Working from home is not a walk in the park — especially if you have small kids (even teenagers) in the house the whole time. The reality is that it is hard: to make it work, you need an extraordinary amount of discipline, self-control and organization skills. Without these, productivity will remain low and income-generating potential will be severely constrained.
The freedom that working at home offers time with the family, no dress codes, no strict schedules and deadlines, and no glowering bosses can be a double-edged sword. These same things that we all long for a home business environment can serve as distractions, if uncontrolled.
There are a million and one reasons that could distract a working entrepreneur, and here are the top 10:
1. Family obligations.
Working from home allows many entrepreneurs to take care of both the family and business. They could work on their clients’ accounts while taking care of the baby or doing the laundry. Or could they? Balancing family obligations and working at home is hard. It is not easy to handle a crying baby while talking to a customer on the phone. Nor is it a picnic to mow the lawn, iron the clothes, cook dinner, take the dog for a walk while cramming to write a weekly newsletter. Imagine how clients would regard an answering service business whose owner could only respond to the calls a few minutes a day after all the chores had been done.
Working on a business requires focus and energy. Without proper time management, an entrepreneur could lose all his or her time and energy doing household chores without accomplishing a single thing for that day. Before starting the business, or when it is slowly picking up, it is important to make arrangements in handling housework obligations, maybe getting a babysitter for the baby, or rearranging the kids’ schedules so they could help out in the household work.
2. Frequent visit to the refrigerator or pantry.
Frequent eating is one of the biggest distractions for the home-based entrepreneur. With the refrigerator or kitchen a few steps away, many have taken the habit of munching all the time while working. Some could eat two big bags of potato chips without even knowing it. Well, taking a break to eat and snacking is ok; but overindulging in food is not. No wonder people are gaining weight when they start a home business. In fact, Income Opportunities Magazine reported that 36 percent of Americans who work from home or run a home-based business report that they eat more and a similar percentage say that they have gained weight.
3. Too much sleeping.
The key to running a business is to get things done. Obviously, a sleeping entrepreneur will accomplish little, if anything at all. While some work well during the day while others are night persons, it is important to properly schedule sleeping time. With the bed just a few steps away, some home-based entrepreneurs take their own sweet time leaving the bed, while others snatch some nap time every so often. Snooze times should not interfere with work and be scheduled around the planned objectives for the day.
Working at home sometimes feels like taking a vacation. No set schedules, and no deadlines to worry about. Plus, the entrepreneur is the boss! However, the whole thing can be overwhelming and too scary. Or the person may not know what to do. And well, yes, it could also be innate laziness. Whatever the reason, many entrepreneurs fall into the bad habit of putting away what they should do for the day, then cramming their heads off when a deadline looms. Procrastination often decreases personal productivity and increases stress levels. To ease this bad habit, self-employed people must become masters of planning. Whether it is done the night before or first thing in the morning, self-employed workers need to have a clear to-do list for the day, scheduling around interruptions and assigning deadlines.
5. Unnecessary phone calls.
Calling a friend to network is good for the business. However, talking to a friend for two hours about anything and everything under the sun while therapeutic and relaxing can affect the completion of relevant business tasks. Limit the yuck fest to a few minutes. Explain to friends that clients may be calling, or that an important project needs to be completed as soon as possible. If friends can’t take the hint, take the “don’t call me; I call you” approach.
6. Watching too much TV.
From daytime soaps to courtroom dramas, television is one of the biggest distractions when working from home. Remember the Ikea ad on home offices, where the woman working on a computer in her home office keeps craning her neck to watch the daytime soap unfold? Because it is so true! TV is an extremely distracting device (trust me, I’m a TV addict). Who cares about the web site, when the heroine is about to reveal who is the father of her baby? An entrepreneur who can still balance the books of a client while watching TV is blessed. But for those who can’t, they better schedule TV viewing around their plans for the day.
7. Getting sloppy. One of the advantages of a home business is the freedom from dressing up for work. No need to dress up in spiffy shirt-and-tie every day or power suits for women. Lounging around in sleepwear all day now becomes an option, so is taking a bath or shower. Heck, one can even not brush their teeth (although that sure is gross). How many people, however, can really deliver their best performance when they’re in their sloppiest state? Many people don’t. In fact, more home-based entrepreneurs report that they need to dress up even while working at home to help get them into an “office work” mindset.
8. Too many unnecessary activities.
Some entrepreneurs sit on their favorite couches to read the newspaper while sipping coffee, only to discover that half of the day has passed without a single task being done. Or it may be the computer game or web surfing that is meant to relax the mind, only to realize that three hours have already been wasted. Especially with social media, time can fly by so fast watching funny videos on Youtube, reading people’s rants on Twitter or checking out Instagram.
The house, with its relaxed and inviting atmosphere, can be a source of too many unnecessary activities. It is up to the home-based entrepreneur to discipline one’s self to control the urge to do mindless activities that do not contribute to the bottom line.
9. Drinking alcohol while working.
Occasional drinking is not bad, like a glass of wine during lunch or a beer while working on a client’s computer program. But anything excessive is not good at all (and we won’t even talk about excessive drinking and addiction)! Some entrepreneurs are finding that their “afternoon” drink comes earlier and earlier in the day. Or that a beer with lunch becomes a six-pack by dinner. How effective can an intoxicated entrepreneur be? While some do perform better with a little alcohol in their system, imagine a client’s reaction when hearing his or her virtual assistant slur and talk incomprehensibly on the phone. Even at home, home-based entrepreneurs should never forget that they are first and foremost, working and that alcohol has no place in that.
10. Working too much.
On the other end of the spectrum are home-based entrepreneurs who never could seem to stop working. With the computer just across the hall, they couldn’t bear to be away from it. They feel that they need to be there when an important email arrives. Or they should immediately respond to a customer who emailed his or her complaint. If they are running an online business, they need to know every second of the day how much traffic their web site is getting. They begin to view little everyday bonding activities like watching television with the family as an opportunity cost; the time spent on these activities is much better directed to writing that e-book. As the old saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” People need to balance their lives, and entrepreneurs are no exception.
Recommended Books on Working from Home:
- The Work-at-Home Success Bible: A Complete Guide for Women: Start Your Own Business; Balance Work and Home Life; Develop Telecommuting Strategies
- Work at Home Now: The No-nonsense Guide to Finding Your Perfect Home-based Job, Avoiding Scams, and Making a Great Living
- Jobs Online: Find and Get Hired to a Work-At-Home Job
- The Stay At Home Tycoon
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting a Home-Based Business, 3E
Originally published on January 10, 2013. Updated on March 24, 2020
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