Running your own business can be the most rewarding thing you may ever do in your lifetime. It can offer you flexibility that those in paid employment may never experience. It can give you a sense of self-worth and achievement when you receive positive feedback and glowing testimonials from happy clients and eventually it will also give you an income over and above what you may have earned whilst working for someone else.
However, working from home, as many of us do, can be a challenge in itself with days filled by distractions, temptation and procrastination. Some might even call it “cherry picking”!
Your success could depend on you remaining focused on running your business, so here are my Top 5 Tips for achieving your goals when working from home.
The washing needs doing. The house could do with a quick once-over with the vacuum cleaner. It’s sunny – I could go for a run, I need to see what time the film starts at the cinema on Saturday …..
Would you even think of these things if you were working in an office/shop instead of working from home? Of course you wouldn’t! You need to treat your working day with the same respect as you would when working at a place of business.
If possible, set your work area away from the family space: use the study (if you have one) or a spare room as an office rather than setting up camp on the dining room table every morning. OK, this could be tricky for some businesses, such as cake makers or crafters, but just having a permanent designated workspace will in itself give you more discipline to stay focused. Working in the lounge, hunched over your laptop with the television on in the background won’t turn you into the next Peter Jones!
Every successful business owner needs …….
Have a working day. Set yourself a time-frame that you will work to and stick to it: have a start time, and a finish time. If you need to work around school hours, school holidays, fitness classes, dog walks –that’s fine, but build those aspects into your working routine before they become “distractions” (see above!)
Once you have your routine, you’ll need to ……
Every week, without fail, I plan my working week on an A3 desk planner. My desk planner sits next to me, on my desk, with the things I need to do that week allocated on a daily basis for each client/task. Some of my tasks are daily, others weekly or monthly but they’re all noted on my planner. My planner also includes dog walks, networking meetings, any 1-2-1s, client visits – you get the picture.
As I complete a task, I strike through it with an orange highlighter pen, which gives me an enormous sense of achievement. My aim, at the end of every working week, is to have more orange than white space on the planner – only then do I know that I’ve achieved the tasks I set myself at the beginning of the week.
Use your planner to make notes and prioritise. Every now and again you’ll be thrown a curveball and there will be a need to re-jig things: if that happens, don’t waste time beating yourself up about it. Just do it, and move on.
As you cross things off your Planner, it’s a good idea to clear you head so you’ll need to ….
4. Take A Break
Make sure you take regular breaks. Get up from your desk, make yourself (and anyone else in the house!) a drink, get some fresh air. Take a lunch break. You’ll quickly lose focus (and interest) if you sit in front of your screen for 10 hours a day – not to mention the damage it could do to you physically. And you wonder why you have backache ……
Health and Safety and VDU Workstation Guidelines apply to those of us who work from home as well as those in jobs!
5. Don’t Be Afraid To Switch It Off
You’re doing well. You’ve got your office in the spare room, you start work at around 9am every morning (preferably not in your pyjamas!), you’ve planned your weekly work schedule and you’ve even managed to reacquaint yourself with the end of the garden during a well-earned break but hang on, what’s this? Someone wants to follow you on Twitter? You have a comment on Facebook to read from last night’s status update? Six new emails?
Don’t be afraid to turn off your social media pages and close down your email application if it stops you getting distracted and helps you to get on with some work. Trust me, the world will not stop spinning if you leave those Twitter interactions for a couple of hours. There will be no national crisis if you don’t instantly reply to every single email you receive and believe it or not, other people aren’t sitting, waiting with baited breath for you to post your next LinkedIn update or Tweet.
You may find it helpful to plan in to your day certain times for social media and emails – I know of some business owners who only check their emails 3 times a day: first thing in the morning, again at lunchtime and finally at the end of the working day – and they manage to maintain their sanity and business success at the same time!
I hope you found my Top 5 Tips useful – good luck in implementing them!