There’s nothing like the joy and freedom of working at home. We’ve all heard about the fun of working in our pajamas, getting a snack whenever we want, or taking a walk in the sunshine just because we can. Unfortunately, many of the perks of working from home can also be pitfalls to actually running and growing a successful business.
Sound familiar? Luckily, you can get a handle on unnecessary distractions and make your work day more productive. Here are four easy-to-implement steps to get you started.
1. Prep your week
Even if you’re not a list maker, keeping a list of things to do each day can really help. Even better, make a complete weekly schedule. Pencil in both work and family obligations for each day, so you have a snapshot of what you’re doing and when.
Most importantly, keep track of all your work obligations, including client work time, marketing, research, product development, shipping or anything else that runs and grows your business. A schedule will help reduce distractions and confusion over what you need to do. And, it can help family and friends know when you’re available and when you’re not.
2. Lay down the law
You have family, friends and neighbors. And they love to come knocking at your door when you’re scrambling to meet a big deadline. A huge work-at-home distraction can be your own family and associates who either don’t know about, or don’t respect, your working hours.
It’s your job to inform them. Your best friend might not get that your work-at-home job is really a job. Your elderly neighbor might think that, since you’re home anyway, you can mow her lawn.
The solution? Print out your weekly schedule which clearly outlines the hours you’ll be actively working. Make these hours a bright, highly visible color. Then, hand out a schedule to everyone who may be guilty of calling you or coming over during work time. Post it to Facebook. Tape a copy to your front door if you have to, along with a "Do Not Disturb" sign.
Despite your best efforts, someone will keep calling you anyway. This offers a grand opportunity to work on your resolve; simply don’t answer the phone. Ultimately, you must practice not giving in to the distraction just as much as your family and friends need to learn to leave you alone.
3. Manage your social time
Facebook is the ultimate virtual water cooler, isn’t it? Before you know it, two hours go by while you catch up with your friends, look at pictures, feed your critters in Farmville, and watch video clips. Then you pop over to Twitter and catch up on the chatter. Logging into each of your five e-mail accounts only takes a moment, until you get wrapped up in lengthy replies. Then you remember that you needed to Google something and end up looking at yurts in the Himalayas…somehow another hour-and-a-half has gone by.
The Internet is an awesome way to completely waste your working day. Getting compulsive social networking out of your system is necessary to being productive and meeting your business goals. How?
- Use a separate laptop without internet access for work, if possible.
- Disconnect your router while you’re working to reduce compulsive Internet use.
- Put a timer on your desk. Set it for one hour. When it goes off, set it for five minutes of “play around” time.
- If you really struggle with compulsive internet fooling around, consider installing an accountability program like Work Examiner.
4. Reschedule your chores
Many things at home can distract us from work—especially household chores. You simply must be doing everything just because you’re home. This means laundry, dishes, picking up after the kids, maybe a quick vacuum or two. Then, you sprinkle work time into the mix, mash it all together, and find you’ve done more housework than work-work.
Consider eliminating or rescheduling the extra tasks you feel compelled to complete during your working hours.
- Do laundry once per week, or only after you’re done working for the day.
- Allow yourself one half-hour per day to complete household tasks (if you simply can’t wait until after work).
- Get up an hour early and take care of small household tasks (like prepping food for dinner).
- If you think of household things you must do, like making a doctor’s appointment or calling the exterminator, write it down. Make a list of small things to complete only after you’ve finished working.
- Shorten your working hours, or rearrange them, to better suit your household responsibilities.
The good news is that your business is yours. You’re the boss. The bad thing is that you’re the boss. In the end, you’re completely responsible for making your working hours productive. You can do it, even if you must take baby-steps to reducing your daily distractions. Once you realize how incredible a fully interrupted work day can be, you’ll never want to go back!
Justine Grey is a Web entrepreneur who writes Work Life Joy for frazzled business builders who long to work vibrantly and live beautifully. You can find her on Twitter at @JustineGrey chatting about life, work and her pop culture obsession.
Photo credit: iStockphoto