By Melinda J. Irvine
I had just separated from my spouse and was living in a shared apartment when I initially set up my home office in 2006; my bedroom would serve as my workplace for the following four years. Since then, my ‘office’ has been a local coffee shop, hotel rooms, tents and caravans, boarding houses, and a dedicated room at home equipped with office furniture and a genuine file cabinet, as well as a dedicated space at the house complete with office furniture and a real filing cabinet. I’d want to offer a few lessons I’ve learned on limiting interruptions (no matter where you work) to help you stay focused on your project, customers, and bottom line.
You need undisturbed time while you’re working on a project. I immediately realised that if I wanted to finish client deliverables, conduct my invoicing, and keep my accounts up to date, I needed to schedule specific work blocks and adhere to them. It doesn’t matter if your office is in the back shed if your work hours are constant. A 10:30 a.m. yoga class seemed nice in the beginning, but if I’d just begun working at 9:00 a.m. and dashed off to a class that didn’t end until noon at 10:15 a.m., I’d frequently discover that by 2:00 p.m., all I’d accomplished for the day was answer a few emails. In the beginning, there were many late nights.
Setting regular work hours as though you were employed builds an expectation in your mind. When you work for an employer, you don’t get up on a Monday morning wondering whether you’ll drink coffee at 9:00 a.m., walk the dog, or read a little; you just get up and get ready for work without even thinking about it. Re-creating a business attitude within your home office is important for becoming a successful small company owner.
By being organised and arranging your day, you can take advantage of the flexibility of working from home. If you still want to attend that 10.30 a.m. yoga session, schedule it into your daily schedule by scheduling business appointments or client meetings around it. Don’t be like me when I was first starting, leaving home (along with my projects) many times (you can imagine I was looking for any reason to get out of my room) and then working till dawn.
Working from home (especially if you work alone) requires a high level of self-discipline, and you should set a lot of minor objectives while organising your day. Your normal work schedule could have you working on the Jones and Co project from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., but you should schedule blocks of time when you write/post/update constantly for at least 30 minutes without getting up. Getting a coffee, refilling the water jug, going to the bathroom, opening the window, adjusting the air conditioner, putting on a pair of socks, shutting the curtains… are just a few of the reasons to get out of your chair. It’s the little things that stifle your productivity and derail your enthusiasm.
When you work from home, you must be quite conscientious about how much time you devote to friends and family. It might be tempting to say yes to mid-morning coffee or a pleasant phone conversation when your buddies are shift workers, on vacation, or retired, leaving your client project or invoice for another day. I’m not suggesting you cut yourself off or be unpleasant; rather, try for constant work hours and a consistent attitude toward your pals. If you don’t pick up the phone between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., your mother will start calling you later that day. When you’re working on a project, you may put your phone in flight mode or, better yet, utilise the ‘Do Not Disturb function to allow just a few critical clients to contact you.
In the early years, I’d say my worst flaw was squandering time during the day and then spending evenings, weekends, and holidays working on client projects (or, worse, quarterly accounts), ironically refusing party invites that would have been accessible if I’d simply been wiser during the day.
We all know how easy it is to become lost in social media for days, weeks, or even decades: Facebook is a renowned offender. The problem, especially for small company owners, is that you might be genuinely posting on your business page when a buddy texts you or something interesting comes across your newsfeed. I’m not going to go on and on about it since it’s been stated a million times before, and we’re all familiar with the seductive sound of a text alert.
Most text and instant message difficulties stem from a lack of defined work boundaries with friends, family, and children. I recall using Skype almost entirely for business meetings with customers a few years ago. Still, since all of my friends had Skype accounts, my sessions were often interrupted by amusing but badly timed jokes and emoticons. I recommend keeping your personal and corporate media separate; having two Skype accounts is inconvenient and doesn’t appear to work. I no longer have any personal relationships on Skype; instead, I use Messenger or Facetime to communicate with my family, and Skype is only for customers and business contacts.
The minor time-wasters I’ve outlined in this blog article are basic, but I’ve given them a lot of thought since, as a small company owner (especially if you’re a lone trader), your time is the most important asset you have. Personal productivity and time management will continue to be critical to the success and profitability of your firm.
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