Balancing Home & Work: The Challenge of the Home-Based Business
© 2002 Vishal P. Rao
With the holidays around the corner, you may find yourself struggling to keep your home-based business and your home life separate and running smoothly. And you're not alone.
Operating a home-based business has many benefits as you already know, but its main drawback is that it often causes the line between your work and your personal life to become permanently blurred. Unlike those individuals who work outside the home and who know their day at the office ends when they get in their car and start the commute home, home business operators do not usually have a definite end to their day.
The reverse situation is also possible: they may not have a definite start to their day either. If you have a hard time breaking free of your work responsibilities or if you sometimes have trouble settling in to tackle them, these tips will help you bring both aspects of your life into equilibrium.
Separate Your Office From Your Home
If your work computer is in the living room where everyone in the family congregates, chances are you are being bombarded by distractions. Plus, when it is time for you to relax, you may find it difficult with the computer right there as a constant reminder of all the work you still need to finish and all of the communications you still need to respond to.
The answer is to set aside an area of your home just for work. If you have an office or an extra bedroom where you can set up your space, then you can block out the distractions simply by shutting the door. Also avoid putting anything in your home office that might prevent you from getting your work done, such as a television.
If you don't have an entire room to dedicate to your office, move your computer and materials into a room that is rarely used or that is normally unoccupied when you need to be working, such as a bedroom. Once you have separated your home from your office, you will find it easier to stay focused on your work but also to leave your work in its space so you can relax and enjoy the remainder of your home.
Create Specific Working Hours
One of the best things about running a home-based business is undoubtedly the flexible schedule, but it can also have negative consequences. On the one hand, your schedule may be so flexible that you only work 30 minutes a day or so hectic that you find yourself working at all hours of the day without taking a break.
The answer is to set your own office hours. Creating your own schedule still has benefits. For one, you can decide what time of the day you start, so if you're not a morning person, you don't have to get up at the break of dawn. Also, if you prefer to stop working when your children come home from school, you can consider that when you decide when to stop for the day.
Another benefit is that you provide clients and customers with a specific times when you are available to work with them. The most important thing to remember, however, is to set hours for yourself that you can live with. Once you decide on a schedule, you need to stick with it long-term, so be realistic about how long you can work without taking a break and how much time you'll need to accomplish everything that needs to get done.
And, no matter how much you may be tempted to keep working, you need to stop when you say you are going to stop. Taking a break allows you to come back refreshed and more alert, so you can be more productive. An overworked, overly stressed person simply is not an effective worker at home or in an office.
Draw the Line Between Home and Work Communications
Has this ever happened to you? You and your family have just sat down for a dinner around the table when a client calls to talk about your current project or a customer phones with questions about a recent purchase.
The easiest way to prevent work from interfering with your family is to keep communications separate. Start by having a second phone line dedicated to your work and attaching an answering machine or voice mail to the line.
When your work day ends, you can turn on the machine and let it handle any after-hour calls. An extra phone line also allows you to maintain professionalism. Imagine the embarrassment of having your young child answer the phone when an important customer calls.
You may also want to set up a post office box for all of your business-related mail. Not only will this prevent your important mail from accidentally getting thrown away with the junk, but it will also offer you and your family a level of privacy.
After all, you do not want to make your home address available to everyone; it's just not safe. If you use email or instant messaging as part of your business communications, you'll also want to establish separate accounts for those as well.
The key to running a home-based business is balance. While it may be difficult to stop working on that important project or to concentrate on work while your preparing for the holidays, striking that balance is essential for your well-being, your family's security, and your business's success.
Vishal P. Rao is the editor of Home Based Business Opportunities - A website dedicated to opportunities, ideas and resources to make money from home. Visit him at:
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