Thanks to the rise of the Internet, more and more people over the last twenty years have been starting at-home businesses. For the nuts and bolts of starting a company, the U.S. Small Business Administration has put together a useful guide that walks entrepreneurs through some of the legal and practical steps of setting up and maintaining their small businesses, but there are some everyday considerations that the guide doesn’t address.
Without question, working from home has its advantages, but one of the most frequent problems that at-home workers face is difficulty separating their business lives from their personal lives. If you’re thinking about creating a business that will allow you to work from home, or you’ve been running a company out of your house for years, consider the following tips for maintaining proper boundaries between your work life and your home life.
Keep Regular Hours
Perhaps the best way to keep your work life and home life separate is to treat your at-home business like it’s a real job. Sure, rolling out of bed and walking into your office really cuts down on your commute, which makes it temping to stay in bed for another twenty or thirty minutes, but it’s important to remain disciplined. Starting your work day at a consistent time each day means that you can end your work day at a consistent time, and maintaining a regular schedule will make it significantly easier to keep work/life boundaries in place.
Learn to Let Work Go
Part of maintaining a consistent schedule is being committed to stopping work at a given time each day. When clients and business associates learn that you work from home, they often have a tendency to harangue you at all hours of the day and night. If you want to have a healthy home life, however, you need to learn to let work go. Yes, it can be tempting to respond to an email while you’re cooking dinner or pause your DVR to take a late business call, but being functionally open for business 24 hours a day means that you never get any true downtime, which can have a detrimental impact on your home life.
Save Errands and Activities for Later
The corollary to ignoring work obligations in your off hours is to ignore personal obligations during your business hours. Unfortunately, there are always chores to be done around the house. While it’s perfectly acceptable to tidy up a little during lunch or take a five-minute break to unload the dishwasher, it’s important to save more time-consuming activities for your non-work time. Yes, that trip to the grocery store will only take 45 minutes and that yoga class is only an hour long, but your business time needs to be dedicated to business. If you allow personal obligations to encroach upon your work hours, then you’ll most likely be forced to work late and lose precious personal time at the end of the day.
Separate Your Work/Living Spaces
Just as you need to remain disciplined with your daily schedule, you also need to remain disciplined about where you work inside your home. Often, people who work from home set up shop for the day in whatever room they feel like, but working out of every room in your house can cause problems. Suddenly, you start to associate every corner of your home with your business, which can make it difficult to focus on personal time once work is over for the day. In order to avoid this problem, you should set up a dedicated office space and only conduct business in that one area.
Invest in Accounting Software
For a lot of people who set up an at-home business, one of the goals is to maximize the amount of free time that they have. Unfortunately, if you don’t keep up-to-date and accurate financial records, you can end up losing some of that personal time to bookkeeping, especially during tax season. In order to streamline the pains of bookkeeping, small business owners need to invest in quality accounting software, such as QuickBooks, Sage 50, or one of the other numerous alternatives on the market. Staying current on all your business finances will enable you to stick to your schedule and maintain that work/life boundary.
Get Out of the House
Working from home has a tendency to make people a little stir crazy. No matter how large your house is, spending all day and night in the same general space is enough to make anybody feel claustrophobic. In order to shake things up a bit, you should make an effort to spend some time outside of the house. If all you need for your business is a laptop and a cell phone, then head to a coffee shop or a restaurant for a few hours during the day. Similarly, if you need to be at home to work, then get out of the house at night. Something as simple as hanging out at a friend’s house or spending a couple hours at a movie can provide a much-needed breather.
Working from home can offer a high degree of freedom and flexibility, but if you don’t make an effort to keep your work and home lives separate, then your business could end up taking over your entire life. By following these simple tips, you should be able to maximize your efficiency during the day and truly enjoy your personal time.
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