I hear frustration from so many entrepreneurs as they start working from home. They talk about feeling that things are out of control. It feels likes they are working all the time, but it’s like they’re not getting anything done. Basically, they left their office job so they could focus on their own business, but instead, they are working two or three times as much, but not getting anywhere.
Does this scenario sound familiar to you? This is a more common problem than most home-based business owners would care to admin. It is so easy for things to get out of balance. The hours become insane, yet you feel like you’re stuck. Today I’m sharing a few of the tips that I had to learn myself to get my life back in balance and learn to be productive again.
Are you ready to learn the main secret? It’s actually so simple, that more are surprised that I even mention it. However, it’s probably one of the biggest errors new home business owners make. New home-based entrepreneurs are so enamoured with the “freedom” of working from home that they forget all about the structure they had with their office job. They need to establish a routine. The trick of the trade is that you have to treat a business like a business.
Lesson One – Set Office Hours
One of the key components to establishing a routine is to set office hours and keep them. You probably need to plan on putting in a solid eight to ten hours a day, just like you did when your worked for someone else (with specific breaks, of course). These are days and hours that you share with your clients so they know when they can contact you (and when not to). Making office hours for myself was one of the most effective things I ever did to change my business. It really provided the necessary structure I needed. It gave me guidance that helped dictate when I was available and helped give me back my life. I still have clients that may call me at 10:00 PM at night of on a Sunday afternoon, but just because they call then, that doesn’t mean I have to answer the phone. If I was a doctor or lawyer, the client would expect to leave a message and someone would get back to them the next day. It’s the same thing whether you work in an office job or work from home. I have hours I work each day. I have days of the week I work. I also get to have holidays and a day or two a week that belongs to me exclusively. It doesn’t necessarily needs to be the regular 9 to 5 job from Monday to Friday because let’s face it, weddings happen mostly on the weekend. A lot of my clients also want to meet outside their regular work schedules which means a lot of evenings for me. I just get to start a little later in the day to make up for the extra hours in the evening, and I often take Sundays AND Mondays as my weekend. It was a tough lesson to learn, but one of the biggest things that helped me regain control of my schedule.
Lesson Two – Batch Errands And Appointments Together
This was another biggie! Like I mentioned, working from home was incredible. I had so much freedom. I could run out in the middle of day for an errand or to meet with clients. The only problem was that it was exhausting. I felt like I couldn’t get anything done like answering emails or working on timelines or sourcing out rental products.
I had to learn to batch errands together. Instead of doing random appointments all over the place, I tried to put client appointments back-to-back with 15 to 30 minutes in between for a break on only a couple of afternoons and evenings a week rather than every night. If I had to pick up a USB stick from a photographer on the north side of the city, then I would plan to hit the décor rentals spot on the way home to pick up some linens I needed for a design meeting, before ending my journey with the grocery store. I needed to give myself structured time in front of my computer and with my phone to get work done and organize my time out of the “office” so it wasn’t so random. A little thing that made a big difference!
Lesson Three – Limit Your Distractions
This one is hard! Creative personalities are often easily distracted. Our focus shifts rapidly as different things grab our attention. And let’s face it, between cell phones, text messages, emails, and even phone calls there are lots of things that can interrupt our work flow.
If you worked in an office job, did you take a lot of personal calls or save those more for lunch time or after you got home from work? If you were in a meeting with a client would you interrupt the meeting to answer the phone or let it go to voicemail and get back to whoever it was later? Just because someone sent you a text message, do you need to stop what you’re doing and answer it or does it really hurt the other person if you have to wait an hour or two? Is social media taking over your life?
We’re still talking about routines. You have to give yourself time to get your work done. You can catch up with your best friend after work. Maybe even turn your phone off (so you don’t hear calls or texts) for a two-hour period before checking in again so you can get some uninterrupted work done. We know that social media for today’s businesses is a necessity, but what if you set a timer to limit how long you’re on it, or better yet, actually do some pre-planning the week before to figure out and effectively strategize your posts for the following week. (Bet, you will see your followers start to increase if you have an actual plan!) Technology is supposed be a tool that helps us. Too often, we let it control our lives and it stops us from being effective. Use it with moderation keeping its use in balance with everything else in your life.
Whether you work in an office or from home, the fact is you need to treat your business like a business. Give it the routine and organization it deserves and you will find yourself working more effectively and efficiently.
For more business tip and strategies, we encourage you to check back with our blog. If you are looking for a business coach as a one-time thing or perhaps a more specific program, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-403-619-0528.