by Carolyn Edlund | Featured Contributor
Are you one of the the millions of Americans who have embraced working on your own in a home office or studio? I am, and have done so for decades. It enables me to live where I like (near the beach) and pretty much choose my own lifestyle. If you work remotely or as an independent entrepreneur, I’m sure you also enjoy the many perks of this type of work life.
Working in a home office often means you can determine your own hours, and even stay in your pajamas. You may also receive tax benefits by taking deductions when you turning that extra bedroom or other space into office space. Plus, with no commute involved, there is little stress and no parking costs.
But, there are definitely drawbacks as well – and if you currently work on your own, you surely have run across some of them.
Here are a few suggestions to make your “work at home” situation run as smoothly as possible:
- Keep your workspace separate. Choose a space that is dedicated as your home office, and close the door. When you are able to set this physical boundary, it helps family members understand and respect your working time and schedule.
- Choose your best working time. Some people prefer the wee hours of the night to design websites or write their book. I’m a morning person, often at my desk by 7:00 am in order to get my best work done, and I schedule the most challenging work at the start of the day when I feel most ready to tackle it. What works best given your personal preferences and life situation?
- Set a routine. Once you have set your work day, stick to it. Odd hours can lead to procrastination, and can confuse others who count on reaching you during working hours. Since you don’t have a company time clock to punch, you need to be accountable to yourself and responsible for putting in the time you have committed to your small business.
- Organize yourself. Whether using virtual tools like ToDoist or Evernote or even an old-fashioned daily calendar (my favorite) you must prioritize and stay focused, or risk getting pulled away by temptations that kill your time. If your tasks involve marketing, create a marketing calendar that plans your strategies on a monthly basis. This keeps you moving forward, not falling behind.
- Get out of the office. Need a conference room, or just a different setting to get work done? Renting a temporary space through companies like Regus can give you a professional place to meet or focus. A coffee shop can work for some people. Not being at home means you can’t devolve to doing household chores or other non work-related tasks.
- Take plenty of breaks. Lunch shouldn’t be eaten at your desk. Use this break period to relax and recharge away from your work space. Working hours on end can make you feel stale and frustrated. A brisk walk, swim or getting out of the house even to run errands puts you in a different frame of mind for a while. If you want to really maximize your efforts and master your effectiveness, check out the Pomodoro method of working and use a timer to schedule dedicated work times for projects.
- Reduce interruptions. It can be challenging to resist the impulse to check email and social media. People look at their mobile phones 150 times a day on average. Yikes! This can turn into a huge time waster. Either schedule times during the day to view your email, or simply don’t give yourself access to the inbox if you are working on the computer. Leave your phone in the car, or turn it off when you have important tasks to complete. You can always pick up messages later.
- Make your workspace work for you. Take a look at your physical space, and consider how to adapt the environment to help you work most effectively. You might want to consider buying a desk where you can work standing up. Playing background music or other soothing sounds can help to keep your brain working creatively. And make sure that tools and resources you need are easily accessible.
- Build a network. Working in isolation can be a big negative, because interaction and community offers feedback, discussion, resources and shared opportunities. Online communities are a plus, but meeting in person is the best way to network. Join a business networking organization, attend conferences or discussion groups to build business relationships and friendships.
- Make time for your life and family. It’s easy to get sucked into working all the time. When your office is steps away, you can easily become a workaholic if you are so inclined. When the work day is over, and on weekends (if that’s your time off), turn off your computer, close the door, and commit to being present with your family and in your personal life.