A few weeks ago I had coffee with a man who had recently made the plunge into becoming a free agent, an independent professional and a freelancer. I asked my usual positive question, "And how does that make you feel - wonderful, I am sure?" "Yes, on most counts," he answered, "But I am having trouble getting used to being alone. After my wife leaves for work, there I am all alone, and even with a lot of projects to work on, it's unsettling."
Thinking over what he said, I realized that other independent professionals have shared the same concerns over the years and that it has taken me some time to adjust also. So, in this article I am going to address "aloneness" and how I have coped with it since becoming a full time independent professional.
It's not so much the aloneness as the change in routine. I have worked as an independent professional for years, but not full time until a year ago. For more than ten years I had a part time job as a community newspaper editor and a part time job as a waitress. As editor, I had an office that I went to usually six days a week, where I worked with a staff and volunteer writers and photographers. I always had phone calls to answer, articles to proof, writing to finish, meetings to attend and neighborhood residents visiting. Many evenings and weekends I worked there alone to catch up (and loved the aloneness), but the difference was when I resigned two years ago, that even though I loved working alone in that office, working at home alone was different.
It took me awhile to realize that I had to establish a routine as organized as the routine I pursued in the newspaper office. It was the same with the restaurant job, which I left a year ago. I only worked the Friday and Saturday night shifts, but I had a specific time when I would get dressed in my uniform along with the usual evening routines, and if someone suggested doing something together on a Friday or Saturday I would say, "No," almost immediately. The truth is that I had to accept the fact that I don't miss either job - in the beginning I just missed having the weekly and daily routines.
So, consider what part of the routine or routines you liked in your former position and/or positions and how you can work them into your present position. For example, I liked the interaction with the people. Now I make sure that I meet others for coffee, I attend meetings and events where I will not only learn new information, but also have the opportunity to interact with others. It is so easy as we get busier and busier with our work at home to stay at home. It is my opinion that a diet of steady aloneness will turn into "loneliness" and also take the joy out of something we "love" doing. After all, isn't that why we have become independent professionals? And there is an additional payoff. By getting out and meeting others, we are also promoting our businesses. People hire those they know and like.
Join a gym and exercise regularly. Once I have worked out, I have already worked out many of my problems, worries and concerns. That's why I prefer to work out in the morning. By the time I get into my home office, I don't have time to even think about being alone. I am "raring to go." I hear some people say, "But, I don't have time to work out." My suggestion is to take the time. Fitness is like money in the bank. It will give you back so much energy, you'll find you can double your productivity.
If you want more information on "How to Invigorate Your Life and Your Career through Exercise" visit my page on Special Reports (check out Reports #3 and #4). There is also the added benefit of seeing and meeting others as you are working out. One caveat: just because you have exercised hard, don't give in to socializing by going out for coffee and donuts afterward.
Get involved with at least one organization that relates to your business. There are organizations, groups and associations for every business imaginable. Recently I have become involved with several technology groups (because I am quickly on my way to being a "geek-ette"). Besides the learning and expertise that I am gaining, I have made incredible contacts with those who can help me solidify my web development and design business. And, be sure to volunteer. I will guarantee that you will never feel alone again. If you are willing to give some free time to the club of your choice, the gains will come back to you - at least in triplicate. One caveat: it is easy to become too involved. Make sure that you keep a healthy balance between your paid-for work and your non-paid-for volunteer work.
Join a community on-line. There are newsgroups, Yahoo groups, discussion groups and list-serves on the Internet that will give you a brand new perspective on your business. I communicate regularly with others from all over the world - yes we are definitely global. Just search for the type of business you pursue, and you will find plenty of contacts. My caveat here: being part of several on-line communities can eat into valuable work time. Again, I suggest striking a sensible balance between the time you spend on-line and off. Some spend hours and hours e-mailing back and forth (and unfortunately, saying little), so I am often a "lurker." I sort, delete and then read the messages that have meaning - answering when I feel that I have something of value to say.
Write letters or write in a diary/journal on a regular basis. When I became a free agent, an independent professional and a freelancer, I discovered that my life was close to being "perfect" - if not already "perfect." The only ingredient missing was that working and living alone, I didn't have someone around at the end of the day who was interested in hearing how great my day had been. Most friends and associates tire quickly of hearing what a FUN life we are having. So, my suggestion is two-fold. I have five grownup children who live out-of-town. I write them and their significant others a letter every Sunday.
When I started this practice six years ago, I told them that I was doing this as much for me as for them, and that it was up to them whether or not they even chose to read the letters. I write them what I have been doing and what some of my recent thoughts are. The response has been wonderful - especially from their significant others. I also use a journal on a regular basis to write down feelings - both good and bad - along with aspirations and goals. The helpful part is that in a journal you can be perfectly honest. You can brag a bit, whine a bit and express hurt or elation a bit. It is for your eyes only, and I am sure that you won't feel alone while you are writing.
Go on an artist's date. Julia Cameron in her helpful program The Artist's Way (click HERE to read my article about it) suggests that we take weekly "artist's dates." We set up a time to go on our own to somewhere different and interesting. My artist's dates are often an afternoon movie or a trip to the art museum. Even though it appears that I am alone, I am in company with myself. Try it. You will like it!
"aloneness" is actually a treasure, if we work with it in different
ways. I hope some of my ways will make it a treasure and pleasure
for you. Let me know what you think and how you cope! I love your FEEDBACK!
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