If successful at-home entrepreneurship was as comparatively straightforward as being someone else’s exemplary employee, every company’s superstar hired hands would inevitably jump ship and build thriving brands of their own. To the more realistic contrary, every intrepid entrepreneur whose financial freedom began with an ambitious cottage industry stands among countless defeated peers who realized only too late that they had dove into self-employment much too far over their heads to survive for long.
Forsake those fanciful daydreams of earning a living in constant comfort on Easy Street by camping out in pajamas on a couch all day. Those ambitions of never “working” another day in your life quickly yield to the reality of making hay while the sun shines without benevolent management handing over every resource needed to get things done. Suddenly, you alone are responsible for improving your own results. If a project goes sideways, a protracted staring contest with your nearest mirror may await you while scrutinizing exactly what went wrong. Without exception, enduringly productive entrepreneurs achieve long-lasting success through their unwavering commitments to resourcefulness, resilience and adaptability.
Those with the will ultimately find a way. Those without find excuses.
As 2017 fades into the sunset, the nascent days of 2018 afford every man, woman and child the same gift of 365 brand-new days teeming with possibilities. If you have ever harbored aspirations of seizing your professional destiny in your own two hands by choosing to build a business from the ground up while immersed in your domestic comfort zone, early January could be your golden moment to stop dreaming and start doing. Just make sure you ingrain the most effective habits possible during your home-based enterprise’s infancy to avoid finding out the hard way why some people only work efficiently when sequestered in a wholly separate physical space from their creature comforts.
From a management perspective, you owe it to anyone who works alongside you as either a collaborator or subordinate to demonstrate your appreciation for their contributions by establishing clearly stated expectations and goals, extending support and assistance whenever necessary and leaving no doubt that you care about them as people. Reaching out deliberately to catch up with your remote co-workers can be as simple as scheduling weekly virtual lunch dates with collaborators and joining check-in conference calls just to catch up without talking shop. Your professional relationship should amount to much more than steady progress reports to throw ideas at the wall and refresh your objectives. Don’t let the people who share your hustle become nothing but faceless Skype handles and email addresses.
What is the one stumbling block that fractures remote teams? Communication. Which single element develops the most fortified trust among collaborators? Communication. Make the most of every tool at your disposal to strengthen connections with your colleagues, but choose your channel based on the message you need to get across.
An old-fashioned phone call is ideal for real-time brainstorming or addressing complex problems individually. Video conferencing lends a personal touch that befits sharing difficult news or dissecting challenging subjects among several team members. Fire off an email to lay out critical data, project updates and tactical details. Above all, become comfortable communicating via each technology and jumping out ahead of matters whenever possible as the first one to broach a problem, question or concern directly.
Measure Productivity Appropriately
The next time you have a moment, read up on the ‘ROWE’ efficiency approach developed by management gurus Carli Ressler and Jody Thompson. The acronym stands for ‘Results Only Work Environments,’ a notion of measuring productivity and performance strictly according to delivered results in order to hold workers accountable for their own effectiveness. ROWE requires the companies that adopt it to replace ambiguous expectations with distinctly defined communication and output criteria for every roleplayer. Once you bring your own strengths and shortcomings into the sharpest clarity possible, poorly elaborated objectives will cease to amplify problems as you adapt your routines in accordance. If you cannot manage yourself and uphold accountability for your own actions as it relates to the success or failure of your company, you have no business being your own boss.
Control Traffic In Every Direction
Your home is now your workplace. By all means, make time for your friends, but separate your personal and professional mindsets by barring friends from stopping in during the day and setting aside a lunch break to meet somewhere and catch up. If someone does show up unexpectedly, politely and firmly inform them that this is not a good time before making a date to chat. Weekends are perfect for this. However, always also instruct surprise visitors to call ahead in the future to verify that your schedule is clear. As for family, consider taping a “red light” made of construction paper to your workspace door as a signal that you should not be disturbed and a “green light” confirming that the coast is clear. For perfect clarity, a yellow signal urges everyone to first ask if it happens to be a bad time before proceeding with an interruption.
