10 WAYS TO BE PRODUCTIVE
WHEN WORKING FROM HOME
Ah, working at home... Visions
of leisurely days, conference calls in comfy sweatpants, increased
productivity with fewer interruptions. But the distinctions between
work life and home life soon blur. You really should throw some
laundry in the wash before you write that proposal. You have an
hour before a meeting: Should you balance your books or clean
the kitchen? And remember to call that client back right after
you empty the cat box.
Welcome to the 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 the dream just yet! By putting into place a few simple ideas,
you can reap more of the rewards. Here are 10 simple ways to help
you stay on track:
SEPARATE YOUR SPACE
& STAY FOCUSED
Keep a separate, distinct
work area in your home. This is especially difficult if you're
living and working in a shoebox studio, like 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 roommate
and/or family is aware of your work only area and understands
it’s off-limits to them. For animal lovers, this may
go for pets as well. Keep all personal paperwork such as bills
and magazines out of sight, so as not to distract you from
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 the gym, try
to do it every day at the same time. Value that personal appointment
with yourself - even when you're very busy. It will actually help
you keep your business on track!
When I began my business,
I made the 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!
USE TECHNOLOGY TO
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 the
best equipment you can afford. For most home-based entrepreneurs,
when you're out of the office, you're NOT making money. 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.
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.
GROUP YOUR ERRANDS
Try to group your meetings
and errands together to minimize your out-of-office time. Make
a list in the morning of all the outside tasks you need done for
the day, and attempt to complete them in one short trip. Better
yet, designate one day a week as your "blitz" day for
errands and meetings.
BEWARE OF YAPPERS
Many of your friends and
family will be immediately delighted when they learn that you're
working at home. They picture you lounging on the couch, eating
potato chips, and waiting for their calls. When they call you
simply to chat, politely remind them that you're working, and
ask them if you can call them back after your day is over. It
may take them awhile, but they'll eventually "get it."
WORK WITH YOUR MOODS
Keep track of your moods
and productivity compared with the time of day. For example, if
you find you're more alert in the morning, use this time to make
important calls and do your creative work. Take advantage of your
natural cycles. If you feel better after an afternoon nap, go
To bring out your best work,
make your environment perfect for YOU. How do you work best? Plenty
of breaks, or with no interruptions, silence, or with some light
music in the background, on a cushy couch with coffee table, or
at a business desk in an ergonomic chair?
Also, find some places you
can do work when you need a change of scenery. How about the library,
the park, the beach, or your neighborhood coffee shop?
BREAK FOR PEOPLE
Feeling sluggish, lonely,
or moody? Arrange for at least one social break during the week.
Schedule breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even just coffee with a
client, vendor, or friend. Join a business networking group, or
sign-up for social activities such as dance class or recreational
Don't go into hermit mode
- it can be self-destructive!
(c) 1999-2003 Alexandria Brown
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