Working from home is not for everyone, some people manage to make it work, others struggle. Some people try it and just can’t focus; they need the water cooler chat times, people around to bounce ideas off, and less distractions like their dog, the television, Facebook etc.
Those people who love working at home are often more productive than when working from an office. It’s not just about an ability to focus, be self-directed, and cope with the isolation; it’s a multitude of things that effect a home-based worker, or entrepreneur’s ability to be efficient.
Here are five quick tips to help you be more efficient.
It’s so easy to get distracted when you don’t have a boss looking over your shoulder so break down the jobs you have to do into manageable chunks and set a timer for an hour, or 90 minutes, depending on your temperament or the project in hand. Try not to break away from focusing on the task until the timer goes off.
Set definite times for a coffee break and lunch and stick to those times. Another way to keep on track is to set a project timer that monitors the amount of time and the cost to the client. This can help make you focus on the task at hand, otherwise you’ll feel guilty (hopefully) for charging for hours daydreaming and not working.
If you do tend to daydream, you can download an app that lets you know when you’ve not touched the keyboard or mouse for a set period of time (you can set the length of time). It then asks whether you want to discard the inactive time. That gives you a reality check as those are wasted minutes and if you charge by the hour they cost you money!
Keep your desk tidy. File everything you are not currently dealing with. Throw away anything you don’t need. Touch each file, or piece of paper, only once! At the end of every day tidy your desk and your office, so when you start the next day you start afresh, motivated, not faced with clutter that will automatically set you off on a disorganized path.
Most people who have home-based small businesses know other people doing similar work operating out of their home. Bring together five or six of these people and form a buying group, so you can buy things in bulk that would normally cost you more – things like large boxes of paper, folders, CD’s, pens, coffee, etc. You could also take turns doing a Staples, or Office Depot run and save yourself a lot of time. or wherever, thus saving you time. And as we all know - time is money.
Even if you’re great at working alone, it does no good to become too isolated. If you don’t create a ‘buying’ co-op, think about arranging a regular time to meet a group of other home-based entrepreneurs for coffee, either at one of your homes, or at a nearby coffee shop. This serves as great networking and even provides you with small business support from other entrepreneurs in the similar situation. This is time well spent; it increases motivation, creativity, and can even help you solve business challenges.
Also, make use of your local Chamber of Commerce’s mixers; this gets you out of the house and can also be a source of new business leads and contacts. Remember at some point too many hours at the computer become counter-productive as your quality of work drops significantly when you get tired.
Many home-based small business owners become workaholics. Husbands and wives have trouble dragging them away from their home office. Some even work on laptops while watching television.
Separating home life and business is an issue with most home-based businesses, they tend to meld into one. The key to balancing your work and home life is to set boundaries. Sure, you want the flexibility to work at 3:00am in the morning if required, or if the muse hits you, but you must set times when you simply don’t work. A great idea is to ensure your office space is separate, i.e. a unique space that has walls and doors that separate it from the rest of the house. Set office hours (a clearly defined work week) and only do ‘overtime’ when it’s vitally important for a project. When you have finished for the day, shut the door - even lock it if you can and don’t keep wandering back to check emails. Remember how important your family is!