A major problem for those who work from home is sticking to regular business hours. Since your office is in your home, it’s easy to check email or do work at all hours of the day and night. Before too long, you will find that you are working more than you did at a traditional job. Use these tips to help you set and stick to regular working hours.
1. Set Business Hours
If you don’t set solid business hours, you can’t expect people to respect your down time. They won’t know when it is. Set office hours, but feel free to adjust as needed. It is important that the people you work with know you are available, but you need to stress that you can’t be at hand 24/7.
In order to be productive and efficient you need to create a schedule you can stick to. Specified business hours will help you maintain a much-needed routine for the purpose of having a healthy balance between work and your personal life.
Besides, when working hours are fixed you will work in an effective way and accomplish more tasks in due time. People who work from home have the advantage of organizing their own time as means to working in the most productive manner.
However, not all people are capable of avoiding various distractions: one moment you’re working and the next you’re doing god-knows-what. Before you know it, you’ve spent your entire working day idly.
Procrastination can sneak up on you without you even noticing it. And since you have to complete your business tasks, you’ll probably work long after you were supposed to complete your work.
Moreover, since you know you work from home, you could easily fall in the trap of spending the whole day in front of the computer because you made one break too many or were distracted by all the fun stuff in your room or online.
When you set business hours, these are some of the mistakes you could easily avoid. Of course it takes time to adapt but you should view your job as any other office job – there’s a time when you start and there’s a time when you finish.
2. Turn Off the Phone
Every business person should consider having two phones or at least two phone numbers. Even when you work from home, it is essential that you separate your personal life from your professional one. Although it may be a nuisance at first, having two numbers will make your life a lot easier.
Besides, you have to be in control of your time at all cost. The mobile phone rule goes both ways. Shut off your personal phone during work hours to reduce distractions. Turn off the office phone after business hours so clients and vendors don’t intrude on your personal time.
However, leave a method for clients to contact you in case of emergency. Make sure you also define what emergency situations are so clients wouldn’t disturb you for insignificant matters.
A lot of people have a problem with turning their personal phones off during business hours since mobile phones have become mini computers. Anything you can do on a computer, you can do on a smartphone. Although the benefits of using a smartphone are numerous, the same goes for disadvantages.
Namely, phones are packed with applications and tools that could easily distract you from your work for hours. Chances are you’ll lose a lot of time if you decide to keep your personal phone on.
Even if you have to be available at all times, at least try to put the phone away from your desk so you could hear it in case of an emergency but avoid being distracted by your smart device. Also, turn off notifications from social networks and other messaging services and platforms.
Once you get rid of your phone, you’ll almost immediately notice the boost in productivity and you’ll reduce the amount of time you spend procrastinating
3. Turn Off the Computer
Again, this rule goes both ways. Stick to work-related sites during office hours, and save the social networking and personal surfing for after your work is done and you are on personal time.
It’s very easy to be distracted when you are working online. The possibilities of the Internet are endless and you could easily fall in the trap of the Web. Most people have an account on at least one social network and tend to visit various websites on a daily basis.
Visiting such sites can seriously interfere with your work and lead to a serious decrease in efficiency. The main problem with the Internet is that people tend to lose track of time spent surfing.
It might seem as though you’ve spent only a couple of minutes looking at funny images but the reality could be completely different. Consequently, instead of completing your work at the appropriate time, you might end up working the entire night.
Additionally, although your boss allows you to be logged in Facebook during business hours, it’s not such a smart idea to constantly post status updates or comment on other people’s links.
The same goes for Twitter: neither your boss nor your clients would be pleased that you are tweeting when you should be working. Besides, you could get into serious trouble if you tweet about watching TV shows or going out when you are supposed to be sitting at your desk and finishing your assignments.
Furthermore, when your work for the day is completed, stop reading work-related information. There are always exceptions, but remember that even on the busiest of days you wouldn’t stay in the office hours after your shift ended. If you want to make the most of your time, setting and following this rule will help you organize your life in the best possible way.
4. Turn off Skype
Many freelancers have stories of being shaken out of a sound sleep by a client hitting them up on Skype during the middle of the night. Sometimes this is due to time zone confusion with international clients; sometimes this is due to rudeness on part of the local clients. Turn off Skype after business hours so you aren’t surprised by a client or vendor.
Basically, the same rule applies as to mobile phones and your computer. You need to set clear boundaries and explain to your clients when they can call you.
If you don’t want people waking you up or intruding on your free time it is essential that you clearly define business hours and ask the people you are working with to respect your personal time. Because you work from home, clients assume you are available at all times and will definitely try to reach you whenever they have a question or problem.
