Guest post from Alan at Life’s Too Good
15+ years of top tier corporate experience and there are some ‘business’ habits that I have come to take for granted. What I’ve recently observed, not so much for myself but for some others that I have ‘met’ online, is how some of these disciplines are often overlooked in the work-at-home environment. Here are 5 key considerations which will make your work-at-home life more professional…
1 – Don’t go straight to work
You wouldn’t do this for a ‘regular’ job, so don’t do it for your self-employed, work-at-home job. This is respect for your business, to turn up every day in good shape. Start the day well and you will set yourself up for success. Flopping into your work chair in your pajamas without breakfast or a refreshing shower is not the most optimal way to start your day, the emails will wait until you have had breakfast.
2 – Decide your working hours and stick to them
They can be flexible if you want but decide what time you want to be at work and stick to it – give your work the respect it needs and avoid distractions. Take any extended personal calls outside of your chosen working hours. Make your work hours sacred.
3 – Use and respect your calendar
In a professional working environment a calendar is an essential tool. Once you have decided when you’re going to be at work, use a calendar to organize your time within your working hours efficiently.
This serves 2 main purposes. 1) By arranging calls rather than accepting them ad-hoc you remove the chance of time-consuming distractions. 2) By having and using a calendar, you enable yourself to plan things better.
Get used to planning and putting events in your calendar. If someone calls, just because your calendar is empty at that moment, don’t drop what you’re doing and decide you can take the call. Get into the habit of arranging a time with the caller. Ask them “How much time do we need for the call?” and schedule it for later that day, the next day or later in the week depending upon your schedule and the importance of the call.
Booking time in your calendar includes making time for a a lunch break. Lunch breaks are important. Plan your day, including breaks and lunch. Find a schedule that works for you. Do you prefer to work in 25 minute, 30 minute, 50 minute, 55 minute, 1 hour or 2 hour blocks? You could try the pomodoro technique to give you a little extra focus to your work and use your time effectively. This doesn’t work for everyone though, so find what works for you and stick to it.
4 – Deal with distractions & Don’t Allow Interruptions
Just because you work from home it doesn’t mean that you can:
Babysit to help out a friend
Go and see every school play, event, or to every parents meeting during your working hours
Answer any unexpected phone call
Do errands for your partner/husband/wife which take you away from your work
Handle visits from electricians, plumbers…you get the idea. Here is what you do instead. Read point 3 again. If you must babysit to help out a friend, then you are effectively taking a day off. As long as you are aware of that and OK with it, then do it, but just as in a corporate job you would have a very limited number of days off, so should you allow yourself a similar amount if you are to take your work from home seriously. You should also make time for re-scheduling the work you would have done instead of the babysitting just as you would have to do in a corporate environment.
Refuse to go and see every school play. Tell whoever is asking that you have to be at work. If they happen to say something like ‘but I thought you work at home?’ remain polite, perhaps answer with a smile something like ‘Exactly.’ If you really want to see a particular school event, then you are taking time off work. Book it off in your calendar – track it, make up for it (skipping or shortening your lunch break for that day might help) and don’t allow yourself too many of these events. Choose them carefully or not at all. Respect your work and your calendar.
Don’t answer the phone the first time it rings. If it’s urgent whoever is trying to reach you will try to reach you by other means (your cell phone) or ring again. It’s a good idea to have two numbers – one that you reserve for urgent calls (probably not a good idea to use your home number for this one) and one for everything else. If you really want to know who is calling, let the phone go to voice mail and listen after the caller has hung up.
You get the idea…
5 – Network
Successful business is about relationships. Just because you are working at home, you shouldn’t be alone.
Learn how to network online and start building relationships. One of the biggest problems online is that it’s easy and quick to get in touch with just about anybody. Don’t let that possibility cheapen what you have to say. Interact with people just as you would in a face-to-face conversation.
Sending someone you hardly (or don’t) know an unsolicited email is like the online equivalent of walking up to a stranger in the street or in a grocery store as they go about their day-to-day lives and saying “Hello there I just thought you might be interested in buying…”. Do you think they would buy from you? (or call the police?)
The point here is that it’s easy to feel alone when working from home, but you are not alone. You are missing the organizational element you get automatically with the corporate world, but you can easily re-create it with online relationships. Just make sure they are genuine relationships.
You can find Alan at Life’s Too Good, a blog about helping you gain more out of life and enjoy it to its fullest. Featured sections include Being Your Own Life Coach, Improve Your Health, Getting More for Your Money, and Free Business Coaching. Alan is also an accomplished writer and you can actually watch him write his latest book, ‘Lessons From The City’ at a new site he just created: www.lessonsfromthecity.com.
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