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How to be Productive When Working From Home as a Small Business Owner

How to be productive when working from home
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How to be productive when working from homeWorking from home as a small business owner is ahhhh-mazing if you ask me, but it can be difficult at times too!  You can play your music as loud as you want, the commute is (very) minimal, you get to stay in sweats all day with no make up should you choose, and there’s no one telling you what to do.  It’s great, until we get tempted by all the things: like Netflix, and laundry, and then cleaning the whole house, and doing bills, and then before you know it your friends are dropping by, calling you at all hours, and you’re barely getting anything done. (Or you just can’t get motivated for the life of you.)

So, today I’m going to share 8 tips for working from home as a small business owner so you can get motivated, and take on the day with a plan in place to get.things.done.

Time Management Tips for Entrepreneurs

And that brings me to my first tip!

1. Go Into Each Day with a Plan + Realistic Deadlines

Here’s how that’s done: first, you need to prioritize your to-do list. I recommend choosing your top 2-3 tasks that you want to get done for the day and working on them first.  If you don’t do them first, it’s likely that you’ll get stuck in emails for hours, and bogged down by the more meaningless and mundane tasks that go into running a business. If you don’t have 3 major tasks to get done for the day, I simply recommend writing your to-do list in order of importance and going at it one by one.

Using Asana to Work Smarter Not Harder

It’s also important to structure your day like you would at the office: taking a break for lunch and getting your eyes off the screen, and giving yourself deadlines like a boss would.  Except this time it’s you requesting that the blog post is on your own desk by 3 ;).

I recommend setting time frames for your tasks (i.e. Write blog post from 8:30 AM – 9:30 AM to give yourself something to work towards.  Time is a GREAT motivator, and beating the clock just feels amazing and tends to help you keep off of distracting websites and time wasters. I use the Multi Timer app on my phone often to set timers and keep myself accountable.

2. Set Boundaries When Working from Home

There are two boundaries I think that need to be set when it comes to working from home.

  1. Our time is valuable and we need to be intentional with it.
  2. We’re not always available.

I think the hardest part about working from home as a small business owner is not working. I think that’s the bigger problem. So I’m going to address that first and say that it’s important to set boundaries on your time, especially if you have a family that you should be devoting time to.

Find your best times to work and make a schedule for yourself and then be intentional with your time to get work done within a certain time frame. Remember the beauty here though, is that working from home means you’re not bogged down and locked into a 9-5 schedule.  Maybe it’s 8 AM – 12 PM and 8 PM-12 AM, whatever your fancy!

Boundaries When Working From Home

The other boundary and expectation to set is that you are still at work.  This is the boundary you should set with your friends and family.  Just because you’re “home” does not and should not mean that friends can drop by, that your spouse can call you 10 times a day to do favors, that friends can just call to chat for an hour.  These things are FINE to do, OBVIOUSLY, but it’s better for your business if they’re scheduled ahead of time, so you can be intentional with your office time.

3. Have Monday Morning Meetings

I feel like this was the thing that most employees hated when I worked in an office, but personally, I loved them because they set the expectation for the week ahead.  When I worked in a Photography Studio, we had a meeting every Monday about what projects had to get out that week, what clients were coming in, who was going to be working on what “team” and what “project” and our boss assigned tasks and deadlines to everyone.  It was 10 minutes tops, usually over breakfast in our kitchen nook.

This is something I carried over into my business and this is the rundown of how it goes:

  • Sunday night, I brain dump everything in my head that’s floating around in there.
  • Then I add it to my Master list of tasks and ideas.
  • If there are things on there I want to or need to implement right away, they get moved into my daily lists.
  • If there are things on there that members of my team are responsible for, they get assigned a due date and a tag in Asana.
  • Then all the tasks get shuffled to their daily list, and we go over any meetings, sessions, or big projects coming up for the week, as well as any priorities we have for some larger goals.  
  • We also go over what content is going to be posted, what albums need to be ordered and finalized, what gifts need to be sent out, and so on.

Using Asana for Increased Productivity

I recommend this even if you have no employees! Brain dump on a Sunday night, and then prioritize your list into daily task lists for all the days of the week. Monday morning meeting, complete!

4. Don’t always work from home: Get Out of the House

This seems counter intuitive to the title of this blog post, but as a business owner working from home, I know how difficult it can be to get out of the house. It sucks you in!!! And it’s comfortable. And you can stay in pajamas. And not shower if you don’t want to. I mean what?

BUT, all that being said, I think it’s super important for your mental health (and emotional!) to get out of the house too. After all, we didn’t sign up to be a hermit!

Tips for Working From Home: Get Out of the Office!

