Working from Home – Heaven or Hell – Strategies to stay focused and on track

For many “wanna be” small business owners, working from a home office is often a factor in their decision to start their own business. Low overhead, more freedom, even may be staying in their pajamas all day!
But for many of us who have been operating a home-based business for a while, we know that reality does not very often match the fantasy.
Everything from kids quarreling to computer break downs to doing laundry in the middle of the day are all potential distractions and reflects a reality of working from a home office: when you’re working from home, focus and concentration are virtues to cultivate. Not only are you responsible for your own behavior and attitude but the perspectives and behaviors of the people who live in the house with you can wreak havoc in your schedule.
The key to being productive when working from a home office is in setting clear boundaries and enforcing them with yourself and the people around you. Here are a few strategies that can help you get started to more focused and efficient productivity:
Engage other members of the household:
Unfortunately, our society believes that productive and contributive work means putting on a suit and driving to work. So for the other members of the household, including the dog, you’re not “really working”. Shifting their views of what you do all day requires you to engage them in your work. Share what’s going on in your business with your partner and your kids, if they’re old enough. If you’re just starting your business, make sure to share your vision, your business plan, how it will all work out. Often spouses have doubts fueled by insecurity. Listen to them without being defensive and from their own point of view. What do they need to know to feel reassured? Keep them informed.
Learn to say no
Ever get that call from this friend who just feels like chatting in the middle of the day? Or, may be your kids think you’re running a taxi business. It’s easy to feel guilty saying no, but the alternative is to be resentful because your work is not being done. By explaining what your working hours are and suggesting an alternate time, you are asserting yourself, showing respect to your friend or kids and modeling initiative and taking responsibility. If saying no is difficult, explore the reasons through some self-reflection. Answer the question “what’s the worst that can happen if I say no”. Practice with people you trust.
Avoid nothing and turn a blind eye
When working from home, it’s easy to be tempted to just put that one load of laundry during working hours, take a couple of hours to cut the grass or empty the dishwasher. Although there is nothing wrong in taking a break from work, making it a habit becomes problematic if it’s used as an excuse to avoid working on something more leveraging or important. Be vigilant and observe your behavior. If you notice  that doing the laundry or cutting the grass has more appeal than working on your proposal for a new client, then it’s time to ask yourself the hard question of what you’re avoiding and why.
On the other hand, the sight of a pile of laundry or a messy room may just be distracting. If that’s the case, close doors to messy room, schedule when you will do the laundry or cut the grass. Even better, delegate to other members of the household.
Take care of the Golden Goose
Studies upon studies have shown that the human body and mind cannot consistently work 80+ hours a week without getting ill one way or another. Yet, having a home office means 24/7 access to work and this can push you into the danger zone of becoming an obsessed workaholic.  As much as your business requires your full focus and attention when you’re working, the other parts of your life are equally important. Many very successful business leaders have learned that lesson and know that without taking care of themselves, the Golden Goose will not deliver for very long. As difficult as it may be not to work on your business all the time, see taking time for yourself as an investment in your business. Clearly define boundaries between working time and “me” time and honor these boundaries. Set time both for yourself and with friends and family. Develop a practice of self-care: go to the gym, meditate, take a fun class, do something that will recharge your batteries. The payoff is that you will be re-energized, more creative, more productive, more focused and happier.
Join the power of the mind
Despite being disciplined, working from home can leave you feeling unfulfilled and unproductive. Problems may seem too big or difficult to address. Your pool of creativity may have dried up. If that’s the case consider joining a Master Mind group. Master Mind groups are groups of people who get together on a regular basis and support each other in the achievements of goals, solving problems, discussing best practices and common issues. Master Mind groups may be just what you need to get replenish your pool of creativity, to fulfill you and give you your sense of accomplishment back.
Home based businesses are on the upward trend, particularly in these times of economic distress. It is different than working in a corporate environment, different even from working from home for a company. It does require and adjustment in attitudes, perspectives and working habits. But once you discover the sweet taste of freedom and master the skill of staying focused even in your pajamas, nothing beats it!
Copyright Elizabeth Skronski 2009, 2011. This article may not be used in any way without the express written consent of the author and/or copyright holder.
Elizabeth Skronski is a certified business coach, executive and life coach who supports her clients in achieving personal and professional goals with greater purpose, meaning, happiness AND less stress.  She can be reached at or 905-468-9054.

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