When you have a home business, time management can be a big challenge. Laundry, personal phone calls, errands or other distractions are always calling your name. If you're a work at home parent, the addition of young children into the mix will make time management and getting down to work that much harder. Depending on what you're working on, all of the distractions and other responsibilities at home can be a lot more compelling than business related tasks that need to be finished.
I have worked at home for several years now, and in that time I have learned a lot about managing my time at home through research, trial and error and the support of great colleagues. These 6 tips will help you get focused and get to work on your home business too.
Set a Schedule
When I first started working from home, I thought I'd just work whenever I had a free moment. I didn't realize that time management would be such an issue, and I thought that being flexible with my schedule would be ideal for my family and my work. Big mistake! Without a fixed work schedule, every time I was handed a new project, my first response was to feel a huge amount of stress. I'd panic and feel that I’d never find the time to get each new project finished on schedule and manage my family responsibilities.
It's tough to find the time needed to run a successful home business by grabbing a minute here and there. Setting and committing to a defined work schedule and building that work time into your week is the most important work at home time management tip anyone has ever given me.
Address Childcare Needs
Depending on the nature of your home business, you might not need full time childcare, but if you have young children and you work at home, you probably will need at least a few hours of childcare each week.
Planning a few hours of childcare ahead of time (maybe even trading days with another work at home parent) can go hand in hand with setting up a work schedule and sticking to it. I'd also suggest that you shouldn't cancel your childcare days if you don't think you're going to be busy. It's amazing how quickly things pop up, and you will be glad you had the time set aside.
Minimize Distractions on Your Computer
Often people who work from home use their home computer for both business and personal use. Storing your home business documents and email in the same place as your personal documents and email can cause time management issues if you're not careful.
It's amazing how easy it is to become distracted by personal things, like reading the five email jokes your friend just sent you and then forwarding them to all of your other friends, when you're supposed to be working on something else, like your home business.
Setting up a separate, business only email address and user account on your computer is a useful time management strategy when you're working from home. That way, when you're in your home business user account, you know you're working. You will have to log out and switch to your personal user account to access your personal items on your computer.
If you have to make a conscious effort to access your personal items, you won't be able to drift into doing personal things without first thinking about what you're doing.
Others may not respect your time management needs when you run a home business. If you don't have a traditional ‘day job, ’ you may become the first person people call on when they need a favor on a weekday.
I've dealt with this issue in a couple of ways, depending on the person and the situation. If I feel someone is impacting my time management and really imposing on my work schedule, and they're someone I deal with on a regular basis, then I'll have an honest conversation with them and explain the time I need for my business and what I need from that person to ensure I have that time.
However, those kinds of difficult conversations can be, well, difficult. Honestly, there are times when I feel like they're just not worth the effort. For example, when I'm dealing with someone who is imposing on my work time on a one time basis, and I'm pretty sure they won't understand if I simply say I need to work, in that case, I just make up an excuse. Some people would disagree on this point, and that's fine, but I personally find that there are times when a difficult conversation will take a lot of energy, and my energy would be better spent somewhere else.
Minimize Distractions on the Phone
I've had a few days that I had intended to use as work days, only to have my time slip away as a result of taking personal phone calls. When you work from home, you might decide that you will not take personal calls during your scheduled work hours. This strategy becomes easier to put in place when you have a dedicated business phone line or number (so you know which calls to ignore).
This time management strategy has been very useful to help me focus when I need to. After all, if you were off at a traditional workplace you wouldn't be picking up endless personal calls.
Give Yourself Space
Many people who have a home based business try to grab bits of time to work on tasks while kids are playing or between loads of laundry. That strategy can be fine for simple tasks, but for more complex tasks, you really need a dedicated work space where you can get away and think.
Without a dedicated home office space, most people who work from home will really struggle to focus on more complex tasks. From a time management point of view, the less you focus, the more time you will waste and the longer it will take to finish a task.
When you're running a home business, time management can be a challenge. If you recognize that work time often doesn't just happen without planning, schedule your work time and use a few simple strategies to minimize distractions, you will find that getting to work when you're working from home is much easier.
Career coach and small business owner Lisa McGrimmon publishes Inspiri Art and Craft a free guide to building a successful home craft business. For more tips on working from home, drop by /home-based-craft-business.html