Always leave your clients with an emergency number and specify which situations count as emergency. Apart from turning your office phone off, it would be a wise idea to turn off Skype.
However, if you simply can’t live without Skype, you could set your online status to ‘Do Not Disturb’ in which case clients will be able to call you but you won’t hear the ring tone.
Therefore, if you’re sitting at your computer and willing to answer, you could. And if you’re busy, you’ll see the missed call and be able to call them back when appropriate.
If you use Skype in your personal life and need it for communication with friends and family, you should consider the idea of making two separate accounts. When you finish with your work, just switch to your personal account and vice versa.
5. Use Apps
There are several great computer apps that allow you to block social networking sites and other online distractions during hours that you specify. Use these to keep you focused and on task. Although it may seem like a good idea to surf the Internet and spend some time on social networks while you’re making a break, in most cases it can be harmful to your productivity.
For example, you could easily fall in the ‘Wikipedia Trap’ – being diverted from your tasks by interesting, but completely irrelevant information. When distracted from your work, chances are you will spend hours reading articles that are unrelated to your job.
This is a big problem when working from home since there is no one there to supervise you or to tell you to continue with your assignments. Because of this reason, it is essential that you make your own rules and try not to break them at any cost. Some people find it hard to keep concentrated and focused on their work if others don’t set up the rules and see to it that they are being followed.
If you have a similar problem, it’s a good idea to use applications for your computer and smartphone that will disable you from entering webpages that take up too much of your time and distract you from your daily tasks. You have the option of choosing which websites are to be restricted and for how many hours.
Therefore, the wisest thing to do is block all distracting webpages during business hours in order to make the most of your time. Understandably, this will be hard in the beginning, but when you get used to it, your productivity will undoubtedly boost.
6. Set Boundaries
Freelancers also have stories of clients that show up on their doorstep to discuss projects or otherwise blur the boundaries of the online working relationship. Set boundaries with your time and personal space and stay strong. Even though working from home has numerous advantages, it can sometimes be hard to draw the line where your job ends and your personal life begins.
Since clients and customers assume you are always available because you work from home, they could easily intrude on your free time. In order to have a decent social life, you need to set clear boundaries regarding your job.
Your clients need to understand that your job is just like any other and that you also need to call it a day (or night) at some point. Set business hours and try to separate your personal and your professional life as much as possible. Let the people you’re working with know what is acceptable and what cannot be tolerated.
Define emergency situations so clients wouldn’t call you in the middle of the night – or worse, come to your house. However, when you work from home, you also need to create boundaries for your family or the people you live with.
Even your loved ones have to know they can’t disturb you while you’re working unless it’s something really important. Just because you work from your room doesn’t mean you don’t have a responsibility and obligation towards your job.
It might take some time for your friends and family to get used to the idea that, although you are at home, you need to focus on your daily assignments. Once they realize your job is just like any other, the distractions will be reduced to a minimum and you can carry out your work without interference.
7. Have Willpower
When you work from home, you only answer to yourself. It’s easy to put off work on a beautiful day in favour of a trip to the beach. Don’t get side-tracked; get your work done in the morning and then take the afternoon off, but never blow off a client. If you want to achieve success in anything in life you need to set up clear goals and objectives.
In order to reach those goals you have to be determined, focused and strong-willed. The same goes with your job – even when you work from home. It’s easy to neglect your obligations when you are surrounded by numerous distractions in your room or on the Internet.
Additionally, try not to slack off your daily tasks just because you don’t have to finish your assignment that day. Even if your project isn’t due for another week or two, don’t wait for the last minute to complete your work.
Although mentioned in previous advices, it is really imperative to stress out that just because you work from your room doesn’t mean you don’t have to work at all. Set office hours and feel free to change them sometimes – however don’t let that become a habit.
Set clear boundaries with your clients or customers and separate your business from your free time. For your own sake and for the sake of your business set definite rules and make sure you follow them. Not only will your efficiency improve, but you will also have more control over your free time and entire life.
It may seem hard to obey the rules when no one is there to check up on you and assess your progress, but remember that the quality of your work depends solely on you.
8. Make Lists
It is vital that you stay well organized since you work from home and have no colleagues to assist you at all times. Keep track of your previous, present and future assignments. Make lists of tasks that you need to do, both personal and professional. This will help keep you on task, as you won’t be sitting around wondering what needs to be done next.
Besides, list will help you see what your short-term goals are and you will feel more positive about yourself as you go through your list and check them off. Additionally, when you put your long-term goals on paper, they will seem more realistic and achievable.
When you create lists, you will know what you have already done and will be able to monitor your progress that way. Also, you don’t just have to write down your tasks, goals and objectives – you can jot down things you need to buy, people you have to call or household chores that should be done.
