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By Philip Nicosia
One of the challenges of working from home is how to draw the line between your personal and professional life. Family members (especially young children) may not understand that you’re “busy” when you’re just in the house, and may distract you right in the middle of an important call or letter. It may also be near impossible to stay organized and focused when your “work station” also happens to be the kitchen table, your bedroom, or the living room.
The most important thing to remember is that you are still working. Like all office environments, you need structure and space. Find a room (preferably with a lock) and equip it with a desk, a comfortable chair, appropriate lighting, a phone, and computer equipment. You may also need a printer, fax, and depending on your business, a scanner. There are some hybrid products that combine these functions, and you can install software that will allow you to receive faxes on your printer. Be sure to invest in cable or DSL as well, especially if your business is web-based.
You should set up a business email account; it looks more professional than sending or receiving business correspondence through your personal address, and at least protects your privacy. Your phone line should also be kept separate from your residential line; the last thing you need is your children tying up the phone or even answering it (some clients are put off by this).
Do invest in a filing system. Depending on your available space, you can get a small cabinet or even a wicker basket where you can place folders with important documents, receipts, and other records of your business. Go through these at least once a month so you can throw out any papers that you no longer need.
Now for office hours. It is recommended that you strictly follow a schedule: the specific times in the day, or days in the week, that you will focus on your work. Why? First of all, you want to have the discipline to shift into “work mode”, and the habit of sitting at your desk at those times will steel you from the temptation to “put it off until later”. It also helps manage the expectations of other people, who may think that since you follow your own hours that you are at their disposal. You can always say, “Oh, I’m sorry I can’t go with you, since that falls within my office hours. But I’m free from (name a time).”
Many people who work from home say that it helps them to actually dress up when they’re ready to get down to business. It’s psychological. It’s hard to take yourself seriously when you’re sitting in front of the computer in your pajamas; your mind still thinks that you’re on a break. You don’t have to wear a suit, but at least take a shower, brush your teeth, and put on a comfortable shirt and jeans. If you want, put on makeup as well-if you feel you look good, the confidence and enthusiasm will show in your voice.
Philip Nicosia is the webmaster of Resources.eu.com an online resource centre covering many topics including work at home.
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