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Big Mistakes

The five biggest blunders you can make in your home-office setup and how to avoid them

Blunder #1: Using the wrong room as your office. What seems right and what feels right can create an internal battle and affect your productivity. For example, if it seems right to use a spare bedroom as an office but you feel better working at your kitchen table, stop to consider why. Is your kitchen bright and roomy while your spare bedroom is too dreary and cramped? Make the necessary changes to the room you choose, keeping in mind you'll be spending a lot of time there.

Blunder #2: Not planning for long-range wiring needs. When you first open your home office, you may need nothing more than a business line and a fax/modem line. As your business grows, however, you'll need additional lines for incoming calls and dedicated lines for your fax, modem and electronic equipment. Getting direct Internet access via your cable company alleviates the need for a modem line, but you'll still need the capacity to accommodate additional lines and outlets.

Blunder #3: Lack of storage space. "Starter files" and office supplies occupy little space, but as your client list grows and you get more projects, your storage needs will increase dramatically. Determine how much information or how many supplies you need to store now, and estimate how much storage space you'll need down the road. Ideally, you should store all this information within your home office rather than scattered throughout your home.

Blunder #4: No schedule. When you work at home, it's easy to sleep late, work late and get distracted. Distraction is fine to a point. But if you're spending more time sidetracked than on track, it's time to reevaluate what you're doing (or, in this case, not doing). Set a flexible schedule with two main elements: a starting time and a quitting time. Make it easy to quit at the end of the day by shutting your home-office door, if possible, and leaving it closed until the next day. Walking by an office with an open door can be an invitation to work all night long.

Blunder #5: Lack of a planning system. At first, running your business by the seat of your pants may seem feasible, but you'll quickly find the flaws in this approach. Although you shouldn't want to wait for the world to come crashing down before establishing a system, don't feel pressured to invest in a traditional paper-based planner, electronic organizer or computerized system. Instead, find a method that works for you--even if it's keeping notes in a spiral notebook and monthly calendar. The key: Whatever system you choose, use it regularly.

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