By doing so, you will remember what needs to be done and won’t find yourself in any awkward situation. Of course lists can occasionally overwhelm you – don’t panic even if you have one obligation too many, take one thing at a time and stay focused on the ones that are most important.
Organization is the key to having a successful professional life as well as maintaining a healthy balance between your work and your personal time. Once you plan and control what needs to be done, you’ll feel that you are truly in control of your life and will immediately realize that progress is inevitable. Your work will prosper and you will have more free time the moment you implement your own system of organization.
9. Prioritize Tasks
After you make a list of the things you need to do, prioritize these tasks. Do the most important things first, and save the minor, administrative chores for first thing in the morning or last thing in the afternoon when your brain isn’t as fresh.
You know yourself best and know what you like to do and what you find boring – since you’re aware of your possibilities, you’ll know what needs to be done first. Some people recommend you do the hardest and most uncomfortable tasks first while others tell you to start with the easy, enjoyable ones.
If you’re not sure what’s best for you, try both options and see which one suits you best. Of course, if you have a deadline, it is needless to say which project has to be done first.
Basically, you need to be aware which assignment is urgent and most important and focus your attention on completing it. “Prioritizing is the answer to time management problems – not computers, efficiency experts, or matrix scheduling.
You do not need to do work faster or to eliminate gaps in productivity to make better use of your time. You need to spend more time on the right things…” says C. Ray Johnson in his book CEO Logic: How to Think and Act Like a Chief Executive.
If you want to be successful and have a prosperous business, you must learn how to manage your time and you will do that by understanding your priorities.
Remember that you’ll always have something to do and you’ll probably always feel like you just don’t have enough time to complete all your tasks. Even if days lasted longer, you would still feel the same. Therefore, find a way to make the most of your time and accomplish the most significant and time-pressing assignments, goals and objectives.
10. Make the Most of Working Hours
Don’t dilly-dally during working hours. When it’s time to work, that is what you should be doing. Get as much high-quality work done as you can each day. You never know when an illness or emergency will take you out of the game for a day or more. Besides, how will you ever be successful if you don’t show the willingness to succeed?
Since you work from home, it can be hard to stay focused on the job. You are probably well aware of all the distractions that can interfere with your tasks – and will, if you allow them!
However, the next time you decide to talk to a friend or clean the house during business hours – think again! You wouldn’t behave in that way if you were in an office surrounded by colleagues, so why should your working place be any different?
Firstly, consider the idea of creating an organized workspace that will be separate from the rest of your house, if possible. Don’t work from bed or from your kitchen table.
Take breaks but be rational – a couple of breaks will help you clear your head, but if you frequently postpone your work, you won’t get anything done. A specific work time will ensure you don’t spend too little (or too much) time working.
Try to be as efficient as possible during business hours and manage your time wisely. Although there are numerous advantages of working from home, it can also be very demanding. At-home work requires you to be more self-disciplined and motivated in order to complete your assignments in due time.
However, once you become organized and make the most of the hours you spend working, you will learn to appreciate the freedom and possibilities of working from home.
11. Set Goals
Set goals for your business. Whether you outline how much money you want to earn or how many assignments you’d like to complete, set goals and put them in writing.
This will help keep you on track. Besides, you will be able to follow your achievements and progress. Undoubtedly, you’ll have more self-esteem and motivation when you see everything you have accomplished.
Don’t be afraid to dream big. Don’t ever settle for less! It will take you some time and require a lot of effort, but even the most far-fetched wishes and ambitions can be achieved through hard work. Put everything on paper and don’t become obsessed.
Take one thing at a time and check off even the most insignificant goal you wrote. Like everything in life, work has its ups and downs. However, you have to be aware that some things are just out of our control and not everything will work out for the best.
The key to success is not to let an occasional failure demotivate you and throw you off the track. Once you know what your goals are, stay focused on achieving them. Setting goals will help you go forward – they are the fuel you need in order to push even further.
When you have clarity about what you want, you will try to be the best you can be. Not only will you think about something, but you will feel obliged to take action and fulfil your dreams and desires. Setting goals is much like identifying your purpose.
You will know that every step you take is another step closer to your objective. Even the dullest and most uncomfortable tasks will help you arrive exactly where you want to be. Whenever you’re having a bad day, just remember what lies ahead.
12. Stay Firm
When a client or vendor begs you to call them at midnight to discuss something, it can be tempting to cave in to keep yourself in their good graces.
This is a slippery slope. If you make an exception once, it will become expected of you to break your own rules. As previously said, one the most important things that at-home workers need to do is set boundaries.
