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Are You a Slave To Your Home Office?
by Janet Attard

Dear Janet:

About a year ago I quit my job and started working at home full- time. Now, I'm finding isolation and managing my time better are crucial.

There are many days when I find myself working for 14 to 16 hours --or longer! I come right downstairs to my office in the morning, stopping only to grab a cup of coffee. With few, if any, interruptions, I am productive, but on days when I have no outside appointments, I may not even go outside. Sometimes I don't shave. I feel isolated and it's uncomfortable.

There are other times that I don't FEEL like I've gotten anything done.

I begin working on the most important task, but hours later find I haven't gotten to other priorities. It's as though old tapes are playing in my head saying I haven't gotten anything done because I've been home all day.

I love working from home and don't want to go back to an office job, but I'm having difficulty coping. Any suggestions?


Dear Jim:

How familiar your concerns are! When the office is only footsteps away, it's tempting to slip in to get "one little thing" out of the way before breakfast, and to return after dinner to complete a job. The result? You never seem to get OUT of the office. And that is bad for you and your family.

Frequently the problem develops because self-employed people have to handle all the jobs that would be delegated or shared in the corporate world. Unless you are unusual, you are your company's typist, file clerk, marketing department, salesperson. In short, whatever needs to be done, you do.

Still, most self-employed can reduce the time they spend in their home office -- if they really want to. You've already taken the first step by recognizing the problem and starting to look for solutions to it.

Here are a few suggestions to make more time to enjoy all the good things in life you're working so hard to achieve:

Keep a log of your activities for a week or two. Record the time it takes to complete each thing you do, then evaluate the log. Did you waste time on "busy work" -- self-imposed chores you could have skipped? Were all your phone calls necessary? Are you interrupting yourself by investigating one new business idea after another -- without completing projects already scheduled? Eliminate such time-wasting activities, and you'll shorten your work day.

Hire a full- or part-time assistant, if possible. This will reduce your work load, and force you to maintain a more business-like appearance. High school students and college students, stay-at-home parents who want to work while their children are in school, and retirees often are interested in part time work, either to gain job skills or keep busy.

Schedule free time for yourself during the day. . Make sure you stick to the schedule by making appointments to meet others for lunch, tennis, golf, or any enjoyable activity -- even walking. While you may resent the interruption to your day initially, eventually you'll find you accomplish more when you take a break than you do when you work nonstop from morning till night.

About the author
Janet Attard is the owner of Attard Communications, Inc., which provides editorial content, online community and web development services. She is the founder of the award-winning  Business Know-How small business web site and information resource. Janet is also the author of The Home Office And Small Business Answer Book and of Business Know-How: An Operational Guide For Home-Based and Micro-Sized Businesses with Limited Budgets.  She can be reached at (631) 467-6826 or by email at attard@businessknowhow.com.

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