Working from home is a great thing, no doubt about it. You can wear what you want. Keep you own hours. Eat and drink when you want. Surf the net without feeling like your boss is going to bust you. You don’t have to worry about commuting and all of the stress associated with bumper to bumper traffic. No annoying bosses to deal with anymore and you can take breaks when it suits you. In short, you control your own destiny.
All of those things are fantastic pros to owning your own business and working from home. However, there is a dark side. There is the tendency to get sidetracked from the work that generates a profit and puts food on your table to the work you would maybe rather do at the moment like build that deck in your back yard, work on your car, or ugh…do the laundry.
There is also the tendency to lose track of time researching for your business or taking care of tasks that may be better suited for a different time or even handled by a different person. All of these sidetracks, and many more, will take away from your daily productivity and essentially end up affecting your bottom line.
Here are 10 tips to help you stay on track and heading toward the profits you desire and deserve.
1. Organise everything
Having a system in place for your business, your home office, and your work time is essential to remain focused and productive. Develop a system of organizing your office files and your computer files. Make sure there is a place for everything including the stuff you got in the mail today. Some common file categories are:
- Bank accounts
- Customer files
- Business entity documentation
- Copywriting ideas
On your computer it is often helpful to have a folder for every major aspect of your business with separate smaller folders contained inside if necessary. For example you could have a taxes folder on your computer with separate tax information stored in sub folders by date. Al l the tax information and documentation for each year would be stored in that year’s folder. The important thing to remember when developing a system of organization is to make sure that it is a system that will work for you, your business, lifestyle and needs. If it doesn’t you wont use it and it won’t do you any good
Some people are planners and others are doers. To be a successful business owner, you have to be both. You have to plan it and then you have to do it. Plan your business, plan your year, plan your month, plan your week, plan your day. Task lists and project management systems are great tools for the day to day, month to month type planning. For longer range annual planning you will want to go back to your business plan and review, revise, and reassess it annually.
Goals are much easier achieved if you set out a plan to achieve them. This includes the small daily goals like calling that contact about that new joint venture idea you have. I’m sure you have already heard this, but good goals are measurable, relevant, timely, and attainable.
3. To do lists
To do lists or task lists as we talked about in #2 are essential to keep you on task and focused on your goal. Task lists also help keep you organized and they help you prioritize your day. If you’re like me, then they help to motivate you too. There’s something satisfying about crossing an item off of your task list, and conversely something terrifying about watching that task list grow and grow while doing nothing to shorten it and keep it under control.
4. Automate what you can
One of the fantastic things about working from home and owning an online business is that there are so many wonderful tools available to help make our lives easier. There are autoresponders and electronic shopping carts. Web tracking statistics and article submission software programs. Heck, there are even task list programs that will email you your task list for the day! Automating certain tasks will help take the burden off of your shoulders and free up your time to spend on more important tasks.
5. Keep real hours
One of the pitfalls of working from home is the tendency to work 12 hours a day. I know you’re thinking no way, I wouldn’t do that, but it happens and your friends, family, and even your pets suffer the consequences. You do too. All work and no play makes ….well you know the rest. Even if you LOVE your job, it is important to step away from it. Keep real hours. 9-5, 8-4, 10-6 it doesn’t matter. Do whatever works best for you and your business but when it comes time to clock out and eat dinner with your family – do it. Work isn’t going anywhere but your family is.
6. Let it go
This goes back to #5. When the horn blows and it’s time to turn off the computer and go to your child’s choir concert, be there with them in the moment. If your mind is at home thinking about the task you didn’t quite finish or the project you’re starting tomorrow, you’re not truly with your child.
7. Track your hours
Tracking the hours you work and the time it takes to accomplish certain tasks can be an eye opening experience. You may find that the copywriting you think is only taking you an hour a day is actually taking you two. You may also find that your administrative tasks are taking significantly less time than you thought they were or that answering emails consumes half of your day. Tracking your time is essential if you want to later determine the value of it.
8. Plan your admin time
Use the time of day that you are most productive for the tasks that are important to your business. You can easily handle your administrative tasks during the time of the day when you’re unable to focus as well or are likely to have more interruptions.
9. Outsource what you can
Since there are only 24 hours in a day and 5 days in a working week, it may not be possible to get everything done. If you can fit it into your budget to outsource some of the more time consuming, and less appealing tasks, it may be worth your while to do so. Particularly if your time would be better spent on tasks that generate revenue.
10. Identify your time thieves
Everyone has time thieves. Some get easily distracted by email. Others find themselves spending too much time networking online or researching. You likely know what your time stealers are. If you don’t track what you do during the workday and how much time you spend doing it. The results will be interesting.
Once you know where you’re losing time, you can take measures to eliminate it. For example, if email is stealing your time, schedule checking your email into your task list in the morning, at lunch and near the end of the day. That way you’re not responding to every new email in your inbox.
Working from home is a joy but it takes a bit of structure and discipline if you want to be productive. Using these ten tips as guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to a productive, and profitable future.