Creating and sustaining a work from home successful business is no easy task. But with the right tools, tips, strategies, and mindset, your work from home business will soar! Here are my top work from home strategies and practices that provide you the nuggets you need for success.
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Top 10 Work From Home Success – Business Best Practices:
1. Set REAL Work Hours
Some people think that working from home means lounging all day with a steamy cup of tea, leisurely meeting friends for lunch, and running errands while dressed for a People Magazine photo shoot… but the reality is it’s not all that. To get your business productive and profitable it’s important to set real work hours. Then communicate your boundaries with family and friends to let them know when you are and are not available. Explain your work hours and responsibilities to your family and friends and to ensure they take what you do seriously. Setting clear work boundaries helps everyone understand that although you’re not driving to an office, you’re not fair game for a frequent 3 martini lunches either.
Set real work hours so you take regular breaks and QUIT work on time as well. Office workers meet for lunch or coffee with co-workers. So drop the guilt when it’s time to get up from your computer. Go for a walk, clear your mind and reset a couple of time each day. And, while on this topic be sure you stop working regularly! (This is one strategy that is much easier when you have a brick and mortar business!) When you work at home, you have no ‘Closed Sign’ to turn, and no door to lock! Since you live in your workspace, it’s all too easy to keep working until the wee hours. Too many of those late nights can lead to burnout quickly. So, do yourself a favor and set a deadline that you will NOT work after in the evening – then honor that time every day to keep yourself sane! To help you set realistic work hours, download FREE Sunday Sanity Summit and Weekly Time Planner here.
2. Create a Functional Workspace To Suit Your Organizing Personality Style
When you work from home, any location can serve as your home workspace. You can work at the kitchen table, on the couch, in bed, or even from the bathtub! (Although, admittedly my favorite place is the back deck!) Truly, your laptop is your portal to make any space serve as an office. But it’s important to legitimize and optimize your time by designing a workspace that works with your natural space style preferences. For instance, although most people prefer a workspace that is not only clutter-free, ergonomically fit and dedicated solely for work purposes, it’s important to choose an office set up that helps you get and stay in flow.
Being productive has much to do with working with what already works for you. If you’d like to discover your space organizing personality style, take the Time & Space Style Inventory and discover what your natural habits have tried to tell you all along. (To take a free sample of this assessment go here.) Once you understand your organizing style and your time management style, you can check out these simple ideas on how to organize your home from reveal.com to keep you on track!
3. Minimize Distractions
If you want work from home success distractions will be part of your daily dealings! And when working at home, some distractions are unavoidable! However, there are several strategies to help you minimize distractions while working at home. Some of the best anti-distraction strategies are tried-and-true time management techniques.
a. Work in intervals.
Much like athletic training for your body, your brain works most efficiently in intervals. In fact, most of us are used to intensity intervals with short breaks in between from our school days. One of the more recent players on the time management stage is the Pomodoro Technique which mimics the format of class periods. The typical high school class is 46 to 52 minutes long with a 4-6 minute break in between where (most) students are typically required to get up and move. (Sometimes this includes sprinting across the entire school to get to the next class on time!) So it’s no surprise that intervals make sense to help you avoid distractions today. Plan your day in blocks of high-intensity work, then get up and take a wiggle break before diving into another high-intensity interval.
b. Don’t check email first thing.
I consider email to be the ‘distraction gateway’ for an unproductive day. If you open your email first thing, without having a plan in place, you risk jumping into a rabbit hole of distraction! The email system forces you to process what comes in, and combined with social media, it can derail your day. A better way to handle email is to check it after you’ve completed one or two of your highest priority tasks for the day. Sorting email can provide a needed break from the high-intensity work. Deleting junk, helps you identify and prioritize follow-up tasks.
The cry heard round the world these days about our distracted species is hard to avoid! Distractions are so pervasive that millions are being made daily on apps and tools that literally take the ease-of-access away from those who can’t trust themselves to self-monitor and manage their time online. Apps like Freedom and RescueTime are some of the hottest apps that help you block yourself from your internet addiction de jour. Even if you don’t feel addicted to your phone, tablet or favorite cyber site, the only way to create the sustained focus on the deep work necessary for work at home success is to unplug. Creating time for deep work and connection is one of the pieces that’s critically missing from our culture today. Create your own rules and milestones around online time. (For instance, no phones in the bedroom!) Then when you reach your milestone by honoring it consistently, reward yourself with something fun!
4. Invest In Work From Home Essentials
With freedom comes responsibility. If you don’t manage your store, no one else will. When you work at home, you wear EVERY hat in your business. No one makes you meals, there’s no coffee shop next door, and there is no store room loaded with ‘take-what-you-need- supplies’ for you. Create an inventory list of supplies to get started, and then keep the list on your device so you can pull it up next time you’re at the office supply store. This way you’ll double your time.
