If you are running a home-based business, you're probably doing so because to some degree, you enjoy working alone. This can be a blessing since much of what you do probably benefits from you being left undisturbed, but at the same time a battle because isolation can create bad work habits. Sitting in your home office day after day can be exciting when you first start. After a while though, it can lead to unhealthy habits that erode your productivity. Here are some tips on keeping yourself connected, and active, even if you work from home alone.
Pay attention to your body.
It's all too common for a home-based business owner to settle into his or her office chair first thing and not move all day because they are engrossed in a project, or have a major deadline looming. But, ignoring your body's needs all day is not productive. Make sure you take regular breaks (yes, that means get up out of your chair) and move around. Walk up and down the stairs, take a walk around the neighborhood, sit on your deck for a few minutes, or do some stretches. Moving and getting away from your desk, for even a few minutes, several times a day will increase your productivity.
Meditation is a wonderful way to regroup your brain. Just ten-minutes once or twice a day will actually make you more efficient and focused. Studies have been carried out that prove that increased productivity more than makes up for the time spent on sitting and being, not doing.
Feed yourself properly.
For those of you who can get through a day without thinking about food, don't sit down before you've had some breakfast, and don't ignore those hunger pangs you feel at lunch. Having high-protein snacks and a healthy lunch will give you more energy and clarity, and eliminate that mid-afternoon slump. Your brain needs a balance of carbohydrates and proteins to function well. For those who have the opposite tendency, and working at home brings a constant temptation to nibble your way through the day, allow yourself two coffee breaks and one lunch break during the day, prepare healthy meals and snacks, and don't eat at any other time.
Schedule connection time every day.
Make sure you spend a portion of each day connecting with the outside world (you have to use your voice - e-mail doesn't count!). Make some sales calls, return messages, call a business associate and chat about how things are going, talk to your suppliers, or phone an old client you haven't talked to in a while. Disciplining yourself to stay connected will keep you from getting too comfortable with being alone.
Schedule out-of-office meetings.
When you do have to meet with people, try to schedule meetings at their place of business, or at a mutually convenient coffee shop or restaurant. It's good for you to get away from the four walls of your office - a different atmosphere inspires creativity, and a break from the ordinary will make you feel more energized when you return.
Vary your tasks.
When you have a significant task ahead of you, it's tempting to put your head down and work till it's done, but sometimes, stopping what you're doing and attacking a different task for a little while can actually increase your productivity. Shifting gears to change focus from an intense task to a lighter task can give your brain a much-needed break and regenerate perspective. Take ten minutes to answer emails, do some filing, organize your bookshelf, and then get back to your task.
Limit Internet surfing.
It's so easy to do - you go to a web site to research a specific, work-related thing, and before you know it, 30-minutes has gone by and you're planning next year's vacation! Internet surfing is a huge time-waster. Find a way to discipline yourself to only visit sites relevant to the work you are doing.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media sites can be a huge asset to small businesses, but just like Internet surfing limit when and how you get involved. If you are continually checking your Facebook feed and becoming involved in conversations, or watching videos, large chunks of the day can disappear. Also during working hours, focus on groups that have the potential of helping your business. Leave visiting your personal Facebook page until lunchtime, or better still after work!
Schedule play dates.
When you work for someone else, your personal interaction with others is planned for you. When working at home, you need to make a point of scheduling some play time once in a while, to keep you sane and accountable.
Find a buddy, or a group of others who work from home, and start a focus group. It will increase your interaction with others, but will also give you an opportunity to get feedback on difficulties you are facing in your business, perspectives for problem-solving, creative ideas for growth and a sounding board with others who are walking the same path. In the same way, you can assist them in their business growth, and that will make you feel great!
Perhaps an excellent "play-date" would be with a coach who can help you in areas you're struggling with?
Many people say working from home is the best decision they ever made. If you're still doing it, it probably was for you. Developing a few good habits will go a long way towards making your home office experience a productive one.