As more and more people seem to be working from home, here are my simple tips for making it a success:-
1. Treat it like any other job
• Start at a set time, take a lunch break, have a finish time (even if you go over it sometimes). Decide how many hours a week you want to devote to your new business and make sure you stick to that as a minimum. It’s great to have the flexibility of taking some time off to do something you fancy, and it’s easy to not make up that time, especially if the sorts of activities you’ve got to do are things you possibly might be resisting, like marketing….
2. Set your hours
• Establish a working day pattern that suits YOU. Perhaps you like working early in the morning or late at night… or maybe having fairly long hours for three or four days with the rest as days off.
• Allocate yourself the hours you want to work during the 24 hours we have at our disposal. It isn’t a 9-5 job. Go for what you want.
• Set yourself a weekly timetable with hourly slots that you can fill in on Sunday evenings or Monday mornings. Make sure to allocate journey times and fit in lunch rather than getting swept along by the day and getting grumpy because you haven’t eaten or you are running late!
• Ensure that the people you live with know what your working hours are, and ask them to respect them. It would be advisable to set some boundaries very early if they don’t.
• If you are required to work in the evening or weekend as that is the time that is convenient for your clients, then deduct that time from your working day (so if you work 6 – 7 one day, then take an hour out of that day or the next) otherwise your day becomes 10 hours long!
3. Get yourself the right resources
• Find an accounting system that works for you.
• Get the best PC and fastest Internet connection you can afford.
4. Create a separate work area
• Set aside some “work space”. If you are lucky enough to have a room that could be used as an office, then great.
• If not, then set aside a chair, an area in the lounge, bedroom or wherever that is your “office”. This will help you set boundaries around your work so that it doesn’t spill too much into your personal “space/time”. Don’t let your work area / study spill into other areas. It is so easy to let it, physically and mentally. Never take papers to bed for example
• If you have an “office” shut the door when out of office hours. Perhaps even put a “closed” sign on the door. Remember that you have a life outside your work.
5. Set your boundaries
• Refrain from deciding to just hang out the washing whilst you wait for the kettle to boil – you wouldn’t do that if you were at work, would you, and it’s very easy to then think I’ll just take yesterday’s washing up to the airing cupboard, I’ll just get the iron out – and before you know it, an hour or so has slipped away…
• Ensure that your friends also know your working hours – and be strict at enforcing these. Just because you’re home, don’t make the mistake of being “available” for your friends to drop in.
So treat it as you would any other job, and do not get distracted by housework, family members etc. It all comes down to setting firm boundaries, both for your self and other members of the household.
6. Create a support network
• When you first start working from home, it is a time for adjustment, especially when you have worked in a busy office, with possibly the daily interactions of dozens of young, energetic colleagues. The most important thing is to get yourself out among the people.
• Do not become isolated and do keep an active social life. Working from home can become very lonely. The difference with working from home is that you can’t just turn to a colleague and have a natter to cheer yourself up as you would in an office. So it’s important to build up a network of people you can call on for a chat.
• Develop a circle of friends, possibly in the same area of work as yours, who you can share a virtual cup of coffee with – it can be isolating working from home. Perhaps schedule in at least one (real) lunch a week with friends – but make sure you stick to having just a lunch “hour”, not the two or three hours it could easily extend into…
• Attend networking functions to make some contacts. One suggestion to try is when you meet someone – particularly someone with their own business is to get a couple of their cards with the view of passing the information on to someone else who might be able to use them (and tell them so). Hopefully they will do the same for you.
7. Nurture yourself
• Make an effort to get out of the house if you been there for too long! Go and get some exercise (gym, park, whatever you fancy) and you will feel a whole lot better for it.
• You do have to get out of the house from time to time or you go stale. You need to be positive and motivated for your clients, which can be hard if you are not getting any positive stimulation from somewhere.
• Have regular breaks for lunchtime etc and share lunch either at home or out at least once a week, but keep it to an hour maximum (unless it is a client you are lunching with, when you can be more generous with your time).
8. Be disciplined
• Plan your day/week/month. And stick to it! With regular working hours/time for yourself.
• Always tidy up your work – don’t leave it around as you’ll be tempted to pick it up.
• Be strict with your time-management techniques. You don’t have someone to keep you honest – so you must be honest to yourself.
• It can be hard to motivate yourself to do the things you don’t want to do (marketing, for example) and when there’s no longer a boss hassling you to do it. But it can also be hard to switch off sometimes because you can’t leave your work at the office.
9. Spend time on your self development and growth
• Allocate a time for your reading material/books as it is part of the learning – do not just fit it in during the weekend.
10. Create your vision and remain focused
• Write out the exciting vision of your independent life and place it somewhere (perhaps several places) where you can see it every day to remind yourself.
• Try to focus your days. It helps to get up momentum. For example, one day could be marketing, another admin, others coaching… It can useful to say spend half a day on nothing but admin/finance or marketing, rather than juggle between different types of work. For example, Friday could be your marketing day.
• One practice that could be useful on keeping yourself focused on what is important is to do daily self-coaching. Imagine your future self coaching you, and write or type out the conversation. This can be done at the start of each work day, and can be brief with just a couple of questions such as ‘What did you achieve yesterday?’, ‘What do you want to achieve today?’
• Other times, you can go much deeper and spend time clarifying your vision of what you want in your life, or work on other issues. Even better, get a real coach.
• It can also help to be really focused about what you can get done in a day and where you are getting distracted. For example, log into emails twice only, and put interesting non-work emails in a folder to read ‘after work’.
11. Celebrate working for your self!
• Above all, have fun. Why else did you do this?!
• Celebrate regularly how wonderful it is not to have a boss, not to have to commute to work, not to be surrounded by office politics etc
• Reward yourself at the end of every week for the achievements/successes you have made and coach yourself on what you would do differently, ready for the next week.
12. Have Courage
And remember, at the end of the day:
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes Courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day that says:
‘I will try again tomorrow’.”