Stop Checking Emails
One of the biggest time wasters during a day spent working at a computer is the Internet - particularly email and social networking. This applies whether you work in a large office with dozens of people or run your own Internet-based business, which has you sitting at a computer all day at home. The only difference between the two work venues is that an office setting generally has consequences in place for employees caught checking their email too much, whereas at-home workers do not.
Take Regular Breaks
The key to maintaining productivity when working in your online business is to set strict guidelines for yourself. Think of your job, even though it is from your home, as though it is taking place in an office setting. Make a rule that you are not allowed to peek in at your personal email or social networking site until your lunch break, or during a short break period you allow for yourself every few hours during the day.
This will be extremely hard to do, especially since there is no supervisor or boss around to check your progress and keep you on task. Working from home requires a special sort of discipline in order to find true success, and that discipline has to come from within. Keeping your personal online business to this sort of schedule will help you make sure your “work” time is spent working. Save the play time for designated blocks during the day, and you will see your personal productivity, and income, rise accordingly.
There is a lot of pressure on a person who works from home at an online business - pressure to get the job done when there is nobody around to help, and pressure to meet financial goals to keep the household up and running using money earned via the Internet. All of that pressure makes it tempting to work through the day without stopping, but this is never a good idea.
While the pressure is understandable, every person who works from home must understand that structuring a day of online work like a regular workday at any office in the country is imperative. Sitting at the computer for hours without a break is a recipe for disaster. In no time you will suffer from total burnout, possible depression and even physical issues that come from rarely getting up and taking time to just walk around.
In a regular office job, breaks are given and even required. Make sure to work breaks into your at-home work schedule as well. Set a timer to remind yourself to get up and move for 15 minutes every two hours, and make sure you take a lunch break of at least 30 minutes during the day. During these breaks get outside the house and walk around, and focus your eyes on something in the distance rather than on a computer screen directly in front of you. Make phone calls to others and just relax your mind. Short breaks will keep you motivated and excited to continue in the business you are running at home.
Use A Calendar
An electronic calendar is an excellent tool for a person working from home with their online business. While any calendar can help you track important deadlines and keep you on schedule, an electronic calendar has advantages unique to paper and helpful to the online businessperson.
The obvious advantage is that by having an online business, you are going to be using some sort of electronic device. Many electronic calendars can be set up to “pop-up” reminders for your benefit. Reminders can be set for whatever time period you find helpful, whether it is days or just a few minutes ahead of an event. Your electronic calendar is there waiting for you to arrive.
Calendars are also versatile in organizing information. Typed text is always easier to read than a handwritten note, even your own handwriting! Unlike a paper calendar book, a few simple clicks can change from your view from day to week to month to year. Entering information on the calendar can go beyond a name and few key words, with the ability to add sizable notes if you want a more comprehensive reminder.
Electronic Calendars often the ease of changing dates and times easily, without the mess of scribbling out or erasing a changed appointment. Electronic calendars are also searchable, so that if you remember a name or a few words, they can find related entries quickly and easily, saving time and frustration searching for through pages of an appointment book.
Last but not least, many electronic calendars can integrate seamlessly with electronic address books and e-mail systems, further improving your efficiency and productivity.
Evernote is the free productivity App that helps you to organize your work and life seemlessly. The free software is powerful and all you need to increase your organization and productivity, unless you want the additional features like larger storage capacity found in the premium version ($45.00 per year). With Evernote you can:
- Set up folders for clients, leads, projects, and trips. Collect information in a variety of formats like PDF, scan, voice command.
- Store business cards - Photograph or scan into Evernote. On smart phone you can geotag card to find it by location. Sophisticated search feature recalls info easily so you do not have to remember everything about the contact. Their first name, their town, their company, all can be retrieved with a search.
- Track Expenses and keep receipts all in one place.
- Take Meeting notes, type up at the real time meeting, send to your computer to have them before you get back home.
- Organize research; compile online research into a research note. Clip portions of a web page, or the whole thing. The web clipper stores your online content that you collect to read later.
- Use as an idea file; capture elusive ideas whenever they happen.
- Document Storage; forward PDF’s, word, excel documents to your account for storage on the cloud.
- Word Processing; write the drafts of your blog post, correspondance, articles, whatever you have to write.
Evernote becomes a vital part of your work process and personal life.
