I have been working from home for over 4 years now and it’s awesome! In the months preceding my leap from the corporate executive to easy going entrepreneur, I was very concerned about staying focused at home so I created a schedule to keep me disciplined. I happened to be working with a career coach at the time, who helped me craft it, but anyone can do it. It just takes planning, common sense and a willingness to adapt as you go. Here are some tips to help anyone work at home better:
a. Get up, walk the dog to get a coffee
c. Define start time – for me 9:30 am
d. Spend x hours on x, y, z (I use a task list)
e. Define lunch break – for me around noon
f. 1 pm back to work
g. Continue to work for X hours on x, y, z
h. 6:00 pm stop working / make dinner (or more often, pour a glass of wine)
2. Make a list of anticipated distractions to avoid:
d. Long phone conversations
e. House cleaning
3. A week into the process, identify what is working and what is not
4. Identify your prime time for productivity – for me it’s late in the day around 5 or 6pm – and rework your schedule so you take care of ‘busy’ work like paperwork, billing, filing in the hours that you are least productive and focus your important tasks during the time you are most productive. I am a publicity/marketing consultant and I am most creative at night so that’s when I do my important written work.
5. Be realistic!
a. Learn to set realistic deadlines for you and for your clients
b. Don’t always say yes. If you cannot handle any more work, tell the boss or client you need help or more time. Your reputation is riding on it.
6. Enjoy your freedom
a. Give yourself breaks
b. Allow for time off or early days if work is covered
c. Don’t spend all night working, end your work day at a reasonable time
7. Stay organized
a. Use desk files, buy a filing cabinet, have a supply closet of cabinet
8. Be frugal
a. Look for deals (Walgreen’s now refills printer ink cartridges as a fraction of the cost for a new one!)
b. Use coupons for office supplies
c. Recycle paper
d. Buy a coffee maker for your home/office
9. Schedule multiple client visits to maximize your commuting
10. Billing – unless you can afford a bookkeeper, be on top of your billing. Use a good accounting software (it’s worth the price) and be vigilant about sending them out on time. If you are late by a few days in sending bills, you will feel the late payment and it will hurt!
11. If you get sick. Be at home sick. Don’t work because it’s there. Use your auto-reply and voicemail to let clients know you’re out sick and you’ll get back to them. It’s okay.
12. If you have a dog or pet, include them in your office. I have a doggie bed under my desk and I walk him to the PO Box every day. But don’t forget to put him outside when you do a conf call – if the last thing you want is a barking dog on a professional call!
13. Make your office an office. It should not be an office/guest room/storage space/crafting room. It must be a functioning office to keep you focused!