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5 tips for effective work from home

Many freelancers, independent professionals and over the last decade or so more and more corporate employees are choosing to work from home. Many make the choice for practical reasons, such as way of reducing overheads, reducing commuting time, flexible hours and some purely because they have no other choice.

There are a number of benefits individuals can reap from working from home. However, the biggest challenges of working from home is being productive and effective at all times, by reducing distractions and staying motivated.

1. Get right the stuff

This tip itself deserve an entire series of blog posts, which in itself highlights that it's importance cannot be underestimated. It is therefore safe to assume that we're not just saying buy a beefy laptop and the world is your oyster. No the requirements for a decent kit overhaul go much deeper than that!.

The important thing to remember is that working on the dining room table is fine if you're only doing the occasional day here and there, but if you're going to be working from home for any extended period of time, it can get rather painful and your motivation gradually starts sapping away and not to mention you start losing stuff!

Packing up and unpacking before starting and finishing work, is a sure fire why to lose the odd "document", that essential reminder and lose some valuable working time. It's essential to create yourself a dedicated working zone. A space where you and the rest of the world know that you're at work, and that space should be comfortable enough for you to spend extended periods of time in flow.

2. Time Management

One of the major issues experienced by homeworkers, is trying to separate work from home! Especially if you're like me and you've turned your hobby into career, and you actually enjoy what you do for a living, and your business is much more than just a business it's your passion. You may be tempted to think that putting extra hours, because you're at home anyway is going to be of benefit. Think again, often it will be the case that putting extra hours will have an adverse effect on your performance. You'll just end up spending more time on less productive tasks, just because you have more time!

What you really need to do is keep track of what you're doing, how much time you spent on a task and most importantly find a way measuring the returns of the task. Essentially this comes down to effective time management, and there have been volumes written about this aspect of working life in general, it more so vitally important for the home worker. Especially if you're working from home building a business!

3. Set SMART objectives

The only problem with working under your own steam, is that you can quite easily become distracted and put off tasks you don't like till later, or worse yet become disheartened by the fact that you're not achieving anything because your objectives were too audacious!

It's often difficult to determine which tasks take priority, however it is easier to determine which tasks deliver the most value. You can only determine the value of task by being able to have some way of measuring it.

There is no point setting an objective of generating a million pounds worth of new business if you hate cold calling! However, if you set aside just 20 minutes a day, to doing some cold calling, with clear start and end objectives. For instance I choose to get my cold calls in early everyday, between 10:00 to 10:25 taking a break at 10:30 for morning coffee and a snack. It's my little reward for doing a job I hate, but has also been quite successful in generating new business over the years.


4. Find Some Colleagues

One of the greatest perks or working from home, is that you don't get disturbed or distracted by colleagues easily. However, also one of the biggest drawbacks is that you often don't have colleagues to bounce ideas off, or to ask for help. You're often left to your own devices to find solutions to your problems, usually these problems may be something that is completely out of your skill set or knowledge base. . It's essential to create a support network around you, get a list of contacts on your instant messaging client, of professionals you can call for help. For instance I have my skype , Jabber, Lync, gmail talk, twitter, linkedin, facebook clients all set up with all my contacts, that I can call for a variety of issues, often on a favour basis.
5. Be clear with friends and family

You need to establish some ground rules for both family and friends in order to define, that although you're at home during the day, you are not at home! You also need to make time for your family away from your computer. With work being so easy to access, and there literally no barriers to stop you to just "quickly do some work" or the compulsion to implement your latest brainwave can have detrimental on your relationships. You need to establish barriers between work and home, that all parties concerned need to respect.

Gary Woodfine
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