It's been the promise of a well-balanced life: work for yourself, work from your home and reap the benefits of being in your comfort zone 24/7.
The problem is that working out of your home can be more challenging than you could have expected. Lethargy, loneliness and loss of motivation can creep into your nirvana, sometimes overwhelming and even derailing the work-at-home entrepreneur. It needn't be this way.
Here are some tried-and-true tips for getting the best results for your business—and yourself—while defeating the doldrums that often arise when you work out of your home.
Make a dedicated workspace
You have probably heard that a dedicated work area is essential for entrepreneurial success, and for good reason. When you work out of your home, an established "office space" is indispensable.
It's the place where you can work your business with focus and predictability. If you think you can take a freewheeling, nomadic approach to your at-home business—sometimes working on your sofa, at the kitchen table or under the patio umbrella—think again.
Set up an office space where your most-used tools are always ready for use and the only things in sight are those related to your business
As somewhat romantic as that might sound, the changing setting often brings along distractions. ("Hmm, I really should dust that lamp" or "My, what an industrious little bird, building that nest").
Instead, set up an office space where your most-used tools are always ready for use and the only things in sight are those related to your business. You can always retreat to the sofa or outdoors when you need a break, but you'll enjoy greater productivity and satisfaction if you have a workspace where your work really gets done.
Make yourself presentable each day
Work-at-home warriors often think one key benefit of the arrangement is bypassing getting up and getting dressed before starting the day's work. That's fine for some, but you'll likely find you're more in a working mindset when you get showered, get dressed and comb your hair.
While you're getting yourself put together, your mind is prone to switch into "get it done" mode, your personal preparation signaling there's something to be done after the coifing is complete.
If you lounge around in your pajamas and slippers through the morning and beyond, you might be tempted to lounge around, have a second and third cup of coffee, and maybe even doze a bit since you've yet to get ready for the day.
Jump start your work-at-home routine by getting up and cleaning up right away, just as you would for an away-from-home job.
You'll be amazed at how much more productive you'll be.
Establish your office hours
Akin to getting ready each work-from-home day, establishing a regular work schedule also gets your mind into work mode.
Having non-work temptations around you—the TV, for instance—will challenge even the most ardently self-motivated entrepreneur
When you determine when your work day starts and ends, you effectively put the responsibility on yourself to make something happen during that time. It gets you up and ready, and causes your mind to take on the day's tasks with purpose and even a bit of urgency.
While you needn't be absolutely rigid with your daily schedule (after all, that's what many work-at-home entrepreneurs sought to remove from their former work-a-day lives), keeping some tasks tied to time-sensitive milestones helps ensure they get done sooner. With an entirely free-form work schedule, you might find it difficult to get serious about what has to get done.
Experiment with a schedule for yourself and then honestly grade yourself on how effective the day is for you and your business.
Separate business and pleasure
The usual scolding that comes with this topic is one that points a disapproving finger at work-at-home businesspeople, who bring all their creature comforts and indulgences into their workdays.
Yes, having non-work temptations around you—the TV, recreational reading material and so on—will challenge even the most ardently self-motivated entrepreneur. It's best to keep work in the at-home workspace, and everything else out.
The flipside to that argument, though, is the difficultly that many at-home workers encounter when the business and personal worlds merge; the home becomes a perpetual workplace with no escape.
Those who work away from the home often proclaim they can leave the office at the end of the day and enjoy the relaxation of the home to which they return. Those who work from their homes, however, sometimes bemoan the fact their home becomes a trap and never fully restful because the work is always there with them. They have no escape and no retreat when they have no separation between where the work ends and the home begins.
Get out at lunchtime to refresh yourself rather than eating at your desk. Take your breaks and enjoy the freedom to do so
For this reason, it's wise to keep the at-home workspace fastidiously work related, plainly segregated from the rest of the home. Whether you establish an actual office room with a door you can close or just a roll-top desk you can close up at the end of the day, make it possible to put the work away and out of sight when the work day is over.
Get up, get out
And to that previous point, be sure to get up from your home desk and get away from your home office. Get out at lunchtime to refresh yourself rather than eating at your desk. Take a walk, go to the gym or just meet friends for a midday meal.
Your brain needs a break from the business at regular intervals (maybe every three hours or so). Usually, some of the issues that have pestered you during your head-down work mode can be resolved easier if you can just allow some free-form thinking time. Take your breaks and enjoy the freedom to do so—it's probably why you established a work-from-home occupation.
With the previous disciplines included in your daily routine, you'll be able to strike a good balance of getting work done while benefiting from being just a few steps from the rest of what fulfills you each day.