I’ve found that the ONLY way I get out besides running errands is if it’s schedule in advance. Spontaneity doesn’t work for me when it comes to this because truth be told, I’d usually rather stay home and work! So, I recommend getting your out of the house time on the schedule.

It could be to go to the gym, get outside for a walk, work at a local cafe, network with someone over lunch, or going to a Tuesday’s Together meeting! Or maybe just a date night! But I’ve found that if it’s not on my schedule, it really doesn’t happen. So get it on there and don’t be a hermit.

5. Minimize Distractions

This is a big one. And as I’m writing this blog post, I’m sitting out by my firepit and there is SO MUCH white noise! It’s delightful! I hear crickets and a plane overhead and the water trickling down our man made waterfall and the fire crackling. The world is quiet, and I can write in peace.

And that’s one of my first tips for minimizing distractions! I love and recommend the free chrome app: Noisli to add a little white noise to your day.  You can even have it on in the background while music is playing! It cuts out the minimal noisy distractions and let’s you focus on what’s in front of you.

This also means: no netflix playing in the background while you try to work, no hours spent on Facebook and Instagram aimlessly scrolling, and no jumping down the rabbit hole of texting and pinterest.

A few other ways I manage my distractions are:

  • Newsfeed Eradicator: This hides your FB newsfeed and replaces it with an inspirational quote.
  • Do not disturb:  When I want to buckle down and do work I put my phone on do not disturb.  
  • Self Control: SelfControl lets you block your own access to distracting websites, your mail servers, or anything else on the Internet. Just set a period of time to block for, add sites to your blacklist, and click “Start.”

6. Find your most productive hours

The next tip is to find your most productive hours. We all consider ourselves either one or the other: a morning person or a night owl, or maybe even somewhere in between.  (Yes I know that’s three options now) There are certain times of day I’m better at writing, and certain times I’m better at creating.  And then there are certain times I dedicate to email when my brain doesn’t need to focus on things like writing or being creative!

The beauty of working from home is that you get to make your own hours. Whether it’s early in the morning or late at night, find your most productive hours and realize them! Then, schedule your work time within these hours for maximum productivity.

7. Take Breaks When Working From Home

It’s easy to work work work work work when we’re at home.  Especially when we run a business, because us working usually has a direct result on our income. Plus, there’s usually a lot on our plate!  BUT, I think it’s so important to take breaks, because honestly, our brain cannot focus all day long!

So take a walk, go to a coffee shop, workout, call a friend, sit outside and enjoy some fresh air, sip your coffee while reading a book.  Give your mind a break, and your eyes a break from your screen.

Workflow + Systems = Less Work, More Life!

8. Get an Accountability Partner

The last tip for working from home is to get an accountability partner! Three ways I do this are:

  1. Business coaches who I talk to once a week who stay on top of me to get things done.
  2. My mastermind group, that also meets online once a week
  3. And an accountability friend!

For my accountability friend, we meet once a week over zoom (video chat) to  swap to-do lists, and work together virtually.  It’s delightful for the company, and we actually swap to-do lists because each of our weakness is the others strength so we take each others tasks (I take her workflow and she takes my design things) and we get things done!

Find a friend, or a group you can turn to to keep you accountable, and I promise you’ll be better for it.

———–

And there you have it! 8 tips for working from home! If you enjoyed this post and want to take it a step further, grab my free guide for creative small business owners on how 5 ways to master your time, schedule and to-do list.  Just click the image below for access!

5 Ways to Master Your TIme, Schedule, and To-Do List

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  1. Mary Hurrey says:

    I absolutely loved this article. I work from home and while many of the concepts presented, I learned over time, a refresher is wonderful!

    Thanks for updating the link!

    • lneff says:

      HI Mary! Thanks so much for reading! A refresher is always a good thing! Glad it was helpful and thanks for reaching out! =)

  2. Laura, this was so helpful. Literally my friend and I were just discussing working from home and how to maintain a schedule. Thank you for always being so insightful!

  3. Mollie says:

    SUCH a great list Laura!! I couldn’t agree more. My fave is #4 because some days the distractions (housework!) are too much. 🙂 But I do love the wonderful natural light and artwork in my home office.

    • lneff says:

      Natural light and artwork is the best! And plants (although I am a sucky house plant owner!) Thanks so much for reading, Mollie! =)

  4. Sandy says:

    What is the Trello type program you are using? Where you list your tasks per day?

    • lneff says:

      HI Sandy! I use Asana! =) I used to use Trello but it was a little too basic for what I wanted to do. Asana has all the features of Trello and then some, so I switched to that!

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