If you are an entrepreneur then you work mainly from home. For some time now, technology has allowed contractors, or sick employees, to work from home or anywhere in the world. There are many benefits of working from home and yet there are also many challenges with a home office. If you have been in the corporate system for a while then adjusting to the loneliness at home with no more water cooler conversations or people to go for lunch with can get a bit lonely at times. I ventured out on my own in about 2007, I was laid off work and decided I was going to start my own personal shopping service and back then, besides LinkedIn, social media, for business, did not really exist.
After working for large oil and gas firms, I had grown much too accustomed to being surround by people every day. At that point, even the commute to get me out of my home wasn’t needed unless I was meeting a client. I was very productive, but I felt isolated at times with no one to share ideas with or be accountable to, so somedays I wasn’t inspired as much. I found that I had to force myself to do things that I thought I would gladly do since it was my own business.
Years later I contracted for a medial clinic downtown and it was the regular 9 – 5 gig and after my contract was up I was so relieved. At that point I had gotten so used to working from home, or coffee shops, and having that freedom, and because I was able to set myself up with a regular routine working from home over the years. Thankfully I mastered the art of socialization a long time ago and joined various networking groups and was so grateful and fortunate to have the discipline I needed to work from home and to be my own boss and be accountable to myself.
Below are some tips to help anyone stay focused on work throughout the day:
1. Set regular office hours
Some people think you work less if you are at home, but chances are you get caught up working more hours than a regular 9 – 5 because you are so excited to be building your own empire and not somebody else’s. It is important to remember that in business, to be professional, you have to have the same working hours as your clients. I find that sometimes I’ll start off later in the morning but then that sometimes takes me into an all-nighter and that is not healthy at all.
Granted that some interruptions cannot be avoided and extra hours will have to be made up for, but that is the beauty of being an entrepreneur. There are unexpected deadlines or if you have children at home during the day, that can interfere with your hours.
2. Plan and structure your workday/week
If you don’t have a plan it can easily get out of hand so maximize your workdays by creating structure and creating an action plan. Know your massive goal for the year and then break it down to quarterly goals, monthly goals, weekly goals, then daily goals. When you see it all laid out you have more of a guide to get you closer to the completion of your project or goals.
Being on your own, your body actually let’s you know when you are most creative or when you need a break. Work around that and do not force anything especially when you are a creative type. So if you know that are more creative in the morning, resist the temptation to check email or social networks until later; however, you should still check your schedule first thing before starting your day. Making lists and crossing each one off with a highlighter is eye candy as you see each task get knocked down one by one. The feeling of accomplishment when the whole list has been highlighted feels amazing!
3. Dress to impress (even if you don’t have a meeting that day)
Having the ability to work from home in your pyjamas all day is not the best practice. I have learned this well from pop-up meetings, or lunch with friends that call last minute, the good-looking Purolator guy ringing the door bell, to emergencies that need to be tended to outside of the home. It also affects you psychologically because if you look good you feel good and even though you are the only person on a conference call that knows you are in your robe, the performance will not be the same. Taking time to get ready as if you were actually going to work keeps your confidence up and then you are not rushing to get ready for a dinner out with friends or your partner after work.
4. designate a work area
Just like you wouldn’t eat food in bed you would ‘t iron your clothes in your office. Or something like that. Having a designated area to work is extremely important to keep organized and to have the separation of personal life and work life at home. Try turning a spare bedroom into an office or clearing a space in the corner to put an office desk there. Make sure your space is functional for you and surround yourself with things that inspire you, just like how you would decorate your corporate office.
What I love about this, depending if you have clients that enter your home office, is that you can have any kind of music in the background, whatever art you choose and as much or as little aromatherapy as you wish to smell. Make it so enjoyable that are so excited to head to ‘work’ that you hop out of your bed by the first alarm and get ready like you have a meeting with the President. The most important thing here is to ensure that your desk and chair are ergonomically correct for you. Have an ergonomic specialist come in because studies show that long term incorrectness of a workspace can create chronic pain.
5. Take your breaks
Just like you would at a regular 9 – 5 have scheduled breaks, you need to remember that you are top priority of your business and you are the engine and must be fuelled throughout the day in order to run efficiently. Get up and stretch, add in a 20 minute walk to get out of the house, EAT, snack and even get on the phone and call a friend at work and see how they are doing. Try to schedule meetings so they are not all on the same day, even though that may seem more convenient. Schedule them so that each day you get out and be part of society.
6. Avoid any and all distractions
When you don’t have anyone watching over you, or anyone nearby to keep you accountable, you can easily be distracted. And depending on how your office is set up, if you can see the kitchen and the mess it has then your mind easily drifts off to needing to clean up the mess. There are always things to do around the house but you really have to put the household tasks like laundry, dishes, closet reorganization until you get off ‘work’ and really go home for the day.
Stay focused on work throughout the day to maintain consistent productivity and avoid online distractions as well. Limit the time spent on email, social media and websites unrelated to work, and the best thing to do is to be logged out of all of them. Treat this as if you were at a regular job and if the boss came around and saw you on your cell phone texting, or on social media sites passing time he would deem that as being unproductive, because it actually is, and you would be let go. Don’t waste time or money on meetings or activities that are counterproductive to your success and ask yourself every time an opportunity presents itself – how will my business benefit from it?
If this doesn’t work for you and you are still distracted and still not as productive as you should be then I suggest heading to a coffee shop or renting shared office space where you can focus on the task at hand and remember to bring healthy snacks and leave your cell phone off.