Top challenges of a home office and how to beat them

We’ve all enjoyed Julie’s previous posts here & here, and its with great pleasure that I introduce her as a regular contributor to “Home Office” as her primary area of expertise with us…though she can speak with much authority on all aspects of entrepreneurialism (especially being Parentpreneurs) ;-) I value her tips and experience and always empowered by her contributions. Hope you enjoy and welcome her as well. Please keep the dialogue alive!

When I started my first business out of my home it took me a good 9 months to get used to it. Where was the water cooler? Oh, yea, it’s my faucet. Who wants to go grab a bite for lunch? No one’s there. There were certain adjustments I had to make. There were also challenges and temptations I had to learn to overcome. Should I be cleaning the house while I’m home? What about that treadmill? It took me a while, but I finally figured out how to make it all work.

Fast forward 13 years, 2 companies, and several offices-outside-the-home later and I am back working from my home office. This time, I’m taking to heart the lessons I learned the about how to overcome the temptations and challenges of working from home:

1. Keeping your priorities straight. My first office was in my basement staring directly at the washing machine. It took me several months to get over the draw I felt to get laundry done while I was working. Because I was new at this self-employment thing, I was not yet able to prioritize myself between home and work. They seemed intertwined and I felt pulled between the two. I had two separate lists – one personal and one business – each prioritized individually. Now I’ve learned to combine my list into one Master List with both personal and business items on it. THEN I prioritize the resultant list and find I am able to get the high priority tasks attended to without that nagging feeling that I’m missing something.

2. Setting up a routine. When my husband then joined me in my business a couple years after I had started it, he still felt the need to keep an ‘office’ routine even though his commute was 30 feet down the hall. He set his alarm, got up and took a shower, worked until lunch when he would go out and eat and run errands, and then work until 5:00. He really needed that routine. It took him several months to realize he could be more flexible with his schedule. Although he still sets his alarm, he’ll now go out and run errands before the office lunch crowd takes over the stores.

locked close door3. Closing the door. Having an office in your home provides for a great deal of flexibility as well as temptation. That great sucking sound heard in my house at night is the call of my work, pulling me in. I have found that in order to maintain my sanity, I have to be able to not only close the door, but LOCK IT. There are just times when enough has to be enough. There are other times when being able to

4. Reaching out. Working from home can be very lonely. If you’re an extrovert like me, you need people and working from home you’re normally ALONE (and little ones under 6 years old don’t count). Therein lies the dilemma. When I was traveling to see customers, it was not a big deal. I actually looked forward to a few quiet days by myself in my office. Now that my travel schedule is less hectic, I find that I need to schedule a day or two a week out so that I maintain what’s left of my sanity. Networking events, with the right groups, can be not only fruitful from a business perspective but also enjoyable. I also use the time to catch up with former colleagues or friends I haven’t seen in a while. It feels good to get out!

So what are the challenges that you face working at home? How do you combat those temptations? Do you wish you could do it more or less? Share your tips and let’s see how others make it work!

Julie Lenzer Kirk, an award-winning entrepreneur and mother of two, grew her business to multi-millions in revenues while raising her family. She cashed out of her company and now teaches entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County while providing workshops, consulting, and keynotes as the President & CEO of Path Forward International. She is the author of The ParentPreneur Edge: What Parenting Teaches About Building a Successful Business (John Wiley & Sons) and can be reached at Julie@JulieLenzerKirk.com or via her website at www.JulieLenzerKirk.com Sign up for her monthly Boot in the Butt™ e-newsletter at www.JulieLenzerKirk.com.

Comments

  1. says

    Excellent advice, particularly the Master List. I am constantly trying to decide between housework and work.

    I´m a total introvert, and live in Guatemala (Canadian expat), so getting out with my two little ones (2, 1) is often not a priority. Instead, I get my social fix by chatting with my sisters online and joining work at home mom forums.

  2. says

    I’m single and living alone: Isolation is definitely my biggest challenge. But I’ve decided to start doing some freelance reporting in addition to the copywriting so I can at least plan on interviewing people in person.

    Thanks for the interesting post.

  3. says

    Great post. The most important thing for me is creating a to-do list every morning. I try to put at least 4 or 5 things on it, and once I’m done with that I can do whatever I want. That reminds me… I kinda cheated today :(

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