Work From Home Essentials Include Equipment, Tools, and Technology
Work from home success is also contingent upon using the correct equipment and tools. Imagine a plumber coming to call on you to fix a leaky whatever, and the plumber says – “Yes I could fix it if I had the supplies to do so, but that tool was expensive so I didn’t purchase it. Sorry!” Unfortunately, too many home based business owners side-step investing in the tools and technology they really need in exchange for saving money during startup.
When you do this, you get used to doing without. This can kick off a limiting mindset and cycle. One of my first purchases was a wireless headset. It was more than $350, which seemed very high! But I’ve used it daily and been so happy since. When you have a home-based business, you must have the technical tools like fast and reliable Internet access, productivity apps that save you time, office supplies and equipment to be fully prepared so you can focus on work.
5. Manage Skills Gaps Through Hiring Others
When you desire work at home success, you’ll quickly learn that you need to be more tech-savvy than most people who rely on IT for immediate support. And, the curse of many home based business owners is feeling they can do everything themselves. However, this thought process quickly wanes when you’re sitting up at 3 am bleary-eyed, trying to solve technical problems or build your website. If you are not an expert, it is BY FAR a better investment for you to hire someone who is to get the job done than it is for you to bootstrap it yourself.
I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. And, I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve had to learn it over and over again! Although you may convince yourself of your skills and ‘technical savvy’, as a beginner, you’ll never work as fast or as easily as an expert. It’s worth it to invest in others who can save you your most valuable resource… time! Unless you have a background in troubleshooting and resolving technical issues, or are working toward expertise as part of your business service offers, get someone else to do it. They will do it better, faster and more efficiently.
6. Establish Daily & Weekly Routines
Remember Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? Five of the seven ‘habits’ are several of the classic tenets of better time management and overall work at home success. Creating ongoing routines that support regular, necessary tasks will only help you manage your days while getting everything done. Let’s take a look at how five of those seven habits translate into work at home success strategies:
a. Be Proactive means to take initiative and do things before they need to be done. This habit can be applied in many ways as a work-at-home success strategy.
b. Begin with the End In Mind means to focus on your end goal in all that you do. If you find yourself down a rabbit hole, stop. Then ask yourself: “Is what I’m doing now contributing to my ongoing success?” If the answer’s no, read your goals and redirect your actions.
c. Put First Things First means to set priorities. A best practice is to set 3 Daily Goals. This provides a clear focus and is a great work-at-home strategy to stay motivated
d. Think Win/Win means you value the contribution and support of others in all that you do. Let’s face it, although you may work at home alone, no one is in business alone. Your business survives because of the products and services you provide for others. Thinking win/win and grounding each day in a sense of gratefulness and abundance is a success strategy that always works!
Daily and weekly routines help you achieve work from home success. You need to manage the ongoing nigglies (defined loosely as constant and sometimes annoying details) of life. Tackling maintenance tasks weekly helps you stay on top of everything you need to do, and avoid backsliding.
Listen To David Allen’s Sage Advice
David Allen (GTD) claims that routines create a ‘closed performance loop’. A closed performance loop is when you have a pre-made decision and process to follow that has been assigned a time. For example, when you assign a business task like billing to Friday mornings weekly, billing stays off your mind for the rest of the week. An even more effective work at home success strategy is to design easy procedures to get maintenance tasks done. Then, when Friday morning arrives, the niggly task becomes a priority task that is ready to execute. Doing this with daily and weekly tasks dramatically lowers stress because things get off your mind and out of your head. The
For example, when you assign a business task like billing to Friday mornings weekly, it stays off your mind for the rest of the week. An even more effective work at home success strategy is to design an easy procedure to get billing done. Then, when Friday morning arrives, the niggly task becomes a priority task that is ready to execute. Doing this with daily and weekly tasks dramatically lowers stress because things get off your mind and out of your head. The Sunday Sanity Summit and Week-at-a-Glance Time Planner are what I use to keep my head straight. Regardless of your system, the key to routine is consistency.
7. Get Help
Running your work-from-home business sometimes seems dreamy compared to the ghastly life of the corporate drone. But, it’s easy to get lulled into doing everything to run your home while working. It’s important to set yourself up with appropriate support systems for child care, home maintenance tasks and ongoing responsibilities that can easily derail your work time.
When you work from home, getting help means you can squeeze in more time to spend with your family which is a major advantage. Arranging adequate support services helps alleviate the stress of your home task list. Although incomplete projects and interruptions can dominate your home environment, having help works.
That Means Arranging For Childcare…
And if you have young children, you NEED to provide yourself the sanity of appropriate childcare. I know many people (including me) who’ve tried the work-at-home thing with young ones. I soon realized how that whole idea explodes when Johnny flushes his toy down the toilet or draws all over the wall with colored sharpies while you’re on an important client call. (Yep, true confessions here, sadly.)
