Dear Newly Self-Created Entrepreneur,
Congratulations—you made it! You shook the dust off your feet and left your 9-to-5, soul-sucking corporate job to start your own venture—one that is all of your own making. Your long-endured months of agonizing side-hustle have paid off and brought you to this moment. Gone are the days of mile-long cubicles and pesky Joes peeping their heads over your desk to chit-chat. Onward and upward to better things!
While you may feel a sense of relief leaving office life, you may also feel a slight twinge of fear as you face the abyss of home office life. It’s a big step. It can be a rocky transition—the loneliness of silent work zones and the struggle to avoid endless distractions (Twitter, Netflix and cats, anyone?) are all too real.
Perhaps you’re one of those blessed few with laser-like focus regardless of your surroundings. If so, disregard this article and move on to a more enlightening topic, like email marketing. If you’re like the majority of us, though, productivity as a home office newbie is a real struggle. We’ve pulled together some tips to help a sister and brother out:
Act like it’s business as usual
The absence of an office (and maybe even a revenue stream) does not negate the fact that you’re actually running a business. So treat your days like you would any other business day. Go to bed on time. Establish a morning routine. Set a time to start work at your desk every day. Don’t let the casualness of your new work environment make you forget why you’re there.
Dress like a grown-up
Having a pajama party all day sounds like a dream—which is precisely why you should avoid it at all costs. Dress up when you work from home (maybe not in a full-out suit or pencil skirt, but enough to make you feel more professional). Making an effort to look the part of a savvy businessman or woman, even if it’s just for you, will help you take yourself more seriously. You may not be in a traditional place of business, but keep in mind that you’re not on a holiday from real life.
Make your workspace work
Choose a place to dedicate solely to business and make it your own. Clean a corner nook at the kitchen table or claim your half of the home office. Make your place inviting and fully equipped with everything you need to get work done. The more time you have to focus and the less you have to wander around the house in search of a pen or notebook, the better for you and your productivity.
Declutter like it’s your job
Things have a habit of collecting in home offices—knickknacks and papers and coffee mugs and post-it notes and children’s toys. Make it a regular habit to purge your space of anything that is not serving a purpose. You can’t get into a focused work mindset if you’re surrounded by odds and ends.
Calendar like crazy
You have MOUNTAINS of work to do, and the only way to climb a mountain is to put one foot in front of the other. Allocate time to take care of emails, finish your latest deck and talk with clients. Setting deadlines for yourself and allotting a specific amount of time for each task will help you to stay focused and productive throughout the day.
Plan out what you’ll work on ahead of time
Start every day with a fresh sense of purpose. If you keep a running to-do list, pick the top few projects that need to get done for the day at the start of your work time and stick with them. Add them to your calendar. Plan your breaks around those tasks. Having clarity for what’s next will help you manage the load and keep you productive in crossing items off the list.
Set healthy boundaries
It’s easy when you’re starting your business to make all of your life about your job—to live and breathe and eat and dream and think startup 24/7. It’s difficult to disengage when you’re really passionate about what you do, but maintaining a healthy work-life balance is so crucial—especially if you’re working from home. Start by setting clear boundaries around family and work time. If you must work in the evenings, set aside time to exercise, cook a healthy meal, go for a walk, play a game with your significant other or kids, or read a book. Recharging your mind and body will help you avoid falling into a rut and give you renewed perspective on projects.
Laura Walton is a freelance writer and contributor for StreetShares. She is passionate about all things social media and public relations as they relate to the topics of small business and entrepreneurship. You can find her on Twitter at @lk_dubs.