at home . . . Visions of leisurely days, conference calls in comfy
sweatpants, increased productivity with fewer interruptions. But the
distinctions between work life and home life soon blur. You really
should throw some laundry in the wash before you write that
proposal. You have an hour before a meeting: Should you balance your
books or clean the kitchen? And remember to call that client back
right after you empty the cat box.
to the real world of working at home: unforeseen distractions, a
lack of structured time and sometimes a perceived loss of identity.
But don't give up the dream just yet! By putting into place a few
simple ideas, you can reap more of the rewards of working at home.
Based on my experiences and those of my associates, here are 10
simple ways to help you stay on track.
1. Separate Your Space
Keep a separate, distinct work area in your home. (This is
especially difficult if you're living and working in a shoebox
studio, like I was when I started my business in New York City) If
you don't have a separate room, at least define an area, and know
that when you're in it, you're in "work mode."
2. Structure Your Time
As your business and personal time mesh, it's more
important than ever to structure your day. For example, if you
regularly take a walk or go to the gym, try to do it every day at
the same time. Value that personal appointment with yourself—even
when you're very busy. It will actually help you keep your business
on track! I like to get up early and work until noon, then I take a
few hours off to enjoy lunch, do some reading and take my daily jog
on the beach. Then I'm back at my desk at 4:00 until who knows when!
3. Outsource All You Can
When I began my business, I made the mistake of acting as
my own courier service. I soon learned how much time I was wasting
by frequently visiting clients just to pick things up and drop them
off. Whenever you start thinking, "Well I can just do that myself,"
STOP. Streamline your business, making everything as automatic as
possible. Use outside services to stay focused on your "real work".
Get accounts with an overnight delivery service, messenger service,
virtual assistant (VA), bookkeeper, etc. Save your energy for your
4. Use Technology to Your Advantage
In-person meetings are very valuable when appropriate, but
schedule them sparingly. Try to do most of your business via phone,
fax and e-mail using the best equipment you can afford. For most
home-based entrepreneurs, when you're out of the office, you're NOT
making money. So it's important that you can communicate flawlessly
from where you are. And PLEASE do us all a favor and get separate
lines/services for your phone, fax and Internet! No one likes
getting a busy signal.
BONUS TIP: If your phone company offers
voicemail, get it. Not only will your outgoing message sound more
professional, but if you're on an important call and don't want to
be disturbed, other callers can still leave you a message.
5. Group Your Errands
Try to group your meetings and errands together to minimize
your out-of-office time. Make a list in the morning of all the
outside tasks you need done for the day and attempt to complete
them in one fell swoop. Even better, do what I do and designate just
one day a week as your "blitz" day for errands and meetings. Plus,
then you only need to get dressed up one day a week!
6. Stay Focused
Make your workspace off-limits to other roommates or family
members when you're working. For you animal lovers, this may go for
pets as well. (My cat Francine gets VERY jealous when I'm not
giving her complete attention!) Keep all personal paperwork such as
bills, magazines and to-do lists out of sight, so they won't
distract you from your projects.
7. Beware of Yappers
Many of your friends and family will be immediately
delighted when they learn that you're working at home. They picture
you lounging on the couch, eating potato chips, and waiting for
their calls. When they call you simply to chat, politely remind them
that you're working, and ask them if you can call them back after
your day is over. It may take them a while, but they'll eventually
get the idea.
8. Work With Your Moods
Keep track of your moods and productivity compared with the
time of day. For example, if you find you're more alert in the
morning, use this time to make important calls and do your creative
work. Take advantage of your natural cycles. If you feel better
after an afternoon nap, go for it!
9. Suit Yourself
To bring out your best work, make your environment perfect
for YOU. How do you work best? With plenty of breaks or with no
interruptions? In silence or with some light music in the
background? On a cushy couch and coffee table or at a business desk
in an ergonomic chair? My friends thought I was nuts when I spent
$750 on my Herman Miller Aeron chair, but they quickly understood
once they sat in it! And my spine thanks me every day.
Also, find some places you can do work when you
need a change of scenery. How about the library, the park or your
neighborhood coffee shop? When I need to do serious reading,
thinking or editing, I take my work outside to the beach. The sea
air, sunshine and soothing waves help me think much more clearly.
10. Break for People
Feeling sluggish, lonely or moody? Arrange for at least
one social break during the week. (I aim for two or three.) Schedule
breakfast, lunch, dinner or even just coffee with a client, vendor
or friend. Join a business networking group or sign up for social
activities such as dance class or a recreational sports league. Don't
go into hermit mode—it can be self-destructive!
. . . . . .
Alexandria K. Brown, “The E-zine
Queen,” is author of the award-winning manual, “Boost Business With
Your Own E-zine.” To learn more about her book and sign up for more
FREE tips like these, visit her site at