I enjoy interacting with people but I also love to work alone, from my home office , and choose when I will go out for meetings. Working from home means no overhead, no employees, no stress right?
Hmm…the truth is, that’s not always the case.
The reality for most people working from home—women in particular—is that we find it very difficult not to multi-task. I’ll bet that up until now, you have been proud of your multi-tasking ability. It's a proven fact that women are actually wired differently than men (no surprise there!), which is why we are able to take a phone call, tend to the needs of a crying child and get dinner on the table, simultaneously.
As a woman working from home, you may find that you are sabotaging yourself with unforeseen distractions and lack of structure with your time. Because you work from home, friends and family may not respect your time because in their mind you don’t “go out” to work. Here are a few ideas to get you on the right track.
1. Stop multi-tasking.
Yes, you read that correctly. It's easy to think that as you have to walk past the laundry room anyway you might as well change the wash. Or you should get something started in the slow cooker; after all, that will save you valuable time in getting dinner ready tonight. Perhaps you notice that one of your favorite plants is wilting from thirst and you feel you should give it a quick drink—and then you water all the rest of your poor parched botanicals.
How do I know these things? Because I've done them! But they can cost you dearly in terms of your business as well as your mental health.
This might come as a shock but in business, multi-tasking is the biggest time robber and stress-inducer there is! No two thoughts or tasks can occupy your brain at one time and be executed effectively. I have never, ever, seen a winning jockey ride two horses across the finish line at the same time.
You might think you are being efficient by multi-tasking but trust me, this is where men have it over us. They generally have a greater ability to focus on just one thing at a time. Don't believe it? Donald Trump says he does not multi-task. Love him or hate him, he is undeniably successful.
2. Have a separate space in which to work.
If you are serious about what you do, it is imperative that you get out of "kitchen table mode" and if possible work in a separate room with a door that closes. That way, when you are working your spouse and family respect that you are "at work" and short of the house catching on fire they are not to disturb you. If that isn't possible, then get a room divider and make yourself a little niche that is yours and yours alone.
3. Structure your time and "cash out" at the end of each day.
It is so easy for your personal time to mesh with your business, so you need to be using a tool that you can map your time out on a monthly, weekly and daily basis and then stick to it. Whether it’s an appointment you've set for yourself to work out or go for a walk, or it’s scheduling admin work in your less productive hours, it's imperative that you establish and stick to a time-frame. Then, don't spend any more or less time on that activity than you planned. When that allotted time is up move on to the next task.
Here’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given: at the end of every day, "cash out" by examining what you accomplished. Then, take a few minutes to plan for the next day. Otherwise, you'll constantly be faced with that all too familiar internal scream, "where did my day (week) go?"
4. Delegate All You Can.
I can already hear you saying, "I'm just getting my business started; I can't afford to pay anyone for anything!"
I know this because I've been there.
My first tiny baby step in delegating was to hire a lady to clean for me—just once every two weeks, as that's all I could afford. I don't like to do housework, but I like a clean house. At the time, what I paid her per hour was half of what I charged for my services. Do the math; it doesn't make sense for you to be spending time doing things that take away from income-producing activities. The same goes for web design or other tasks related to your business. Hire, trade or delegate as much as possible.
5. Stop Running Out to Meet With People Face-to-Face.
Obviously, it depends on what business you're in as to what extent you can forgo in-person meetings. But for most of us, the time it takes to travel to and from a 30-60 minute appointment is a real time waster.
When someone asks to meet with you—and this typically happens when you’ve been a hit at a networking event—graciously ask for an agenda. Some people just like to have coffee and pick your brain and that usually is not very good use of your time.
I say something like, "I'd love to meet with you. Can you tell me a little bit about what you're doing? Do you have a website or something you can email me?" If they're time-wasters, I usually don't hear back from them. Alternatively, offer to meet on Skype. It’s free, you can see each other if you wish, and you don’t have to waste time traveling back and forth.
If this sounds harsh or rude, here's the bottom line: most of us don't have enough hours in the day to spend with friends and loved ones. If you find yourself stressed and feeling too busy to devote to the people in your life that really matter, you are probably giving away too much of YOU because you haven’t learned to say no.
In the next installment, I will share tips to:
Structure errands so they don’t become giant time robbers
Use technology wisely, be more productive and less stressed
Recognize and optimize your natural creative flow
Banish procrastination with my “72-hour Rule”
Until next time, try to curb your multi-tasking, Superwoman! Find a special place in your home to work, hang a door—and then close it. Make like a banker or retailer and cash out at the end of each day. And, stop running all over the place to meet people. Instead, share a coffee over the Internet without putting on heels and driving across town.
Were these tips helpful or do you have a special technique that works for you? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.