When you inform your clients and customers about your business hours and other significant work-related matters, make sure to explain that those are non-negotiable. People you do business with need to respect your personal time and not intrude on it whenever they feel like it.
Of course they can contact you in case of an emergency but very few situations can be counted as emergencies. Just because you work from your personal computer doesn’t mean your clients can contact you in the still of the night if they see you are online on Skype.
Keep a professional relationship with the people you work with and explain that it’s not personal if you refuse to answer a business call in your free time. Basically, set the same rules that would apply for any other office job.
Once your shift has ended, you are no longer available. In order to avoid unpleasant situations, it is advisable that you have both a private and business phone number (and Skype account).
Although you might feel obliged to answer all inquiries during the entire day, remember that it is important that you keep your professional and private life separate. Besides, if clients bother you all day long and in the middle of the night, your effectiveness will decrease due to frustration and possible sleep deprivation.
13. Talk to Family and Friends
Loving family members and friends can be a distraction to your work, even when they are trying not to be. Let them know that you are working and when you will be free to spend time with them. This will help them to understand why you can’t hang out during certain hours.
It may be hard for your loved ones to realize that working from home requires your full attention. Since they see you working in a casual environment, they might get the idea that your job is not an important one or that it doesn’t require your constant presence at the computer.
It’s difficult enough to set boundaries for your clients and stay firm in your rules and decisions; it’s even harder to explain the rules to your family or the people you live with. At times, they probably won’t even be aware that they are distracting you; sometimes trying to help you can interfere with your work as well.
Because of this, it is wisest to set up a work space that is separate from the rest of the house. By doing so, you’ll have your peace and quiet and will complete your tasks more efficiently.
The people close to you will quickly understand the situation and won’t distract you from your assignments.
Additionally, you will be able to spend more quality time with them if you finish your work in time and don’t slack off. Further, you won’t lose countless hours stuck in traffic and commuting from home to work and vice versa. Consequently, you’ll have more time for yourself and your loved ones.
Moreover, you should consider yourself very lucky since you can see your family whenever you feel like it – that is, every time you decide to take a break.
14. Be Kind to Yourself
If something happens and you fall behind or get off schedule, don’t beat yourself up. Be kind to yourself and give yourself time to get caught back up.
Many people consider at-home work a dream come true. For most of the time, working from home is ideal. You can organize your time the way you find it most convenient; you don’t have to spend hours commuting to work; you don’t have to follow a dress code; in some cases you don’t even have to work from home – just bring your laptop to a coffee shop or to a friend’s place.
The advantages are countless. However, it’s not as perfect as most people think. For example, you need to have a strong will and be extremely motivated in order to finish your work.
You have to avoid working too little or too much, deal with all kinds of distractions and most importantly, you alone are responsible for everything that happens. Since you’re human, you’re bound to make some mistakes. However, don’t be too hard on yourself; instead try to learn from your errors.
Sometimes you’ll feel overwhelmed and as though you have no energy left. When you feel like you’re running on empty, take a break and clear your head.
If your job permits you, go for a short walk or make yourself something nice to eat. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you’re a machine and can perform perfectly every day.
There will be good days and there will be bad days – no matter which of the two you’re experiencing, always remember to be kind to yourself. Besides, you need to take care of your physical and mental health even if your work has to suffer a bit because of it.
15. Take Time Off
Many people can’t afford a month-long trip to Ireland or two-week cruise to Jamaica every year. However, you should still give yourself time off to relax and clear your thoughts. A day on the lake or a weekend at a quaint bed and breakfast will do wonders for your motivation (and profits).
Because you work from home, you probably feel the need to spend time outdoors, surrounded by people. Whenever you have a day off, think of something fun and exciting to do. Don’t just sit at home when you have the chance to experience something new!
Besides, a change of environment will undoubtedly have a positive impact on your overall well-being. Everyone needs time away from work in order to relax and recharge their batteries.
When you start running on empty, your job will certainly suffer: your productivity and efficiency will dramatically decrease and you won’t be able to complete tasks in the best possible way.
Therefore, don’t have a guilty conscience for taking some time off. After you have enjoyed yourself for a couple of days or weeks, your task performance will improve which will have an extremely positive impact on your business.
Moreover, you are definitely aware of the proverb that the biggest wealth is health. Undoubtedly, you want to remain healthy and relive the stress that has been building up for months. And what better way than to go on a holiday with your loved ones and take your mind off work?!
Additionally, you just simply have to leave your office during a vacation. And since your office is also your home, start planning a trip. Reward yourself for all the hard work and pick a place you’ve always wanted to visit. It will do you good to pamper yourself occasionally and enjoy the results of your work.