working from home laptop-on-bedI love working from home. The commute is stress-free. You can set your own working hours.

However, to stay productive and earn a living, you need to have some ground rules in place. It’s too easy to fall into bad habits. Here’s 9 things I regularly have to remind myself about:

  1. Keep you Work and Living Areas Apart
    A separate room or area where you are in ‘work mode’, nowhere near a TV or kitchen. It should be quiet for making phone calls. This may be the bedroom. If you are in a relationship, your other half will help you resist doing those all-nighters…
  2. Establish Working Hours
    When are your best working times? Mornings, afternoons or evenings. Set a minimum of two 4 hour slots when you work best and stick to it.
  3. Dress for Work
    Just because you can work in your underwear… don’t! Shower, get dressed, have breakfast then start work. It will help you focus.
  4. Close the Door
    It won’t keep everyone out, but it lets family know that you are working.
  5. De-clutter
    Keep your mind clear with a clear workspace. Maintain a zero-tolerance policy on this.
  6. Track your Day
    When you start and stop a task note the time down. This helps show you how productive you’ve really been.
  7. Give yourself a Break
    Re-energize. Take regular breaks. Switch off from incoming messages. Reuters strictly enforces this with their employees, so no excuses! Unless you work for the emergency services, nothing is that urgent. Leave the work area.
  8. Get some Fresh Air
    It’s too easy to become unaware of weather when you work from home. Just half an hour walk per day will help clear your head.
  9. You’re Not a Component in your Business’s Machine
    Retain interests and contact with friends & family.

6 Bonus tips on Respecting ‘Prime Time’

Prime time is when clients are most likely to be receptive. Mon.-Fri., 10am – 12pm, 2pm – 4:30pm:

  1. Place Your Daily Tasks in Priority Order
    1. important & urgent
    2. important & non-urgent
    3. then urgent & non-important
    4. and finally non-urgent & non-important.
    5. Read more in Rocks in a Jar >
  2. Pre 10am Power Hour (Strategic Thinking)
    • Mon: One Big Thing – what’s going to drive the business forward this week?
    • Tue: New business – which prospects & partners can you call this week?
    • Wed: Money – credit control and promotional activity
    • Thur: Existing Clients: propose ideas, testimonials, referrals
    • Fri: Research, skills updating, client feedback
  3. Prime Time Tasks
    1. Face to face meetings
      Make a point of meeting people. It will help you become human again.
    2. Phone calls
      Quicker than email to exchange ideas, schedule meetings, avoid misunderstandings and build rapor.
  4. Why you Should Schedule Phone Calls
    Phone calls interrupt. Moving from one phone call to another is fairly efficient. Stopping and restarting a task wastes too much time ‘picking up where you left off’. So treat them like meetings. Schedule as many calls as possible in Prime Time.
  5. Other Non-Prime Time Tasks
    1. Admin: invoicing, PC tidy ups etc
    2. Marketing, research and skills updating
    3. Emails -see below
  6. Email Activity Schedule
    1. View & respond before 10am
    2. View after lunch
    3. View and respond at the end of the day.
      Schedule emails to be sent between 7am and 10am only (ask me how).