Running your business from home has a lot of pluses (being able to work sitting on your couch, by the pool or wearing sweats are just a few of them). But it also has quite a few pitfalls that can trip you up—and drag your business down—if you’re not aware of how to avoid them. Let's take a look at four common problems that arise when you’re working at home and how to avoid each.
1. People Who Need People
Do you feel isolated and lonely working at home? When it’s 10 a.m., are you itching for human interaction in the break room? You might be sitting in front of your computer for hours, but you’re getting nothing done. If you’re used to working in an office setting with tons of meetings and people, the transition to working all alone, with nothing but the hum of the printer and the occasional bark of a neighbor’s dog, can be brutal.
Solution: Lots of us need stimulation to get our minds going—there’s nothing wrong with that. Make time in your daily schedule for human interaction. This could include in-person client meetings; getting together with other entrepreneurs for coffee; attending networking events in real life instead of just online. In a pinch, even running out for office supplies, going to the post office or setting up shop at a local Starbucks for a few hours can give you the people fix you crave.
2. Hello, Refrigerator, My Old Friend
You find yourself distracted by things that wouldn’t even tempt you normally, like the leftovers in the fridge, the pile of laundry in the corner of the bedroom or the opportunity to watch television in broad daylight. You can’t focus on work long enough to get anything done.
Solution: If you’re easily distracted, try rewarding yourself with small doses of what you crave. Make lists of your distractions, then set goals and rewards. Maybe you work for one hour, then take 15 minutes to do the laundry or have a snack break. Maybe you have to complete a project and then you can watch a half-hour of mindless TV. Start small and build up.
3. Can’t Stop Working
Your work-at-home arrangement gives you the flexibility to work late—so you do. With your work so close at hand, you don’t know when to stop. In fact, even when you don’t have tons of work to do, you feel like you should be working, so you’re constantly checking email and tapping at your computer. You're giving the impression of productivity, but in fact it’s a diminishing return as you slowly burn out.
Solution: Truly embracing the flexibility of working at home means being free to work—and not to work. Create a separate workspace you can close off at the end of the day to signal work is done (even if it’s a closet or a space behind a screen). Set cutoff times and stop working. Enlist family to help or make plans with friends so you’re forced to stop. Of course, sometimes you’ll have to work late—but when you don’t have to, don't.
4. Kid Stuff
You thought by working at home you’d be able to run a business and take care of your kids at the same time. Reality check: Constant interruptions from the small fry are leaving you frazzled, and you feel like you can never give either your business or your children your full attention. The kids aren’t satisfied, and neither are you.
Solution: An entrepreneur needs time and space to focus, and face it—kids aren’t good at giving parents either of those things. That’s why you’ve gotta distract them. Arrange for some type of child care at least a few hours a day, then use that time to take care of tasks that require concentration, client meetings or other stuff you can’t do while juggling a toddler on one hip.
If you balk at spending the money, consider your hourly or per-project rate and how much more of it you can make by shelling out $10 an hour for a caregiver. Or consider banding with other work-at-home parents to start a child-care co-op where one of you watches everyone’s kids one day a week.
Read more articles on productivity.
This article was originally published on August 4, 2014.