Living alone and working remotely

I did not expect that the difference between living alone and with people makes such a difference when working remotely. What changed? What tips do I have to share?

Living alone and working remotely

After a couple of years of searching, I finally found an apartment 🎉. Within a week, I signed the papers, got the keys, moved out, and started living on my own.

Now that I am looking back on the past half-year, I did not expect that the difference between living alone and with people makes such a difference when working remotely.

What changed? What tips do I have to share?

The never-ending days

Since most days I don't have any plans with friends or family after work, the time I had dinner varied a lot. Rarely early, sometimes late, and (sorry mom) sometimes I just skipped it.

Having no one shouting "dinner" or "can you help me out in the kitchen" resulted in my workday just going on uninterrupted.

In the back of my head, I knew this wasn't healthy. However, it took me weeks to find something that helps me wind down and that actually stuck in my day to day life.

Breaking the cycle

I finally managed to break this cycle by committing myself to make dinner at a set time. When it's 6 pm, it's time to get away from the computer and get ready to make some dinner.

This simple rule turned out to be effective. Cooking dinner gets me in a different mindset that has nothing to do with work. I turn on some music, turn on the lights in the kitchen, pour myself a drink, and start cooking.

When you work from home, it's important to have a moment at the end of the day where you wind down. For me, it's dinner, but our daily schedules might differ. You can try out different things to wind down at the end of your workday like;

  1. Turn off your laptop and put it somewhere out of sight.
  2. Go for a walk or to the Gym.
  3. Turn on some music and pour yourself a drink.
  4. Write your end of day check-in to mark the end of the workday.

Get creative, try some things out, and see what helps you wind down.

Conquering loneliness

Each year Buffer releases a state of remote work. Over 3,500 remote workers have filled out this survey, and again, loneliness is still one of the biggest struggles people have with working remotely.

In the past, I haven't struggled with being lonely. While living with my parents, I always had someone to drink a cup of coffee with and have a good laugh.

However, after a couple of weeks of living alone, it did start to bother me. Some days you wake up by yourself and go to bed without having seen a single soul. And yes, that feels as depressing as it sounds.

Breaking the cycle

The most important thing that helped me conquer loneliness was going out of my way to spend time with and get to know my new neighbors. In the Netherlands we have the expression;

"A good neighbor is worth more than a distant friend."

And indeed, after getting to know all the neighbors, we made a group chat in which multiple times per week someone sends out a message along the lines of "Someone in for a drink?". No need to dress up or anything, show up in your comfy clothes and have a drink like roommates. Sometimes one of us needs to vent about something that happened at work or we just put on a movie and have a laugh.

Can't stress this enough, these evenings are invaluable.

I do realize that not everyone is blessed with fun neighbors. There are a couple of other things that you could try to battle loneliness;

  • During my workdays, I like to have a live stream on of somebody else who is also working. Being able to send them a message in real-time makes a live stream more than just having something on in the background. My favorite place to find these kinds of live streams is the Science & Technology section on Twitch.
  • Schedule time with friends and family; don't wait until you start feeling lonely.
  • Broaden your network, go out with that friend and their friends or go to meetups about topics you are passionate about.
  • Join Slack or Discords groups on topics you are passionate about.

If you are struggling with loneliness and need someone to hear you out, don't hesitate to send me an email.

Being in a flow state for hours at a time

This one is a double-edged sword.

When living alone, you rarely get interrupted by anything. For me, this means that I can get into a flow state for hours at a time. While this is great for output, it certainly isn't good for your back, and it also makes it feel like time passes by so fast.

It already being March feels crazy to me. It feels like in one month, I got the keys to my apartment, moved in, celebrated my birthday, Christmas, and new year.

You could say "times flies by when you are having fun". While I am certainly having fun, I also found myself feeling frustrated on Sundays since I had lost sight of the bigger picture and didn't have the energy at the end of the week to work towards my bigger goals (growing this blog for example).

Breaking the cycle

I am still figuring out how to balance my week in a way that I can have those incredibly productive flow hours, but also to make time to work towards my goals.

Currently, I am trying out a method where I make my to-do list each week and fill it with work-related tasks alongside recurring tasks that will help towards reaching my goals.

For instance, I have a recurring task each workday; "write for 30 minutes". See how the task is not formulated as "write a blog post for Remote101"?

I am writing down my tasks in a way that they can have a compounding effect. Those 30 minutes each day will eventually result in a blog post.

It also helps to stay consistent. I am more likely to write 30 minutes a day than sit down for a couple of hours each week to force out a blog post.

Besides the blog, I am also trying out if recurring tasks work for working out, learning, and chores.

Keep trying out new stuff

Working remotely gives you the freedom to optimize and change your daily life without much interference. Especially if you live alone, stay vigilant of changes in your day to day life.

Stay healthy and don't get lost in the daily grind.