If you run a home-based business you have to be good at working alone, being self-disciplined, and to a certain extent at least be content with a somewhat solitary existence. The downside is that isolation can create some bad work habits.
Sitting in your home office day after day can be exciting when you first start – after all, you don’t have to put up with all the stuff you dealt with at your last job – just you and your computer, working in your PJs if you want. But after a while, it can lead to unhealthy habits that erode your productivity. Here are some tips on keeping yourself connected, and active, even if you work from home alone.
It’s all too common for a home-based business owner to settle into their office chair at 8:00 AM and not move until 3:00 PM because they are engrossed in a project, or have a major deadline coming up, having ignored all the signals their body has been sending them throughout the day. Make sure you take regular breaks (yes, that means getting up out of your chair) and move around. Walk up and down the stairs, take a 10-minute walk around the neighborhood, sit on your deck for a few minutes, or just do some stretches in your living room. Moving and getting away from your desk for even a few minutes, several times a day will actually increase your productivity.
For those of you who can get through a day without even thinking about food, don’t sit down before you’ve had some breakfast, and don’t ignore those hunger pangs you feel at lunch. Having high-protein snacks, and a healthy lunch will give you more energy and clarity and will eliminate that mid-afternoon slump you feel when you haven’t eaten since the night before. Your brain needs a balance of carbohydrates and proteins to function well. For those who have the opposite tendency and working at home brings a constant temptation to nibble your way through the day, allow yourself two coffee breaks and one lunch break during the day and don’t eat at any other time.
Make sure you spend a portion of each day (even if it’s just a half hour) connecting with the outside world (you have to use your voice – email doesn’t count!). Make some sales calls, return your messages, call a business associate and chat about how things are going, talk to your suppliers, or phone an old client you haven’t talked to in a while. Disciplining yourself to stay connected will keep you from getting too comfortable with being alone.
When you do have to meet with people, try to schedule meetings at their place of business, or at a mutually convenient coffee shop or restaurant. It’s good for you to get away from the four walls of your office – a different atmosphere inspires creativity, and a break from the ordinary will make you feel more energized when you return.
When you have a significant task ahead of you, it’s tempting to put your head down and work until it’s done, but sometimes, stopping what you’re doing and attacking a different task for a little while can actually increase your productivity. Shifting gears with your brain from an intense task to a lighter task can give it a much-needed break and regenerate perspective. Take ten minutes to answer emails, do some filing, sharpen some pencils, organize your bookshelf, and then get back to your task. Tidying your desk and cleaning your computer screen can also make you feel renewed.
It’s so easy to do – you go to a website to research a specific work-related thing, and before you know it, a half-hour has gone by and you’re planning next year’s vacation, or watching cat videos on Facebook! This takes a lot of discipline, but Internet surfing is a huge time waster. Find a way to discipline yourself to only visit sites relevant to the work you are doing. Some people find it useful to keep a log on their desk where they write down each website they visit. This can be very tedious if you find yourself surfing aimlessly, so it becomes a deterrent to pointless Internet wandering. You may only have to do this once or twice to prove to yourself how much drifting away from work you are actually doing.
When you work for someone else, your personal interaction with others is planned for you. When working at home, you need to make a point of scheduling some play time once in a while, to keep you sane and accountable. Begin working with an executive coach who can help you get success in areas you’re struggling with. Find a buddy, or a group of others who work from home, and start a monthly focus group. It will not only increase your interaction with others, but also give you an opportunity to get feedback on difficulties you are facing in your business, perspectives for problem-solving, creative ideas for growth and a sounding board with others who are walking the same path. In the same way, you can assist them in their business growth, and that will make you feel great!
Many people say working from home is the best decision they ever made. If you’re still doing it, it probably was for you. Developing a few good habits will go a long way towards making your home office experience a productive one.
Trenval Business Development Corporation is Bay of Quinte’s Community Futures Business Specialist, financing business start-ups, expansions or successions in the Quinte region for 35 years. Trenval can help with small business support including small business funding and small business loans.