By Megan Eckman
The first week of working from home can be the most exuberant and the most frightening. All those visions of productivity and laser-like focus suddenly dissolve when faced with dirty dishes, constant interruption by family members, and no boss breathing down your neck.
I’ve been there and believe me, it’s terrifying. I lost my job when Borders closed and within a month I was working from the kitchen of my one-bedroom apartment. That first week I had to lay down some major ground rules both for myself and for my boyfriend. Some rules worked; others failed miserably. For the last year and a half though, I’ve been officially working for myself. I want to share with you the 10 rules I learned in that first week (and in the 100-some weeks following) so that you can live the non-traditional life of your dreams too!
1. Only check your email once a day. This is probably the hardest thing to do (trust me, I still struggle with it) but think of how easily you get distracted when your inbox suddenly shows one new message. Even if you’re waiting for an ‘important email’, no one expects you to reply immediately. They have a job too, you know.
2. Set up a designated work space. I moved in my desk, hung a bulletin board above it, and bought an IKEA chair. That’s my office. It’s not much but I know when I sit there that I’m on the clock and I better be doing my best.
3. Know when you work best. We naturally have surges in energy so schedule your creative tasks around that time. Are you a night owl or an early riser? Do you need to finish things before noon to feel productive or can you go all night?
4. Schedule your lunch and morning/afternoon breaks. While you should take a break, nothing kills momentum and leaves you feeling like you’ve accomplished nothing like a two-hour lunch. You need to set time limits to remind yourself you’re still working, it’s just from home.
5. Let your family members know that work time equals work time. This can be really hard to do if you have children or other family members around during your work hours. You need to let them know that work time equals work time because you take yourself seriously. If they don’t respect that what you are doing is important to you and the success of your business, you’re going to find yourself constantly interrupted.
6. Only run errands twice a week. A great way to cut down on wasted time is to only go to the post office or run errands twice a week. This way you can save gas and time by grouping your trips. Let your customers know when you’re shipping out their work so there’s no confusion or worry for them.
7. Set weekly AND daily goals. We all make daily to-do lists but weekly goals are actually more important. They help you see the big picture and allow you to judge just how important your daily to-dos are. Without a list of weekly goals, you’re simply extinguishing fires as they happen instead of actually expanding your business.
8. Use a timer. I fell head over heels for Toggl.com recently. Since I work as a virtual assistant for several business owners, it’s super important that I accurately log my hours. Recently, I’ve been using it to keep myself focused on my own work tasks too. You’d be amazed how quickly you can get things down when you know you’re being timed.
9. Accept that certain things will fall by the wayside. If you grew up in a super clean house or have held to ideas of 1950s house-wifery, it’s time to give it up. You will NOT be able to run a successful business AND keep the cleanest house, be the best soccer mom, and cook the nicest brownies for your neighborhood party. This is when you call on your family members to help you out. My boyfriend and I went from cleaning once a week to twice a week (and the tub gets cleaned when it’s dirty enough to see where we stand).
10. Have fun and celebrate! You’ve just made a HUGE step toward becoming the person you want to be: enjoy it!
Your first week working for yourself can be the most exciting week of your life but you’ll want to set some ground rules down right away. These rules will carry you through that week and for weeks afterward. You’ll add more and perhaps take away some of these, but these are a great place to start!
If you’ve already been working for yourself for a while, I’d love to hear what rules you follow to keep focused while working at home.
|Megan Eckman is the community coordinator for CreateHype.com, a site that helps female entrepreneurs learn how to market their creative businesses. She loves meeting new creative entrepreneurs and sharing their knowledge with others. She also runs an illustration business, Studio MME, which helps people rekindle their wonder.|
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