Years ago, I found myself working a 9-5. It was in a field that I enjoyed, but I hated being tied to a desk all day. I had about 4 really productive hours; the other hours of the day I’d just watch the clock slowly tick away – counting down the hours until I could get out of there.
I couldn’t see myself spending the majority of my life this way. I dreamt of the day where I could set my own hours. I despised being confined to someone else’s schedule. I craved freedom and autonomy.
It was everything I wanted. I loved what I was doing. I set my own schedule. I didn’t have to ask off for time or worry about taking vacations. I could work from anywhere. And I was infinitely more productive than I was at my last job in half the time.
For all the freedom and flexibility working remotely allowed, there was a dark side. It was not all poolside projects, digital nomad-ness fun like Instagram might lead you to believe.
In fact, the first couple of years were difficult. Before long, I began to feel isolated. I had no co-workers to socialize with daily. I spent most of my time working from home – sitting in a chair, staring at a screen, occasionally making conversation with my cat.
And I almost had too much freedom. I had no real routine. I felt out of sorts. Ungrounded. Disconnected.
I slipped into a bit of a depression…but I was infinitely too embarrassed to tell anyone. This is everything I wanted. I literally wished for it. People would tell me they wished they could do what I was doing. And now, I was complaining?
But people started to notice. And eventually, my boss asked if I was ok.
I wasn’t. I mustered up the courage to tell him I was struggling. It was hard to admit, but he assured me that it was OK – common, in fact.
I let out a sigh of relief.
We talked about ways I could combat this. He encouraged me to set up a routine that would get me out of the house and around people.
So I did. Three days a week, I would work from a coffee shop about a mile from my house. I expected myself to be there by 9 AM, and I would get there by walking.
The first few times, I was annoyed. A mile walk is about 20 minutes. It felt like a waste of precious time. I could save those 20 minutes by driving my car and put that towards my work. And, living in Portland, the weather isn’t always the best for enjoying a stroll.
But I stuck with it.
Before long, I started to crave my morning walks – even in that famous Pacific Northwest drizzle. I loved passing people on the street. I loved disconnecting from my computer screen and getting fresh air in my lungs. And I noticed that 20-minute walk made me feel more focused when I finally sat down to work. (Science agrees.)
I started to feel more like myself. The morning walk felt like a ritual – a routine. It helped to center me. It helped me get out of my head and connect to my body.
Now, my walks have gotten longer. I take them more frequently. I’ve scheduled in blocks of time to connect with my body later in the evening by stretching (using an app like MoveWell or Yoga with Adriene has really helped.)
I also proactively schedule in social time with friends via work dates, coffee meet-ups, or quick walks together, so I have the socialization I was so desperately missing.
Three and a half years later, I have figured out a routine that works for me. Taking time to do these activities during my day has decreased the amount of time I spend actually working, but has definitely made me a more productive *and happier* human.