All businesses have to start somewhere, and for many people, the cheapest way is to work from home. With most things achievable over the internet or by phone, there’s theoretically no limit to what you can accomplish from your own bedroom. Yet the lack of separation between home and work can be difficult to overcome, and stop some businesses before they’ve begun.
While it takes plenty of commitment, it’s absolutely possible to start a home business without getting distracted. While it can be as simple as removing all distractions from your environment, it also pays to think about the most effective ways to work, and take a regimented approach to your new working life. By following these simple steps, you can prepare yourself for a productive new career path, and give yourself the best chance of success.
Separate your office space
The first step to avoid distractions when working at home is to create a distraction-free environment. For the most part, this means emulating your typical office environment – though perhaps with a few more personal touches, and a slightly comfier chair. This room shouldn’t contain anything in the way of entertainment, and should instead revolve around your workstation and the essentials you’ll need.
By dedicating a room to be your home office, you’ll not only remove the temptation of your TV, but also segment your work and private life. This physical break will set up a mental barrier too, making the difference between your home and work lives more distinct. It also allows you to design the office you always wanted to work in, with colorful plants, natural light and inspiring decor.
If you really want to separate your home and work lives, you might consider renting a purpose-built office space or a room in self-storage. This will lend your new business a professional feel, and take advantage of things like a better location and internet connection. Co-working spaces are generally not recommended, however, as the hustle and bustle can be a distraction when you’re still setting out your stall.
Put the kitchen on lockdown
Enter the kitchen and you’ll see the fridge; see the fridge and you’ll be tempted into a ten-minute snack preparing endeavor. The kitchen is dangerous territory for those wishing to stay focused on work, both because of food and the likely presence of family, who will happily drag you into a long and mundane conversation.
It’s fine to dwell here when you’ve actually earned your lunch break, but until then, it’s best to stay away. Brewing a thermos flask of tea or coffee or even having a little table for a coffee machine in your office will allow you to satisfy those caffeine cravings without leaving your workspace, and will ensure you keep your eyes on the prize.
Stick to schedule (but plan rewards too)
Something as simple as using Google Calendar will help you keep commitments, but it’s worth trying to arrange every aspect of your day. By dedicating time to different activities, you’ll give yourself enough variety not to get bored, and ensure that your focus doesn’t wander too far.
A schedule will help to force you into working mode, but you may need an extra impetus. Rewarding yourself for hitting certain targets – even if that’s just hitting a certain number of hours, fielding X amount of calls, or queuing up your tweets for the week – will give you something more to strive for than the satisfaction of a job well done.
Rewards are a powerful tool in business as much as pleasure, as the concept of ‘gamification’ (digital reward systems for completing tasks) has proved. By creating a strict system where only progress merits some candy or a cupcake, you’ll create a positive feedback loop that will keep you chugging through the day, and make you glad to get up in the mornings.
Block time for emails
While this is an element of your scheduling, it’s also an easy trap to continue falling into. Emails can arrive at unideal moments, and it’s received wisdom that you should reply to everything immediately. Personally, I recommend including a note in your email signature that you only respond to emails once or twice a day at a set time, so that people know what to expect, and don’t think you’re being rude.
By arranging an email answering time, you can leave the anxiety and compulsions of inbox-watching behind, removing a major source of distractions from your day. This will also help you to keep track of all the emails coming in and things you need to address, which can be more difficult when you’re reading emails at separate, disjointed intervals.
Lie to everyone you know
This is a cruel one, but it’s often a necessity. Running a home business makes you a unique commodity, as it means you’re in when everyone else is out. This leaves you prone to door-to-door salespeople, religious proselytizers, friends on days off, and packages arriving for neighbors who cotton onto your availability.
Don’t answer the door unless you know it’s for you, and don’t tell a soul about your newfound freedom (or lack thereof). Deliveries and callers are part of your home life, and you’re not at home – you’re at work. You might even want to extend to a video doorbell system if this is proving an issue, where you can assess the caller at a glance, and decide if they’re worth troubling your time with.