Wake Up An Hour Earlier
One way to get the most out of your day is to wake up an hour earlier. When you work from home and get to set your own schedule, it can be easy to put off your work and sleep in every morning. However, the later you sleep, the less you can get finished in a day, making your workload seem much more stressful.
Waking up an hour earlier than usual every day can give you a must-needed boost and a jump start on your workload. Many people who work from home have a difficult time getting started in the morning, but by waking up an hour earlier every day, you can spend that hour getting yourself ready for your work day. Many individuals find that taking a shower and getting dressed as if they were going to work - not necessarily in a dress suit, but at least in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt instead of pajamas - can make them feel more motivated to get to work.
Some people have a difficult time working from home because they find themselves getting distracted by household chores that need to be done. If you wake up an hour earlier each day, you can spend a few minutes straightening up your house so that you can truly focus on your work once you begin your work day. You can also enjoy a cup of coffee or a tasty breakfast, but after your hour is up, it is important to focus and get to work. You will find that it is easier to get motivated when you have dedicated an extra hour in the morning to preparing yourself for a productive day.
Don’t Be Hard On Yourself
It is easy to become distracted while working at home. Many people do not start out working from home; they become their own boss through a series of life events. After having many bosses, it is easy to tell yourself that you are your own boss now and that you can do whatever you want. This is great until you realize this also means having nobody is paying you to clean your fingernails during your down time. How do you keep yourself motivated without being too hard on yourself?
Tip Number One: Pace Yourself
It is important to pace yourself when working at home. For many people, this means taking a big project and breaking it down into little steps. If your project is a big, 2,500 word article, this might mean taking the project 200 words at a time. If your project is to design a website, then the project might be broken down by coding and designing one page at a time.
Regardless of what pace you work at, choose a pace that works well for you and that you can hold yourself accountable too.
Tip Number Two: Work With Your Deadlines In Mind
Whenever you work, keep what deadlines you have on your current projects in mind. This will help you plan around other work. If you have three articles due today, for example, you might not do any new job searching today, because you already have work to do. This will help you feel less stress for future assignments.
Tip Number Three: Take A Break When It’s Too Much
When work gets to be too much, take a break. Now that you are your own boss, you do not have a boss standing around and telling you to work. You also don’t have a boss standing around and telling you to take a break. When you’re focused on the negative impact of working at home, it’s time to take a break and look at things from a different perspective.
Take The Day Off
Everyone has days when they just feel sad, down or a little bit depressed. Maybe something is going on at home that has you in a funk, or you are just suffering from burnout after days and days of work without a break. Do not let working from home be so different from working in an office setting that you miss out on one of the biggest perks of all - taking days off.
Most workplaces allow their employees a certain number of days off per year, and employees take them when they are ill, have personal business to attend to or, let’s face it, just don’t feel up to working. Apply the same thing to your online job at home. Allow yourself a set number of days off, and if you wake up in a funk one day “call in” and just do not work. Spend the day instead doing something you enjoy, far away from the computer screen.
As a self-motivated worker, your ultimate goal is to pay the bills. Assure that the days off you are entitled to do not begin to eat into your bottom line. The key to managing this when you are your own boss is to make sure you do not overstep the boundaries you set for yourself. If you are allowed five “off” days per year, do not take more. Exercise self-discipline, and make sure that your days away from the computer, toiling away, do not get too much into your bottom line.
Only Engage With Positive People
One great way to increase your productivity when working from home is by engaging with positive people online. Working from home can often get boring and lonely, but there are plenty of ways that you can socialize online. Joining a forum for others who work from home is a great way to socialize. To maximize your productivity and motivation, try discussing some of your daily goals with others on the forum, and encourage these individuals to share their goals with you as well.
By sharing your goals with your new-found online friends, you will be given encouragement that could be just enough to get you motivated for the day. Sharing stories with productive work-at-home individuals can show you just how much you can get accomplished in a work day; also, once you have posted your daily goals on the forum, it will make you feel more accountable for your actions.
You will then want to share stories of meeting your goals with these individuals, and you will want to get to work so that you won’t have to tell your new online friends that you slacked off all day. These productive individuals can also share tips on how to be efficient and productive from home. Many of the friends that you make have probably been working from home for years, so they know the tips and tricks of the trade.
When socializing with your new online friends, make sure that you do not allow them to be a distraction. Instead, surround yourself with individuals who will help you to meet your goals.
(Part 2 - later this week)