About two years ago, I made the transition from working at a large corporate campus to working for myself, from home. To say I suffered culture shock is an understatement. During my entire corporate career, “working from home” meant waking up really late, catching up on episodes of Arrested Development, and taking a two hour lunch. Oh yeah, I checked email every once in a while. It was essentially a day off without burning any vacation time, and it was part of office culture.
Now that I own my own business, that behavior had to change. I was solely responsible for putting food on the table which meant I had to make my business work. I didn’t have someone I reported to that would berate me if the job wasn’t done; I was my own boss. The problem was that I had no idea how to be my own boss. Sure, I knew how to get my job done and how to make clients happy. What I lacked was the skill of making sure working from home involved actually working.
I tried setting up a dedicated office, removing clutter from my desk, only spending time in that room when I was “at work”. None of this was very effective. No problem; I figured I’d solve that by trying my hand at coworking. Surely being around other productive people would kick me into gear, right? Wrong. It only made me even more conscious of not being as productive as I wanted to be, nothing to actually improve it.
However, all of this changed when I started doing one thing: I made my bed.
Right after I stumble out of bed, I pull up the sheets and make sure my bed is tidy. I don’t spend a lot of time on it and I certainly don’t make hospital corners. Being perfect is not the goal. In fact, making my bed is just a means of accomplishing something more important, a easy habit resulting in a small victory.
It’s a way for me to start my day by immediately being productive. Instead of lazing around for 30 minutes checking email and Twitter, I get out of bed, accomplish a task, and get my mind and body ready for work. Making my bed is a task that I don’t have to think about, I have to do every day, doesn’t require much effort and makes me feel good.
To be your own boss and be effective, you need to learn to be productive without external forces. You need to set your own goals and regulate your own behavior to accomplish them. What I needed was a simple system, a dependable, repeatable way of putting me in “work mode”. What I lacked was a routine, and for me making my bed is a really easy way of getting that back.