From time to time, I find myself feeling a little frustrated when I don’t quite “have it all together.” Case in point, I’m currently sitting in my home office which very visibly has not been vacuumed since my return from vacation nearly a week ago; the mail basket sitting on my desk is overflowing with envelopes I’ve yet to open; my voice mail box is so full it can’t take any new messages; and I’m sipping coffee from one of 3 drinking vessels left on my work station during the course of the week. (About 10 minutes ago, I picked up the wrong mug. Ugh!)
Before starting this post, I spent about an hour staring, typing, staring, erasing, staring and retyping the same two sentences on my notebook; and let’s add to the list the fact that I’ve egregiously disregarded my own advice pertaining to letting my lack of face-time with clients affect my grooming habits (I honestly can’t even remember the last time I put on a little makeup or dressed up!). Not such an idyllic picture is it?
Believe it or not, I haven’t always been in this state. Along with my husband, I’ve managed to make a pretty good living working from home for almost a decade and that’s no small feat. My home-based career found its steam by way of a lot of research and planning, hard work and let’s face it – organization. It’s unavoidable. It’s necessary.
It’s only natural, however, that in the time frame between the exciting start of my business and now, my zeal has petered out a little. It happens. Life hands us so many challenges and distractions that we’re forced to prioritize and end up putting even important things (like organization) on the back burner in favor of more urgent matters. And then again, some of us are just masters at getting in our own way (Like a boss!).
The upshot of this is that it doesn’t have to mean the end of your success. Simple changes can begin to steer your focus in the right direction and get you back on track to being productive. I know this because I’ve been here. I’ve fallen off this wagon and climbed back on – many times.
Following are a just a few small (and free – everyone can manage these) steps that can have a big impact on your workday and collectively make your life run a bit more smoothly.
Dedicate Your Workspace: Determine right now where you will work. If you don’t have access in your home to a separate office, choose an appropriate area in a quiet room to place a simple desk and other tools you will need to accomplish your work. While I do have a separate home office, I have to share it with the husband, which can be challenging at times. My own setup consists of a very small desk (handmade by my great grandfather) that has been placed in front a large picture window looking out into my front yard. I love the abundance of natural light provided, and the sight of the vibrant green ivy creeping up the large oak outside gives me a sense of calm. But choose a position that works for you. Don’t forget to personalize your space. Flowers or pictures help to make your home office more inviting, a bonus when you know you have to spend hours there.
A huge benefit of a designated workspace is that it provides a sort of boundary to anyone else in your home. For many there is just no way around working in a house full of people and it’s nice to be able to provide a very visible indication that you are “at work and unavailable.” Trying to work on the couch in front of the television with your laptop or tablet can send confusing signals to your children or significant other about your availability. But be flexible. Understandably you will have moments when you need to be available and everyone has different circumstances.
Determine Your Work Hours and Plan Your Tasks: Having a consistent schedule when possible not only helps to keep some unnecessary distractions at bay (anyone with teenagers will know exactly what I’m talking about), but will also help to put your mindset in work mode when you really need to focus. This training takes time but believe me, it is so valuable. Having absolute confidence that I won’t be interrupted during my chosen work hours really contributes to my productivity and creates a mutual respect between me and members of my household, even if flexibility now and again is necessary.
I can’t stress enough the benefit of knowing exactly what you will be doing when you’re scheduled to do it. Write a simple list. Start off very small. For instance, I know that this afternoon I will be opening and organizing more than a week’s worth of mail, going through voice mails, returning a few phone calls, and spending time organizing my tasks for tomorrow. It might not seem like a lot, but until I wrote that list down, I felt so overwhelmed at the idea of accomplishing these tasks and I knew there was no way I would ever get to them. Additionally, that list frees me from having to think about it when I get up from my desk for the day. Just try it. You will be more productive, I promise!
Do Something to Put You in a Working Mindset: This tip is very important, yet personal for everyone. I don’t care how urgent the response is to a phone call or an email, if I have not showered and brushed my teeth and if I don’t have a hot cup of coffee in hand, I cannot get down to business. It’s just that simple. Sometimes I find that I need to do a little more to get into my work mode, such as make a little more effort in my grooming or put on a motivating music playlist. Do you have a routine that helps you get going? Don’t hesitate to do what you need to do.
Above All, Be Flexible: Did I mention the need for flexibility? From time to time you will be at the mercy of emergencies (big and small), unavoidable scheduling changes, other responsibilities and occasionally, your own state of mind. It’s going to happen. Acknowledge it, deal with it and move on. These are not failures, they’re life.
I hope you will put these few tips to work for you and get out of your slump. Now I’m off to heed my own advice! I look forward to hearing from you!