No moaning boss, no more clock-watching and all the profits are yours. But before you can achieve this utopia there are a few things you have to get to grips with, not least time management.
Back in May we published a post called Time Management for Copywriters, feel free to take a look at the whole post, but just to recap, the main elements you have to master are:
1. Remove distractions
If you work from a home office, it’s very easy to get distracted. Whether it’s by visitors, home phones ringing, that book you’re desperate to finish or the temptation to pop out of the office to take care of a household chore or two, they must be ignored.
Having a dedicated office, is a must. You can organise it in a way to suit you without having to clear your things away every evening.
If you work from the kitchen table, just think how much time you waste every week setting your bits and bobs up to start work and then clearing them away again so you can use the table to eat with the family.
2. No Facebook or YouTube
Even though you’re sat in front of a computer most of the day, it doesn’t mean you can idly search the web for your entertainment.
And just in case you were thinking that if no one sees you it doesn’t matter – it does.
Make a rule for yourself that you only ‘play’ online once your working day is over. That way, you can remain focused on the projects you’re working on during the day.
3. Learn to say ‘no’
Unless you want to be working silly hours to try and get your work done and deadlines met, you’ve got to learn to say ‘no’ to those clients who just want one more thing (and usually don’t want to pay for it), to colleagues who just call for a chat, to family who make demands on your time (especially during school holidays) and to projects you know you really can’t squeeze in.
That might sound harsh, but when working from a home office it has to be done now and then.
Make sure your family understand that, even though you work from home, you are still working and they have to respect your work time. And, if you’ve decided you only want to work a certain number of hours a week, stick to it and don’t take on that extra project that’s going to eat into your weekend.
It’s all too easy to end up taking on so much work you’re at your desk 24/7. So be sensible, decide on the number of hours you’re going to work and stick to it.
Keeping a calendar is a simple but effective way of making sure you hit all your deadlines.
When you’re working on several projects simultaneously, it’s all too easy to lose sight of when each section of work has to be completed.
It will also give you an overview of your capacity for future projects to help prevent you from over committing yourself.
5. Daily to-do list
Don’t laugh, it really does help.
At the beginning of each week I make a plan of what I need to do and when. That way, I make sure my blogging fits in with my client work and meetings. And of course, it also helps to make sure nothing slips through the next.
Yes, it does have to be flexible because you never know what might come in, but at least it’s a way to plan your week effectively.
6. Email watching
OK, hands up if you have that little annoying pop up thingy that appears on your screen every time an email comes in.
It’s so distracting I want you to turn it off immediately.
Limit yourself to checking your emails once, twice or even three times a day. That way, you can get on with the task in hand without being distracted by an intriguing subject line.
7. Timed work slots
This is a great way to make sure you don’t run out of steam during the day.
From your to-do list, you’ll know what you need to do each day. So, allocate a time slot for each task. Once that time is up, have a break – leave the office, make a coffee, wander round the garden or even take the dogs for a walk.
Then, you will return to your desk refreshed and ready to tackle the next task.
But if all else fails you can always resort to drastic measures.
On Mashable there is a fantastic post that tells the story of Maneesh the blogger from San Francisco who realised he was wasting time on sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Reddit when he should have been working. To address this he took the unusual step of advertising on Craigs List and offered to pay someone $8 an hour to slap him when he appeared to be wasting time on a social network.
Did it work?
Well, during the ‘slapping period’ his average productivity level shot through the roof from 38%, on average, to 98%.
Not bad – although a little extreme.
Over to you
What do you do to make sure you stay productive whilst working for yourself?
Who can beat Maneesh for originality?
Go on, leave a comment below.