And if you have young children, you NEED to provide yourself with the sanity of appropriate childcare during work hours. I know many people (including me) who’ve tried the work-at-home thing with young ones. They soon see how that whole idea is ripe for difficulty when Johnny decides to flush his matchbox down the toilet or draw all over the wall with colored sharpies while you’re on a conference call. (Yep, true confessions here, sadly.)
It’s Time To Get Real
Get real about your business and get a sitter. Or set up a play date so that you can focus. Another way to get help for childcare is to shift your work hours so you can gift yourself the time and attention you and your business need. And, when it comes to hiring help, don’t shortchange yourself! To achieve work from home success, your MOST important resource is you! So honor your own time. This inconvenient truth may be learned the hard way if you’re new to the work from home thing. Getting things done using others does cost more than doing it yourself. But, hiring trusted experts to handle tasks which bog you down will always be a wise business investment.
8. Hold a Weekly Family Meeting
One of the keys to home based business success is alignment with your family (especially if they live under the same roof!) The best way I’ve created consistent communication and alignment is to hold a Weekly Family Meeting (capitalized to show importance!) When I first launched my business, this key aspect was missing for my family. I ran around, totally busy all the time, and everyone wondered what was going on. I failed to establish boundaries around my work time and missed some critical things in the formative years! It’s important to set rules with family and friends and let them know when I was and was not available. I expected everyone to assume I was doing what I was supposed to.
Weekly Family Meetings work as a downbeat for work at home moms. You’ll have the opportunity weekly to go through schedules (for everyone), explain responsibilities and schedules and make sure they take what you do seriously. While you might not be going into an office, but you are still expected to meet your daily obligations. When you hold a weekly family meeting, you can use the Sunday Sanity Summit and Week At A Glance Planner to set your agenda!
9. Stay Social
To truly achieve work from home success and avoid burnout, you need to focus on ways to stay social in real life with real people! Just in case you’ve forgotten, the word social is an adjective. Adjectives describe nouns. Social describes activities that allow you to spend time with other people. Social activities happen when you are not working! Synonyms for ‘social’ are words like communal, community, collective, group, popular, public, interactional and gregarious. Get it?
The reason I’m defining the word is that entrepreneurs often complain of long hours spent alone. The truth is, being an entrepreneur, chained to your computer, isolated in your office can certainly become lonely… even in a sea of noise and busy-ness. Staying social means keeping personal and professional relationships top of mind, and scheduling the time to spend real time with real people. It’s easy to become wrapped up and consumed by your business. To avoid isolation, be deliberate, plan outings, and join appropriate groups to network both for your business and for your social life.
Avoid Loneliness and Isolation
Entrepreneurs often complain of long hours spent alone. The truth is, being an entrepreneur, chained to your computer, isolated in your office certainly does become lonely. Even when you spend time in a sea of noise and busy-ness, you can feel lonely. Staying social means you keep personal and professional relationships top of mind and schedule time with people you treasure. It’s easy to become wrapped up and consumed by your business. To avoid isolation, be deliberate, plan outings, and join groups to network for your business and social life. The Wheel-of-Life exercise is a great tool to help you get a birds-eye view on how balanced you feel now. Download it free here!
10. Get Your Office and Home Organized
Running your work at home business is not difficult, but it does take some time to get organized so you can focus your efforts on intentional action. The best way to get organized for business is to start from the inside. Did you know that there is an online assessment tool to help you determine your unique organizing personality style?
Take The TSSI
After working as an organizer for 5 years, I designed the Time & Space Style Inventory for people who struggle in the areas of space and time. If you want to get organized for good, take the inventory today! You’ll receive a report that is all about you. It will help you crack the code to getting and staying organized for yourself.
You’ll also get 60 days access to the TSSI Resource Hub. It’s filled with time management tools and organizing tips for each of the twelve styles. The insights you’ll gain from reviewing your unique style report truly raise your self-awareness. Your scores help you see through the lens of your natural habits and behaviors and better understand what’s going on for you. As a result, you’ll instantly discover easy steps to get organized and back in control to create work from home success! You’ll also better understand the obstacles you regularly encounter. The results will help you organize your home and office spaces to better support your natural personality style preferences and better manage time. As a result of taking the assessment, you’ll instantly learn easy steps to regain control and find work from home success! Take the TSSI here.
Your Sanity Assignment
Focused action creates real results. To create a bit more sanity and work from home success for yourself, review the work from home success strategies and determine what you’ll do. Look for tips that address your most pressing gaps right now. Set a goal! Which work at home success strategy will you act on, and what actions will you implement in the next 30 days to fix it? We’d love to know your thoughts below in comments. And feel free to add more work at home success strategies to share with our readers!