Ah, working at home... Visions of leisurely days, conference calls in comfy sweatpants, increased productivity with fewer interruptions. But distinctions between work life and home life soon blur. You really should throw some laundry in wash before you write that proposal. You have an hour before a meeting: Should you balance your books or clean kitchen? And remember to call that client back right after you empty cat box.
Welcome to real world of working at home: unforeseen distractions, a lack of structured time, and sometimes a perceived loss of identity. But don't give up dream just yet! By putting into place a few simple ideas, you can reap more of rewards of working at home. Based on my experiences and those of my associates, here are 10 simple ways to help you stay on track.
**1. Separate Your Space**
Keep a separate, distinct work area in your home. (This is especially difficult if you're living and working in a shoebox studio, like I was when I started my business in New York City!) If you don't have a separate room, at least define an area, and know that when you're in it, you're in "work mode." Make sure your roommates and family are aware of this as well.
**2. Structure Your Time**
As your business and personal time mesh, it's more important than ever to structure your day. For example, if you regularly take a walk or go to gym, try to do it every day at same time. Value that personal appointment with yourself - even when you're very busy. It will actually help you keep your business on track! I like to get up early and work until noon, then I take a few hours off to enjoy lunch, do some reading, and take my daily jog on beach. Then I'm back at my desk at 4:00 until who knows when!
**3. Outsource All You Can**
When I began my business, I made mistake of acting as my own courier service. I soon learned how much time I was wasting by visiting clients too much just to pick things up and drop them off. Whenever you start thinking, "Well I can do that myself," STOP. Streamline your business, making everything as automatic as possible. Use outside services to stay focused on your *real work*. Get accounts with an overnight delivery service, messenger service, virtual assistant (VA), bookkeeper, etc. Save your energy for your brilliant ideas! : )
**4. Use Technology to Your Advantage**
In-person meetings are very valuable when appropriate, but schedule them sparingly. Try to do most of your business via phone, fax, and e- mail using best equipment you can afford. For most home-based entrepreneurs, when you're out of office, you're NOT making money. So it's important that you can communicate flawlessly from where you are. And PLEASE do us all a favor and get separate lines/services for your phone, fax, and Internet! No one likes getting a busy signal.
(BONUS TIP: If your phone company offers voicemail, get it. Not only will your outgoing message sound more professional, but if you're on an important call and don't want to be disturbed, other callers can still leave you a message.)