Keep Things Comfortable….Within Reason
A dedicated home office is not a “splurge” luxury outlay for a domestic entrepreneur. You are creating a space where you are thankful to spend the bulk of your day working, so furnishing it with special lighting, comfortable furniture, dedicated hardware for your occupational technology and plenty of bookshelves and storage cabinets signals a committed investment in your future. Being able to easily savor your surroundings will spark your inclination to linger amidst them as long as possible and promote increased spikes in productivity.
Along a similar line, don’t forget to dress for the job you want. Unless you routinely describe your dream career as ‘sleepwear comfort-tester,’ devoting the start of each morning to grooming and dressing as you would for an office environment outside your home will ease your mind into a productivity-oriented groove by sending an unmistakably clear message to yourself and others around you: the grind comes first.
Allocate Your Hours With Care
French literary Michel de Montaigne once wrote, “Lend yourself to others, but give yourself to yourself.” Posting fairly strict ‘hours of operation’ outside your door and tacking them on at the end of your voicemail message further deepens the notion that you are indeed doing business in your home. Once you establish your hours, adhere to them yourself as strictly as humanly possible. Avoid answering your door or home phone for anything less than urgent emergencies during business hours, and temptations to chat or step away from work evaporate almost entirely.
Of course, there will be occasions when you cannot sidestep leaving your desk. Even in those cases, scheduling dentist or doctor appointments either first thing in the morning or at the very end of your day minimizes impedance on your agenda. Better still, allow yourself the discretion to work outside your home occasionally. Packing up your laptop and spending a day working out of a nearby coffee shop both rejuvenates your mojo with a change of scenery and affords you some leisurely amusement without the seductive time-swamps of your everyday habitat. As a result, returning to a backdrop designed meticulously to optimize productivity feels even more refreshingly welcome the next day.
Embrace A Time And Place For Everything
The fact you now earn a living without leaving your home doesn’t definitively indicate you have achieved an appropriate work-life balance. Excessive attachment to your home office can actually make it easier for burnout to sneak up on you, specifically because far less physical space separates your personal and professional existences. You might want to set aside one day each week when you relax your embargo on interruptions and imbue your schedule with the flexibility to pause your day and see guests or depart completely from your workload for a brisk walk, meandering bike ride or a two-hour respite to catch a movie on Netflix. Creativity often thrives when you extricate your thoughts from a sticky problem long enough for a solution to coagulate from your jumbled thoughts at its own pace. After all, what good is all the flexibility that comes with being your own boss if you never use it?
One distraction to consciously avoid? The fridge. You would not be the first home-based entrepreneur to suddenly pack on 15 pounds upon realizing that immediate proximity to your favorite foods makes perpetual on-demand snacking a thing. Consider this an extension of the same discipline that spurs you to get things done, shun procrastination and clearly distinguish your office hours from your personal time.
Finally, here lies the most crucial, universal path to becoming an unstoppable juggernaut of domestic entrepreneurship: once you know what needs to be done, let nothing stop you from crossing it off your list by the end of the day. If you have to subdivide enormous undertakings into daily milestones, do it. Begin each day with both a personal to-do list and a plan to run the table. Eventually, something will fling you screaming from your routine, and that is when you turn from Plan A to the other 26 letters of the alphabet.
Power outage? Keep two or three rechargeable battery packs at full capacity. Internet on the fritz? Keep a messenger bag packed with supplies, grab your laptop and know the exact distance to the nearest Starbucks, as well as its hours. Bricked laptop? Invest in a tablet and Bluetooth keyboard. Upload every important document you compose or receive to a cloud-based storage service such as Google Drive or Dropbox, and download apps for each to your smartphone, tablet and laptop and desktop computers.
You have the power to work from anywhere. Embrace the notion that a satisfying career, to contort a phrase from classic Visa ads, can be everywhere you want to be.
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