When people find out you work from home, they take that to mean you really don’t work at all. The vision of an entrepreneur who works from home that most people have goes something like this. You sleep until about 10, don’t shower or even get out of your PJs for days at a time, have plenty of time to get the laundry done and meals cooked, and then spend a few minutes a day at the computer doing something that vaguely resembles “work.”
I’ve been working from home for 15 years now. And I’ve gotta say, I’ve never had a day that resembles that perception in the slightest. But, I have had days – well probably more like years – when I haven’t done it right at all.
Working from home is not as easy as it seems. And, it’s not for everyone. When I first started, I of course saw only the upside to working from home. No commute, no distracting co-workers, plenty of time to get my business work done and my house work.
In reality, productivity is a huge challenge when you work from home. Think about it. You’re at home, not at work. And at first, successfully working from home is about as natural as taking your laundry to fold at work would be.
Over the years, here are the top seven things I have learned to do that have made it possible for me to successfully work from home. Some of my advice may vary from what you’ve heard before. But, as a single mom of three young kids, I deal in reality, not in perfection.
1. Create a Schedule that Covers Work and Home
If you need to get a couple of loads of laundry done today, don’t just figure that you’ll “work that in” around your business. Either you won’t get it done, or you’ll use it as an excuse to interrupt your work.
Now I won’t tell you not to do your laundry. That’s not realistic. But, what you need to do is schedule your laundry just like you schedule your work. So you put a load of laundry in when you finish your article writing. Put it on your “to do” list just like everything else.
2. Have the Discipline to Follow Your Plan
Now that you’ve scheduled your work and home tasks for the day, you must develop the discipline to follow your plan. Yes, the dishes need to be put away. And yes, that’s a productive use of your time. But, it’s also a convenient distraction from what you are suppose to be doing.
I can’t tell you how to develop discipline here ~ that’s at least an entire book ~ but if you’ll keep your eye on the prize, on your ultimate goals, it will go a long way toward helping you stay the course.
The most crucial piece of developing discipline when you’re working from home is to establish firm deadlines for yourself. You are the boss. You won’t be fired if your newsletter doesn’t go out on time today. But, you may eventually go out of business. So you’ve got to have the self-discipline to meet your deadlines as if your business depends on them. Because, ultimately, it does.
3. Work Where You Need to Work
I know you’ve been taught to have a dedicated work space, and you should. But, you also need to be able to work wherever you are when it’s time to work.
Usually this means realizing the value of 10 minutes, and taking advantage of it. Let me give you some examples of ways I work. If I’m 10 minutes early to pick my kids up from school, I spend it on my iPad scheduling my Twitter updates. While my daughter is at ballet class, I can get in a whole hour of curating content to educate myself, and to share with my market. While I’m waiting for the water to boil so I can put the pasta in for dinner, I’m brainstorming the perfect headline for my next blog post.
You get the picture ~ make every minute count, they add up to hours.
4. Let Everyone Else Think You’re at the Office
Speaking of making the minutes count, when you are working, you are not at home. My pool guy has a hard time understanding this, and so will the people in your life.
Don’t answer the door, or your home phone. Don’t engage in conversation with your neighbor when you walk out to get the mail. These feel like small distractions, but once your work is interrupted, it takes significant time to pick up where you left off. This is time you can’t afford to waste. And, it adds up.
5. Change Your Scenery at Times
Working from home is great, but it means you spend a lot of time at home. Make it a point to go work at the library, the coffee shop, the park, even FedEx Office, on a regular basis. The change of scenery is good for your creativity and your productivity. If you are having a hard time getting started or getting focused, getting out of the house and away from the myriad distractions at home is usually the answer.
6. Be Accountable to Someone
This goes back to the need for being disciplined when you are working from home. Being accountable to someone will help you become more disciplined.
That “someone” can be a fellow entrepreneur who shares your goal of successfully working from home. But, be careful who you choose as your “accountability buddy.” A great one will lift you up and make you better, a bad one will sabotage your efforts and undo all of your good work.
Another good person to be accountable to is a virtual assistant or online business manager. You can involve this person in your self-discipline efforts by having her keep your deadlines on a calendar and give you reminders. A good VA or OBM will enjoy helping you grow your business in this simple way.
7. Get Dressed and Act Like You Have a Real Job
Listen up, because this is likely the only time I’ll tell you to act like you have a “real job.”
You should have a fixed time to begin work. Which means you are showered and dressed by this time. Yes, you can work before you’re officially ready. I get up by 4:00 every morning and work for 2 hours before I get dressed and get my kids up. It’s some of my most productive time of the day.
But, resist the urge to spend the day in your PJs. I don’t know what it is, but there is something about looking like a lazy couch potato all day that makes you act like a lazy couch potato.
How far you take this depends on your needs. I know people who put on a suit and heels for an important phone call, because that’s when they’re at their best professionally. Personally, I’m sure heels were invented by a very unsympathetic and unknowing man, and I vow to never wear them again. I’m at my best in a pair of jeans with no shoes on.
However you dress, when you are on the phone, don’t be laying on the floor or kicked back on the couch. Always act like you’re on video, and the person/people on the other end can see you. Mysteriously, it will make a difference in what you’re able to contribute and in the impression the other call participants get of you.
Working from Home is the Bomb
I love working from home. But, if I hadn’t learned how to do it right, I never would have been able to build successful businesses from my home. Put some effort into doing it right.
If you’re working from home, I’d love to hear your best tips for things to do ~ and to avoid ~ in the pursuit of a successful business.