This is a guest blog post by Amber Singleton Riviere
Amber Singleton Riviere is the founder of Upstart Smart, a resource for small business owners, as well as the Rock Your Genius radio show, which focuses on small business and entrepreneurship. She also runs the Give Back Project, a web design and marketing firm, and writes for websites like Web Worker Daily on topics relevant to small business owners. You can find out about all of Amber’s work by visiting ambersingleton.com.
Having a successful home business requires not only planning and diligence but also the ability to understand yourself, your limitations and your strengths. One must be able to self motivate and to separate “home” from “business” in order to be successful; besides that, here are a few other tips that have worked for me in setting up and running my home business.
Tip #1: Figure out what works for you.
It’s important to start from a place of purpose and intent. It’s so easy to get sucked into all the distractions and pulls for our attention, but we only have so much time in a day, and the bottom line is, not everything is important to us. You have to figure out what you can live with, what’s most important to you. That’s going to be different for every person, but you have to just be honest with yourself and accept what’s most important to you and make room for those things while intentionally avoiding or eliminating the things that don’t.
Also, accept that it’s okay to do that. It’s okay to say, “I don’t have time for television,” for instance. I read a magazine article recently that said that Rachel Maddow, the host of The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, does not have a television in her house. If I hosted a television show, I know that I would feel compelled to not only have a television (probably in every room), but to constantly be checking in and seeing what’s happening. We place crazy expectations on ourselves based on what we think we’re supposed to do, and it’s just not necessary. Be okay with that. Look around your life and see what you’re accommodating out a feeling of obligation, because everyone else is doing it, or even just by default, because it shows up in your life. Say, “[Television/Twitter/Facebook/etc.] doesn’t work for me. I just don’t have room for it in my life,” and then be okay with it. Sell the TV. Shut down your Twitter or Facebook account. Get rid of all the extra baggage and clutter hanging around so that you have more room for what’s most important to you.
One example in my life is dust. I’ve learned to live with a little more of it than I used to accommodate. I hate clutter, but dust doesn’t bother me so much. I used to think that I had to dust every single item and surface in my house every time I cleaned it, which was a huge chore that took up a lot of time for something that I didn’t care about. I started realizing that keeping clutter in check was much more important to me, so I started focusing my cleaning efforts on that and began dusting much less often. That works for me. Now I can use that time for other things.
Tip #2: Honor a routine.
Although it can be a dynamic thing that fluctuates with changes in your life and business, I think it’s important to maintain some sort of routine. Approach your days and weeks with intention as well. Figure out your “big rocks” to move each day or week. These are the absolute top priorities that, if nothing else got done, you’d be content only having moved them.
Divide out your days and weeks into blocks of uninterrupted time to focus on each big rock. As you go through your day or week, keep referring back to your schedule to stay on track. When you start a focused work block, turn off all distractions and give your complete attention to that one priority. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish, and at the end of a day or week, you’ll be content with your progress.
Tip #3: Think in terms of tasks and to-dos, not hours.
Many business owners were once employees and have a deeply ingrained 9-to-5 mentality. We think, again, that it’s what we’re supposed to do. If we’re not putting in forty hours each week, we must not be doing enough. Instead of watching the clock, learn to watch the to-do list.
On a clear day, when you’re not feeling pressured or tied too closely to outcomes, figure out what you really want to accomplish within your business. Set your goals, put the milestones in place to achieve them, and then break those milestones down into actionable steps. Map out your daily or weekly to-do list based on those goals, milestones, and action steps. Put three to five to-dos on a daily list and get to work. When you reach the end of the list, you’re done.
Working the opposite way (thinking you just have to be “present”) will lead to a lot of wasted, water-cooler time. Instead of working arbitrary eight-hour days, opt for working highly-focused six-hour ones. You’ll be much more aware of your productivity and much more intent on achieving results.
As business owners, it is possible to achieve a greater sense of balance in our lives, but it starts with figuring out what’s most important to us, setting aside designated time for those priorities, and getting rid of unrealistic expectations or feelings of obligation. By focusing on the things that matter most, we can feel much more satisfied with our progress and have a greater sense of control over our direction in life and business.