Working at home, alone with one’s computer and to-do list, seems like the ultimate manifestation of the American dream of successful self-employment. In the corporate world, how often do we roll our eyes at the fifth unwanted visit from boredco-workers in the space of an hour, or chafe at the time spent in mandatory (yet pointless)meetings, and heartily wish we could have just one afternoon of uninterrupted time to finish that project?
Just the thought of working quietly at home, comfortably clad in sweats rather than restrictive “office wear” and sipping a cup of fresh coffee for a change is enough to evoke a feeling of peace and tranquility that lasted until we realize with a start that we are still at work, laboring under glaring fluorescent lighting, drinking what passes for coffee in this reality and listening to the idiot in the cubicle next to you humming loudly enough to cause your client on the phone to ask you to turn down your radio or to at least tune it in to the station properly.
So one fine day, you leave the corporate world for the freedom and excitement of a REALTOR® entrepreneur. You look forward to reaping the benefits of your own hard work, rather adding value to some corporate entity whose leadership team thought that giving you a paper certificate acknowledging all your contributions to the company was adequate compensation while your former boss receives a five-figure bonus for “empowering” your good work.
But you’re not bitter, and as a matter of fact, you’re quite exhilarated at the prospect of working for yourself, and anticipate with pleasure the productive workdays and the sense of accomplishment that you’re sure you will have after each day’s work.
But then it doesn’t quite turn out that way. Oh sure, you wear sweats and drink good coffee, but somehow days slip by and your work still isn’t done, or your business isn’t growing like you thought it would.
You decide that your office supplies aren’t adequate so you drive to the office supply store and wander for hours, finally staggering out with hundreds of dollars of paper clips, pens and file folders that you thought you needed, but now survey with a sick feeling that perhaps you’ve overspent today, both your budget and your time, so you drive through the fast food place for a quick burger, and find you still don’t want to go home and face that blank computer and a phone that doesn’t ring.
It’s only been two months, but you’ve already gained 12 pounds and seen every episode of “Dr. Phil” since you quit your job. You’re beginning to worry that you’ll never get your business off the ground, and the thought of returning to the corporate world suddenly doesn’t seem quite so repellent anymore, although you get a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach at the thought of job hunting, or worse, crawling back to your old job.
Let’s face it, you’re not in a good place, but you don’t have to stay there, and you don’t (necessarily) have to scuttle back to the corporate world with your tail between your legs.
Here are 10 suggestions for organizing your workday that will give you the feeling of control and help you succeed in your efforts to develop your home-based business.
1. Create a separate, distinct workspace. Having a space that is devoted to work helps you concentrate and stay organized because all your supplies and materials are right there.
2. Get ready for work each day as if you expected a visitor. No, you don’t have to be dressed up, but you do have to be showered and in clean clothes.
3. Set your office hours, and stick to them. Work can be never-ending if you’re always putting it off to do household chores, run errands, or watch TV. You can probably accomplish more at home since you won’t have as many interruptions and meetings, so don’t feel guilty about working fewer hours, but do work them. Don’t waste time surfing the internet.
4. Learn to work with your natural strengths and inclinations, and you’ll find your days become much more productive. For example, if you’re a morning person, schedule mentally arduous tasks in the morning, and meetings in the afternoon. Create and stick to a business plan.
5. Book appointments to do all your work, including your marketing and administrative tasks. This helps you make sure that everything gets done, and gives you a realistic idea of how much time you are spending on building your business.
6. Create hard copy files or binders with important documents for your business, and keep them in plain sight for easy reference. You’ll need a business binder with a list of your vendors (phone, ISP, web host) along with your account numbers and access codes, plus your business license, insurance and banking information. You’ll also need your business and marketing plans within easy reach so that you can review them often.
7. Create standard responses for common transactions. For example, create scripts or letter templates to welcome new clients, confirm meetings, or for sales conversations. This saves time, helps you maintain your standards, and keeps you calm when you receive an unexpected call from a prospect. (Create standardized packages for new buyers and sellers.)
8. Create daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly financial goals, and review them daily. Yes, it sounds like lot, but once you create these goals, all you have to do is check them each day to see if you need to make modifications in tomorrow’s schedule. For example, if your sales are down today, schedule sales meetings or calls for tomorrow (and do them!). Constant attention to your financial goals really does help you prioritize your daily actions, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you learn what works for you.
9. End each workday with 30-minutes of goal setting and planning for the next day, and general clean up. You’ll be glad you prepared your schedule the next morning, and you won’t have to face a messy desk at the beginning of tomorrow’s workday. (OK, those that know me well know my desk is still messy – but it’s MY mess and I know where EVERYTHING is.)
10. Hold yourself to your own standards. Find yourself making a lot of personal phone calls, running errands, or taking long lunches when you’re supposed to be working? Ask yourself if you would accept this behavior from someone you were paying to work for you; if not, then stop it, because you are paying yourself (or you should be). Just because you are the boss doesn’t mean you are exempt from your own standards.
Approaching your home-based business like a job is really all in your attitude and your work habits. When you focus on your daily goals, you can leave your office feeling comfortable about what you accomplished each day, and you won’t stay awake nights worrying about whether you are getting enough work done, because you are.