The idea of working from home sounds so good. Just roll out of bed, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and head to your laptop. Except that your “home office” also features a television and other distractions; your email in-box is stuffed with things that need your attention, and there’s no one to keep you from ducking out for a two-hour lunch. There’s no schedule, no boss nor colleagues in adjacent cubicles; there is only you in charge of motivating yourself and organizing your time.
Here are some strategies on how to set boundaries effectively so you can stay focused, motivate yourself to work, and be more productive.
- Set goals. This is not about your business plan — this is about why you wanted to work at home in the first place. Clearly define why you have selected this work environment so that you can value your commitment to this personal goal.
- Establish and honor your home office. Create a distinct and defined work area, even if it’s just a desk in a corner. Make sure that the rest of the family knows this space is off limits to them. No one touches your computer, takes anything from your desk, or listens to your voicemail.
- Make the most of your time. Allocating time to take care of personal business and to deal with professional responsibilities is a key for home-based entrepreneurs. One way to make more out of your day is to set your alarm an hour earlier in the morning — before the rest of the family awakens — so you will have a certain amount of time for yourself. After that, switch over to your professional role.
- Set office hours. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean clients can call you around the clock. Establish office hours and communicate them to those you work with. A separate business phone line can also help prevent business calls after hours.
- Stick to your guns. Once you establish your work hours, make sure your family and friends respect them. It’s a slippery slope: once you start making exceptions, they can completely destroy the integrity of your business hours.
- Get away often. Schedule mini-vacations to get out of your house, even if it’s just overnight or for a weekend. It will prevent the temptation of working during your off hours, and it will help recharge your batteries and ultimately make you a more effective small business owner.
- Project a professional image. Developing a professional image can be difficult if you work out of your home, but it’s critically important. It builds your credibility and helps you set boundaries between your personal and professional lives. Make sure you have a logo, business cards, and a private phone line and email account. If you need to hold meetings with clients, you’ll need a businesslike office or a suitable offsite location.
- Stay motivated. Sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated and focused at home, so develop a strategy for doing so. Set daily goals, and reward yourself for achieving them.
- Develop a strategy for fighting isolation. Some days you may feel overcome by feelings of isolation. Develop a strategy to make sure you aren’t stuck at your desk around the clock. Go to the gym in the morning, join professional organizations and trade associations, or attend regular networking events.