppliers. I also like following industry leaders because it reminds me I need to keep up with changes.
I don't attend networking to sell myself, I go to meet people and build a support network. I go to conferences that will enhance my knowledge of my industry and I do training regularly.
All of the above alone will not completely cure you of zombie brain, adding new layers into your personal life will. Everyone who works from home running their own business says they don't have time. But YOU ARE THE BOSS - I decided on a 6 hour day, I don't have to commute, I don't have to study for professional qualifications anymore, I have loads of time - yipee.
Exercise - I'm no longer running up and down stairs, walking to and from stations or lifting boxes, moving desks and more. I noticed pretty quickly physically I was getting weaker. I introduced exercise, walking, weights and yoga. Yoga gives me energy so I may even do this mid day to get me through the afternoon. Walking clears my mind and weights keeps up my muscle mass.
Learning - always strive to be better at what you do each day. I follow industry leaders blogs, I read text books that the universities recommend to their students within my industry. I do maths for fun and learn languages. I'm now embracing escape rooms, which seem to make me real hyper...
Having a positive view of yourself - I remind myself, if I ever had to go back to work I'll be going back armed with a lot more knowledge and experience then I had when I left or would have been able to gain while being an employee.
Hobbies - this one I struggled with a bit, I haven't had hobbies since I was a kid. But this is the one that seems to make the biggest difference to Zombie brain. I can often be found enjoying childhood hobbies, colouring, drawing, reading, playing games, treasure hunts and escape rooms, most of which are very relaxing and let my mind wander.
New stuff is the best stuff - Challenge your brain by learning something completely new and unrelated to anything else you have ever done before. You never know this could lead to a new business opportunity.
Relationships - make time to have a coffee with friends and family.
Don't let running your own business and working from home turn into what you had when you were an employee. You didn't want to be an employee for a reason, more often than not this is because you don't feel you have a life. Only you can take charge, to be successful at working from home you need things during your working day to stimulate you and lots of things to do in your spare time especially when you spend the majority of your time in one space.
The above may sound like a lot of stuff to do. But once you're working from home you are going to realise just how much time you have available to do the things you want to do.