Top 10 Tips to Stick to a Schedule When You Operate a Home Business

Today’s post on the topic of sticking to a schedule when you operate a home business is brought to you by a friend of mine Chrissie. We’ll be seeing a weekly feature from her in the future as shes a great writer and “living the dream” of working from home.

The decision to work from home is a very appealing one for many. The phrase “work at your computer in your pyjamas” carries with it a sense of freedom and liberation that many cubicle confined workers long for. There are countless benefits to working from home, but many people don’t realize the drawbacks until they are in the business and struggling. One of the most appealing factors of working from home is the flexibility in scheduling and not having to answer to an employer. In fact, it is this very benefit that causes many home businesses to fail. Many business operating out of the home fail within their first year because this flexibility that is so appealing, is SO appealing, that home workers can never establish, and maintain, a good schedule that works for them, their lives, and their business.

I am a full-time freelancer that works from home, and have been doing so for a few years now. I am also a single mom, and there is any given day where a chance event could occur that throws off my entire schedule. This has probably happened to you as well. When one day gets thrown off, you can easily disorganize your entire week if you don’t manage that time properly.

Here are some scheduling tips that I have come up with, through trial and error, that have helped me keep my full-time business a full-time business with some scheduling how-to’s.

1. Keep two emails minimum – one for personal and one for business. Do not check your personal email during your work times. If you really want to waste your work hours, you are better off just sitting in front of the T.V. for an hour.

2. Check your work email at set times in the day. If you have a business that requires constant client communication, 3 times a day should do it. 9 AM, 12 PM, and 3 PM. Pick the times that work best for you and when you can reasonably expect to hear from clients, and have time to communicate with them. Chances are, you are not getting paid for each email that you send. So the more time you spend on email, the more money you are taking from yourself by not putting in productive work time.

3. On Sunday nights, schedule your week. Make a list of what is due and when, and fit these tasks into the days they have to be done. This way, you go into your week organized. You may get new jobs, tasks, or projects, through the week, but at least you are starting your week with an idea of what kind of time you have available.

4. You may do the same thing every day, you may have different projects or assignments every day. Every home business is different. Set your next-days schedule the day before. Only do one day at a time or you will start to feel swamped. If you can’t do this, at least write down what you must accomplish the next day. Make a list in order of importance so that you know the next morning when you start your day, what you expect of yourself. Don’t finish your work day until the list is complete. Why? Because if you don’t, you will have even MORE work the next day.

5. I find it helps to list an approximate time frame beside each job I have that day. Sometimes I get new jobs and it really can be up in the air, but beside each task you’ve given yourself, list how long you expect it to take. Give yourself cushion room here. If you think one job will take an hour, give yourself an hour and a half *just in case*.

6. Make sure you schedule breaks. Here you can check your personal mail, run errands, make dinner, or do whatever you need to do. I have my break times during school pick-ups and drop-offs because it’s just easier for me. I can still clear my head, get out of work mode for a little bit, make calls that need to be made, grab a coffee or a bite, and still swing right back into my work day when the break is over. School times are not something flexible for me, so it only made sense to me to work my breaks into it. Find the times that work for you. If you don’t take breaks, you will find yourself getting stressed very easily.

7. Do not make personal calls or answer your doorbell during your scheduled work times. This one was a tough one for me at first. Particularly when everyone and their brother knew I worked from home, it meant nothing to them to drop in or give a ring when they had free time. This is your work day. You can deal with the world when your work day is done, or when your break comes up. If this is tough for you, turn off your phone and put headphones on when you are working.

8. Leave yourself an hour at the end of each day for administration. This will serve you two purposes. For one thing, you are probably burnt out from working all day, and this is a great way to unwind but still be productive. Secondly, this is stuff that you need to get done. Even though you aren’t being paid for administrative duties, you still need to invoice, email, make calls, etc. and do this as you are winding down and shutting your brain off.

9. Don’t be afraid to set office hours with your clients. Let them know when you will and will not be receiving emails or making calls. If you have a business phone line, ensure your voicemail greeting makes callers aware of when you will be taking calls or returning messages. Again, even other businesses can have the tendency to take advantage of the home worker. No, you are not always “on” or available. Commit to this to save yourself some headache.

10. By the same token, make sure you give yourself at least one complete day off every week. That means, from the minute you get up, until the minute you go to bed, you are not working. You need this downtime, and your business will not collapse because of this. Let your clients know ‘Sundays’ are your day off or whatever day you choose. You can even have a different day every week off if that serves you better. Only you know what will work for you. If you take care of yourself, you will be better equipped to take care of your business.

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