I've broached this subject with a number of coworkers and friends and a lot of them seem to come back with completely the opposite response to the one which I would give; do you like spending time alone? I relish the chance to spend some alone time just quietly getting stuff done or relaxing. However, some people say that they outright cannot stand their own company, that there is something fundamentally annoying about themselves which means they'd rather blank themselves out with the company of other people. So, I thought I'd post the top 5 tips for spending time alone:
1) Mentally plan your day. I find that if I don't give myself tasks to do then I will probably spend the whole day melting further and further into the sofa - sure, I'd get a lot of headshots, but would I get stuff done? Hell naw. When I know I have a day of leave coming up I set up a little timetable in my brain: 9-10 get up, breakfast, eat cocopops in front of the news, 10-11 do the washing/dishes, 11-12 dance around in my pants... etc.
Note: that's not to say that you shouldn't set aside time to unwind and chill out. Time to get your head around what is going on and just sit and scratch yourself is very important. Having time alone is just as much about relaxing as it is about getting the dishes done.
2) Get "out there". When you've got extended time alone, one of the obvious problems is loneliness, one of the easiest ways to combat this is the engage in some online networking. One of the great things about meeting people online is that you can have social interaction in tasty little bitesize pieces. Start a blog, get on twitter, play a MMORPG, join a forum - whatever takes your fancy. The beautiful thing about the internet is that each of these little facets of society interlink, the more you post in a forum the more you meet likeminded people, maybe you find them on Twitter and you sign up, you follow a few interesting people and in turn are followed by others, in time you will stumble over their blogs and maybe start one yourself. For me this is fascinating, its social interaction at the very basic and pure level, relatively little geographical or aesthetic restrictions, just plug in and go.
Note: that is not to say you should rely on the internet 100% for social interaction, there is no full substitute for human interaction. So, by "get out there" I also mean, go down the shops, go to Twitter organised events, attend Flashmobs, do some Geocaching etc etc.
3) Be childish. You are alone, do whatever the hell you want - if you'd like ot take your clothes off and dance around your flat to Miley Cyrus then go ahead and do it, you crazy diamond. Go and watch Spongebob Squarepants, you'll enjoy it. As adults we rarely get a chance to revisit the world in which we existed as kids, I believe that to have a healthy mind you have to embrace your inner kid. So, put on your furriest slippers, watch Alladin - its awesome. There is no-one around to judge you.
Note: don't do a MJ. You don't have the space to look after a fully grown chimp.
4) Don't watch the clock. Although I've said that you should have a plan for the day, I don't believe its good to watch the clock for every second. If your favourite TV show isn't on until 5, dont sit down at 4 and wait, go and do something else for a bit - set an alarm for 5, and if you find an interesting enough activity then you probably won't notice the hour fly by.
Note: I am incredibly bad for this. Like now, I've had to write this post as I'm alone in the office and I'm watching the clock every 5 minutes hoping that 12:30 will come around and I can go for my lunch. *Check again* Damn 12:08.
5) Don't be afraid to mentally (and sometimes, physically) slap yourself. One of the biggest traps which I often fall into when alone is that there is noone around to tell me that I am being silly. Typical train of thought: "Hmm... I should make lunch... wish someone else would do it... WHY AM I SO ALONE?!". You need to be able to go "Oi, stop that. Get a grip", otherwise you won't survive past the first few days. Be realistic about your circumstances, but also be realistic about what you do have. Take an honest stock of who and what exists in your life and its likely you will see that there is more than you think.
Note: having a strong online community to go to for advice can help with finding perspective when no-one else is around.
The experience project has some interesting tips from anonymous people on spending time alone, check it out here: Experience project.