From salary to solo: 6 things that helped me thrive
Moving from the discipline of a big office to the freedoms of a tiny home office is exciting and fun. But tricky too. Here are the six things that smoothed my transition.
I remember jumping into the car on my last day in the CBD office and pulling out into the gridlock. Outside, the windscreen wipers were working overtime as the rain came down in sheets whilst, inside the car, I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. I was excited to be going back to what I know best – building businesses from scratch.
The only difference this time around was that I’d be all on my lonesome. It certainly brought the saying ‘if it is to be it is up to me’ into sharp focus.
After all the ‘internal hoopla’ ( ‘internal’ because usually, you are a lot more excited about soloism than your nearest and dearest!) had died down I was left with the slightly uncomfortable reality that no clients/customers meant no income.
Right! (Insert deep breath.) Off we go!
"I’m not afraid to say that, at least for the first month or so, I found the transition from working in a large organisation to working on my own, deceptively tricky. "
I’m not afraid to say that, at least for the first month or so, I found the transition from working in a large organisation to working on my own, deceptively tricky. After a bit of trial and error, though, I settled on a range of things that worked for me.
If you’re in a similar boat, I hope some of these might help you too.
1. I have a designated work area at home
Working from home is great but those little distractions do have a way of presenting themselves at the most inopportune time! For instance, as I write, my five-year-old is kicking an imaginary footy through imaginary goal posts and simulating the crowd noise. At the same time, my 12-year-old daughter is rehearsing her latest calisthenics routine to the dulcet tones of Edelweiss. I love school holidays!
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To provide some respite, I’ve made sure that my office area is as far away as possible from the living areas in the house and only has within it those items necessary for work. Plus some nice imagery to remind me why I am doing this in the first place.
2. I set up my tasks for the day, the night before
For much of the last 15 years, my diary seemed to have a way of filling itself with everybody else’s problems. Meeting after meeting, issue after issue. Now that I’m completely responsible for filling it myself, I’ve found the best way is to devote some quiet time with my productivity buddy (Trello) before finishing for the day. First, I check where I am against the milestones in my business plan (I hope you have one of those!!). From there, I take some time to compose the list of the things I need to do in order to progress forward in each critical area. Of course, I also love ticking the completed button when finishing a task (who doesn’t love that?). Completing this step also ensures that I can get a good night’s sleep without constantly thinking about the upcoming day’s tasks.
3. I dress for business
As tempting as it can be to lounge around in a comfortable pair of trackies if ‘working-in’ for the day, I find it a complete drain on my productivity. After some experimenting in the early days, I’ve now found myself keeping to a similar routine to the one I had prior to going solo (ok, maybe I get up 15 minutes later!). Suit pants, nice shirt, business shoes – no tie. Done.
4. I try to do the hardest job first
I love the book Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy. If you get the toughest job for the day out of the way before morning tea time, it’s amazing how the rest of the day seems positively cruisy by comparison.
5. I try to build in a little downtime
I’m done with the 65 hour weeks. I make sure that I schedule time each day for a few short breaks as well as at least 30 minutes to have lunch. It’s amazing the difference just a 15-minute break can make to creativity and productivity. A wise man once told me, ‘if you can’t do it in 40 hours per week, you’re doing it wrong’. I clearly did it wrong for a long time!
6. Regularly get around like minded people
Since I work as a Business Consultant and mentor I do spend a bit of time at my client’s premises. But, for the most part, l find myself working on my own. Sometimes that’s fine. At times, however, I feel that I need some good old fashioned human interaction. To achieve that I work from a co-working space once or twice a fortnight. In my experience they are great places to meet new people and, if you’ve come from a bigger business, provide just enough ‘politics’ to remind you of the ‘good old days’.