How to Avoid A Mental Breakdown From Working At Home

Do you remember what happened to Jack Torrance when he tried to ‘work from home’ in The Shining?

Jack thought a little peace and quiet would be nice. What better way to finish his writing than to migrate to a remote hotel with nothing but time and his rocking shadow to fill the void? Unfortunately, that particular ‘home’ turned out to be harbouring some sinister spirits.

Believe it or not, Internet Marketers and Jack Torrance have something in common. No, not haunted mansions. But rather, we have to deal with the psychological effect of isolation. We have to win the battle that goes on inside our heads.

Disconnecting from the world and working from home is some people’s idea of paradise. Well, if you’re not careful, it could turn in to your idea of Hell. And before you know it…

Here's Johnny

Well shit, Sherlock. I guess that 9-5 doesn’t look so bad, after all.

We Are All Creatures of Habit

From the age of about 5, we are indoctrinated with a system of routines. A system that – for many people – lasts all the way through to retirement.

There are 8760 hours in a year, and not many people have the power and responsibility to decide how they spend every last one of them.

I’ve spoken to many Internet Marketers like myself, and a recurring theme is the difficulty in striking a work-life-play balance.

Even though I had less freedom, I look back on my stint working for a London agency as one of the easiest times of my life. The days and weeks were laid out for me. You turn up at 9am, leave the office at 6pm, and whatever hours left in the day are yours to spunk however you see fit. There was a beautiful simplicity to life, albeit a restricting schedule that often left me chewing a large Mocha to get through the mornings.

I won’t lie. Working from home will always be my preferred arrangement. But it comes at the price of isolation. Do you ever feel that the rest of the world is racing on by without you?

The effect was magnified during my 8 months living in Thailand. There were periods of mild depression where I felt so isolated from other 24 year olds that I lost complete direction and control over my life. I came back to London thinking it would reignite me somehow. I was excited just to be able to communicate in English with whoever was serving me coffee. It was a luxury. But now having settled back in to the suburbs, the same restlessness has returned with a vengeance.

I come from the small town of Ruislip in North West London. It’s a nice town, but it rarely sets my pulse racing. The last time I got excited was when Boris Johnson rolled up outside Budgens seeking London Mayoral votes. You know you’ve got problems when the presence of Boris makes your day.

Despite being just 40 minutes from the hub of Central London, life here is slow. It’s really slow. There are times where I forget that human life exists outside my window, until I hear the trundle of a granny mowing down the street on her scooter. Then I realise, Jesus Christ, if she doesn’t slow down, some poor sod is about to get his arse extinguished by her four wheeled killing machine. That’s when I feel alive.

From my home office window, on a particularly exciting day, I may glimpse next-door’s cat getting in to a fight with a pigeon. But that’s about it. There are times where for all of the freedom and comfort that comes from working at home, I do question my future sanity. I’m 24 years old and most of my conversation throughout the day comes from two extremely lively dogs barking at me for food. Is this really all there is to Internet Marketing?

I think a lot of want-to-be-work-at-homers underestimate how quickly total freedom can spiral in to a blur of inactivity. There are times where ‘rudderless ship’ has summed me up perfectly.

Working from home creates a huge vacancy of time. Pretending that such a void can be filled with work, television and coffee is quite possibly one of the biggest lifestyle fuck-ups you can make.

Everybody needs to feel alive socially, and much of the natural gravitation behind that pursuit is stripped away when you decide to work from home. You have to make the effort, on a personal level, to ensure that your sense of camaraderie and belonging doesn’t dissipate from the moment you leave the office for the final time. Working at home is not the answer to anybody’s true sense of paradise. It’s just a contributing factor.

When you have more hours at your disposal than everybody else, you need to find more ways to pass the idle time. You need hobbies and social routines. Activities that snap you away from your screen and inject purpose beyond making money from so-and-so.

A day built around wealth generation is completely wasted when you think about it. Why aren’t you enjoying what you already have? I’ve had to answer that question many times for myself and it represents my biggest struggle of the last 3 years.

We are all creatures of habit. For most of us, those habits are defined through systems that are implemented from childhood. But when you step outside the system, isolation and poor planning can unleash a truly ugly creature.

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About the author

Finch
Finch

Hi, I’m Finch. A 26 year old high school dropout (slash academic failure) who makes a lot of money from the Internet.

  • http://www.phoenixmarkettrends.com Artur

    What I to do is take my slim little macbook air and hit one of the coffee shops in downtown Phoenix. These tend to be busy and have strong wifi. I get my work done and I still get to say hello to an occasional familiar person or just watch others in action.

  • Jim Spartan

    You are successful at IM, blogging, guru etc. However I can’t help to think that your writing could eclipse it all. Take a year and churn out a novel. I honestly think you could give JK Rowling and Steven King a run for the money. (no homo)

  • http://www.georgiecasey.com Georgie

    Whenever I feel like I’m going mad just ring up a few mates and see if anyone’s drinking, go on the tear.

    The grass is always greener, I’ve numerous friends who despise their work colleagues and would love to have their days to themselves like me. It’s not all hilarious office banter.

  • http://finchblogs.com Finch

    I’m with you on that. I spend a ridiculous amount of time coffee house surfing!

  • http://finchblogs.com Finch

    Ha, thanks. I do want to write something more substantial. I just need the inspiration to grab me by the balls. I’ve got lots of ideas that are only half fleshed out at the moment.

  • http://finchblogs.com Finch

    You’re right, the grass is definitely always greener. I wouldn’t trade what I’m doing for my old day job, though. It just requires a conscious effort to fix. Something I’ve been guilty of neglecting in the past.

  • Carl

    I used to spend most of my days mindlessly watching Youtube videos whilst sat in my scruffs waiting for mr motivator to come along and throw me in the shower. The best decision I’ve made this year was to work in an office 12-5 with a few of my partners.

  • http://finchblogs.com Finch

    I’ve thought about the ‘office for freelancers’ thing. I think it’s a great idea, but I’m not sure that I’d have the motivation to travel in to town every day if I knew that I didn’t have to. If that makes sense…

  • Jesse

    Guess you don’t fancy living a bit closer in central? I’m in Shoredtich so there’s plenty right outside my doorstep when needed. Downside is there’s quite a bit of noise around here. You can’t win.

  • Luke

    Lemme guess, Jobot?

  • https://twitter.com/#!/tokyoesque Natalie

    Recently discovered the beauty of the coffee house x Macbook Air combo, LOVE it!

  • http://www.brmarketing.ca Brad Rach

    I love the comparison to the shining. I’ve never quite thought of it from that angle but yes I’ve gone a little stir crazy working from home.

  • http://www.BreakingOut.NET Kevin

    Hi Finch,

    I too know this syndrome all to well. The biggest problem with working from home is working from home.

    You just have to get out at least a couple of times a day. Don’t go from your bed to your laptop and start typing. (Well I do – often – but it’s not good for you physically).

    Even a dog has to go out for exercise at least twice a day. So too we humans.

    I don’t have the solution to this. Ive tried coffee shops etc but I find there are too many disadvantages to this. (see my post “What’s it like being a digital nomad?” at http://www.breakingout.net/kevs-diary/digital-nomad/

    I think one possible answer for us could be to join a co-working centre. There’s one over in the Old Street, Silicon Roundabout area of London, called tech hub, I think at http://www.techhub.com.

    I’m not in London right now, otherwise I might be tempted to join.

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