Many people dream about being able to work at home. They imagine rolling out of bed and starting work as they sip a latte. They feel that without the commute, water cooler conversations and office politics, they'll be more focused and, consequently, more efficient. However, being in charge of your own schedule holds the potential for some unforeseen drawbacks that can affect your stress level. You may find it difficult to motivate and organize yourself without the pressure of accountability and having to report to a boss for certain tasks.
When you work from home, you don't have a schedule imposed on you, so you are individually responsible for managing your time. To organize yourself and your office so you have a better chance of being productive and keeping your stress level low, try the following tips:
1. Keep a separate, distinct work area in your home. This can be as simple as setting up a large desk and a file cabinet in the corner of a room-as long as it is your defined work area. Keep it organized, clean and neat so you can easily find the materials you need to manage your business and do your work.
2. Learn how you work best. Clearly define the type of work environment where you are most productive. Do you strategize more creatively when you are on a comfortable couch, or at a business desk?
Your home office is your domain--add items such as resource books or family pictures that support your business efforts and help you maintain a positive attitude.
3. Be mentally ready to take action on specified tasks. Plan your daily work schedule by connecting it with your personal energy level. If you think most clearly in the morning, do your most important and difficult tasks during this time. If you regularly go to the gym, exercise at the same time during the week. Value your commitment to these personal appointments, and your mind and body will reward you with a clear head and energize you even when you are extremely busy.
4. Allocate time to accomplish tasks by setting specific "open for business" hours when people can contact you. Many people may assume that because you work from home, you are available to them 24/7. Avoid stressful interruptions by setting specific office hours when other people can contact you. Be obvious--state your availability on your website, your voice-mail greeting and your e-mails. Your colleagues and your customers will appreciate knowing your availability and will learn to respect the parameters you set.
5. Recognize that this lifestyle takes much negotiating, planning and prioritizing. No matter how hard you try to keep them separate, your personal and business lives will mesh and, at times, collide. Do not immediately stress out when personal interruptions occur. Learn to break from work mode and become efficient by focusing on the urgency of the interruption and resolving it so you don't have to worry about it. Then get back to your regular work schedule. Soon, you will learn to mentally maneuver and have a healthy balance between the two worlds without tension or guilt.
As an entrepreneur, learn to take a stance that no matter how fast the world changes or how many interruptions may occur, you can and will succeed. Each night, let the stress of the day pass by taking a deep breath and thanking yourself for completing something that fuels your passion. This will recharge your emotional batteries and prepare you for your next opportunity.
Speaker and consultant Romanus Wolter, aka "The Kick Start Guy," is author of Kick Start Your Dream Business.