When you work from home, productivity killers lurk everywhere. Phone calls, TV shows, kids, the laundry, and that chocolate cake you just baked are but a few. Every minute that these distractions take from your workday can represent money out of your pocket.
Here are 10 tips for staying focused while running a home-based business:
1. Make your office an office. Let’s say that, instead of working at home, you worked in a traditional office, with your boss a few doors down. Would you have a TV on? Probably not. If you wouldn’t do something in a traditional office, don’t do it in your home office, either.
2. Know your prime time. Are you more focused late at night than early in the morning? Save your most intensive work for when you’re at your mental peak.
3. Make a plan. If you’re the goal-oriented type, start your day by writing out a to-do list. Cross off each task as you complete it, so that you feel a sense of accomplishment. This will energize you to press on and finish everything.
4. Bundle related tasks. If you have various phone calls to make, make them one after another. Don’t spread similar tasks throughout the course of the day, which is less efficient.
5. Get dressed. Remember when you used to shower, put on work clothes, drink coffee, and head to the office? Do the same thing when you’re “going to” your home office. Train your mind to clock in and out, just as you would if you were working for someone else.
6. Leave the house. Working at home alone can be isolating. Take a break. Go sit at a coffee shop and talk to people, take a walk in the park, or hit the gym from time to time. Leaving the house is not only therapeutic, but also a potential networking opportunity.
7. Meals matter. Although staying on task is “job one,” do not skip meals. Don’t eat in your home office, either. Make yourself lunch and sit at your dining-room table — or go to a park or local restaurant (see #6).
8. Set a timer. If you charge by the hour, use a timer. This will help to keep you focused and give you an idea of how accurately you are estimating how long it takes to complete tasks.
9. No kids allowed. Children, neighbors, and needy pets are productivity killers. You can always ignore the doorbell and get a low-maintenance hermit crab, but kids require attention. If you are running a full-time business from home, you should either hire a babysitter or set your office hours to coincide with the times that your kids are at school.
10. Work with someone. If a partner is waiting on your half of a project, you may have greater incentive to get the work done. What’s more, a partner can bring any expertise that you lack to the business and provide accountability. Of course, your partner doesn’t have to work in your home office: You can work in separate places and communicate electronically.