For self employed and telecommuting friends of mine, working from home has always been a challenge. To do so without compromising productivity is not only difficult but almost impossible. Likewise, ifyouarethinkingofstarting your own business, take note.
Working from home for amateurs and new self employed individuals poses several challenges. A true test of discipline is raising the bar on productivity. It is not uncommon for a newbie to start of the day with high aspirations and see the afternoon commence with a series of distractions. If you let these distractions get the better of you, your work day is done. Soon you will realize that at the end of the day, you got only two out of a dozen things taken care of on the list. Speaking from experience, I would take a short break from work, go downstairs to make some coffee, then while the coffee was percolating, turn on the TV. Thereafter, I would find something interesting on TV and park my derriere for a whole half hour instead of a quick coffee break.
So here are my tips -
1. Establish your Work Space – I found moving from a open den to a closed bedroom helped a lot. I would tell myself at 9 a.m., when I am in this bedroom and I shut the door behind me, I am at work. No music, no leaving the bedroom ( I mean office) for any other reason except using the washroom or perhaps a quick disciplined coffee break.
2. Set Office Hours – Set yourhours.It’seasytosayyouareworking from home and then do other chores during the day. Stop it! When you have committed to 9 a.m to 4 p.m., make sure you consider yourself at work. No intermingling of personal chores and work hours.
3. Minimize distractions – No doing laundry, no answering personal phone calls, no personal emails, no Facebook and absolutely no socializing during office hours. Make it clear to your friends and neighbors that you are work and that you will not be able to accommodate a visit unless you were in Michigan and they were visiting you from London for a day after 10 years! Okay there can be some exceptions. Similarly, if your family is around during the day, make sure they know that when you are in that office, you are not to be disturbed for silly things.
4. Plan your day – An old friend and a broker friend of mine once told me this trick. It has served well for years. When you start your day, before you turn on your computer and make any calls, grab a piece of paper or pad and make a laundry list of milestones you wish to hit that day. Say if there are two absolutely imperative phone calls and followup emails you have to make that day, jot them down. Next, fire up your computer, check your voice mails and emails and respond to the most pressing of calls and emails. Then revert back to your paper pad and start tackling all the items on the list. Once those items arecovered,strikethemoffthelistandeverythingelseyouaccomplishisgravy.
5.Usetherightbusinesstools - Working from home is no excuse to not have a proper office setup. I have visited a few friends and clients and seen their home offices and I must say, many have elaborate setups. A nice office suite with a comfortable office chair and desk will pay itself off in no time. If anything you will save yourself a lot of neck fatigue and pain resulting from poor body posture. Yup, we are taking ergonomics.
6. Use the right technology - Hand in hand with the above item, I strongly advocate having an all-in-one printer that’s easy on running costs, a cell phone that is as smart as you, a desktop computer that is business grade, and a comfortable phone set. I cannot reiterate how valuable a good office phone is. Especially, if you are in the business of being on the phone a lot.
7. Choose your partners - Last but not the least, when working from home, you feel alone. No, you don’t have to take over the world by yourself. Feel free to seek assistants to do mundane office chores. Paying an assistant $14 per hour when you could be making $70 per hour makes perfect business sense! Hire someone who you can fall back on when you are swamped and lives near by or perhaps works from his/her home office.
8. Planning meetings - Often times, I have found two days of the week assigned on my calendar for meetings.Anearcoffeeshopwithaquietcozy corner can be a good spot for meetings. If you are comfortable with your living room as a meeting space, you can always do so without invading the privacy of your family. Alternately, you can always insist meeting at the client’s office which most clients appreciate anyways.
9. Seek right advice - Working from home is no excuse for sloppy business habits. Ensure that your receipts, expenses and books are well taken care of. Using a good book-keeper, accountant, business lawyer and business coaches can make you a better business person. Indeed you are are paying for their expertise and consultancy.
10. Putting it all together - You may not take over Rome in a day but implementing these habits one at a time will make you a better disciplined person. Practicing a certain routine everyday can ensure high productivity. Know that your office portion of the house is tax deductible, the business toys in that room are a write off and so is your car mileage when you visit the clients.
Lastly, when you are working from home, it is easy to lose yourself to work. Remember you are working to make a living, not living to work. Your family is just as important and spending time with them is just as important. When at work, focus on work, when off work, turn off your cell phone and spend time with your family. Be the best you can, I wish you the very best!