How to Successfully Get Work Done in a Home Based Business

How to Successfully Get Work Done in a Home Based Business

June 16th, 2006 by Matt Inglot

Having a home-based business can provide a rewarding and flexible lifestyle. In fact it sounds ideal – no daily commute, no annoying coworkers, no rat mazes of cubicles, and you can eat lunch for as long as you like. You can even take an afternoon nap!

Unfortuntely two opposing concepts are constantly working together to shatter this lovely idealistic outlook:

1) There's always more work that can be done on the business today.

On the one hand you are in danger of working yourself too hard, putting in 14 hour days to get the business up and running. You put yourself in danger of burning out, your stress levels will go through the roof, and the quality of your output will suffer. I've been there before myself, working like crazy on CustomBar while also giving it all running a web hosting business. Eventually stress literally made me sick.

2) You have the freedom to put off work until it never gets done.

On the other hand with so much flexibility in time it's very easy to become the ultimate procrastinator. Those lunch hours never get made up, sleeping in makes dinner time come all too quickly, and who can work after dinner with TV shows and going out? Sure things are still getting done, but can your business really survive when you're putting in 4 hours of interrupted work into it?

Striking that balance between living and working at home is something that will take time to learn. My own experience working from home has taught me a lot about how to make this challenging environment productive and and perhaps this experience can help you get started too. The following is a set of principles I've found are needed to get things done effectively, and some insight into achieving them.

Principle #1 – Work When Others Aren't Playing

Unless you live alone you are affected by those that live with you. You'll chat with them, eat with them, or head out somewhere. A little bit of socializing quickly kills hours of work, and every interruption means 15 minutes to refocus on work and get back into a state of productivity. Other aspects of life will interrupt too such as appointments, shopping, meeting with clients, going to the bank, etc. Errands are notorious time killers.

After much experimentation and refusal to accept the idea of early birds being anything but completely insane, I have finally realized that waking up at 5 in the morning really does work. After a quick shower and brewing up a pot of coffee I am up and at it. The first 10 minutes of waking-up are tough, so having a shower helps me avoid work just long enough to let my mind truly get up with the rest of me. I get 3 hours of work done every morning and a wonderful breakfast before the corporate world has even checked its e-mail. If I'm working on a venture full-time then I can be done my working day by 3 or 4 in the afternoon, just in time for a great dinner and an evening of not worrying about work.

Sidenote: At one point in time I was a night owl going to bed at 4 in the morning and waking up at noon. This was completely desynchronized from society and meant that if I needed to go anywhere I had to do this before I ever got started on my work. Hours would tick by quickly, and still wanting to enjoy a social life and be involved in the world I would often leave crucial work to be done in the late hours of the night when the world finally slept. By then I would be tired too, and burnt out from partial attempts to work all day.

Principle #2 – Create a Separate and Practical Work Environment

It may be tough to accept this fact, but your work environment has a tremendous impact on how effective you are in your work. You need a space free from distractions which is yours to work in whenever you desire. This is often challenging as very few people actually have a spare room for an office. Don't let this stop you. Over time I've had great success using my bedroom as my office, and I've found that simply devoting my desk to this purpose was sufficient. My desk is now clearly a work environment with the appropriate office supplies, a high quality LCD monitor, and two filing cabinets right behind me for easy filing.

The atmosphere of your environment is very important too. Having an office-oriented environment doesn't mean having to adopt the grey corporate feel. I've found IKEA furniture to be great for building a workspace that has warmth to it and doesn't cost a fortune. You'll probably want easily accessible music too, and of course as much freedom from outside noise as possible (a combination of tuning your environment and your schedule).

Steve Pavlina has a great article that further elaborates on putting together a constructive workspace.

Principle #3 – Incorporate Effective Time Management Techniques

Ultimately you need to be able to put the time you have gained to good use. This means tackling some major productivity issues that haunt us all, such as procrastination, poor prioritization of tasks, and ineffective work technique. This is a life-long learning process, but you can make major leaps immediately just by introducing yourself to basic concepts in the field.

Make sure that you don't waste your prime blocks of time with short-term simple tasks like answering e-mail, which can just as easily be done when you are at the end of your day or when you have 15 minutes free here and there. Your best time and your best energy should be devoted to the tasks that will give you the highest long-term results. This is another argument for waking up at 5 in the morning – you are fresh and hopefully have no other obligations that early in the day. You are thus putting your absolute best self into your absolute best work. It's shocking how most people, particularly in the corporate world, completely waste their most productive energies.

I've already mentioned that it takes 15 minutes to get back into a focused state, so you can save yourself hours a day just by turning off instant messaging, Outlook, and not checking threads on forums. If you don't need the internet you can literally unplug that too, and definitely ignore non-business calls (caller-id or separate phone line are instrumental here). Staying focused is a mission-critical task.

Getting Things Done by David Allen should receive some sort of honory medal as the book I write about most frequently. I mention it so often because Allen's philosophy on time management has helped me a lot. It teaches not only a system for Getting Things Done, but also the theory behind it that has allowed me to mold it to my own specific needs and work habits. If you're looking to learn a little on how to manage your time effectively and to be able to make use of random periods of free time instinctively then this is a great resource.

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