Home-based Business Workspace: Ideas to make it work

home business workspaceYet another Spark Bits Weekly where I ask a panel of homeprenuers a blazing question about running and growing their businesses from home.

Today’s Q is:

Tell us about your workspace at home and how do keep your business endeavors organized?

Stephanie Watson from Barry Publishing says:

home business workspaceI’m very fortunate to have a dedicated office in my home. I have two  file cabinets, two desks, a printer, two computers, a laptop, and from years of doing this, all the office paraphernalia one would expect plus two comfortable chairs and some bookcases. Since my husband helps me in my business one station is his and one is mine. I barely use the filing cabinet or the printer or other stuff anymore. I use Dropbox to keep all my files organized. I scan receipts to keep them in a file for tax purposes, which is practically the only reason the printer is used, and file warranty information in one of the file cabinets.

I use my office only for working. When I want to have fun and play around I go use my laptop in the living room on the couch. This gives me a nice feeling of separation, so that when I am off work, I am off work. Plus it keeps me from wasting time on social media. I use my laptop for work when I am away from the house, or sometimes, like now, when I’m writing something like this and need a change of pace after writing all day long. But mostly, I use my lap top for “off duty” stuff.

I have a desk that allows me to sit or stand. I read that sitting for more than 4 hours a day increases your chances of sudden and early death exponentially, so I had my husband build me a desk that enables me to stand while working. At first I thought it would be hard, but I find that I am actually more productive when I stand.

I have set working hours and days. I do work “over time” when needed, but mostly I try to limit that and get my work done within the parameters that I’ve set. I used to feel like I worked 24/7 and now I don’t. Sure, sometimes I work overtime and on my days off, but that only happens when I need to rearrange something or before and after going on vacation.

I’m very fortunate having this space and all the supplies and equipment that I need. Back when I first started, I had an office in the living room stuffed behind the couch. It was difficult, with the kids running through the room, watching TV and so forth, but it was all I had at the time.

One great thing is that today,  working from home virtually means that I need very little paper or other supplies other than a computer, the Internet, and the right software since I now keep all  files organized in my Dropbox, there’s not much to it. My expenses are low, and I run lean and mean.

Brenda Trott from Done4UMedia Marketing says:

home business workspaceAfter going through 3 computers in one year, I decided to store everything on the cloud. I use Evernote to capture things online or store them on my Google drive where I can grab them from my phone as well as any computer. I store things in folders based on the product I’m creating or the client I’m working with.

Although I have a home office, I often find myself working from my bedroom.  The biggest fault is that it is easy to lose track of time, and I’ll send emails out at 3am.  Once upon a time that didn’t matter, but now that smart phones are notifying people of emails, it becomes a problem when I wake someone up with my late night (or early morning) emails!

My Insights

home business workspaceWorking from home can offer many perks. For one, it offers the opportunity for flexibility, which is especially gratifying for people like me who value freedom.  But with the perks also come disadvantages and one of those is maintaining an organized space for your business, which can be quite difficult when you have the distractions from your home life.

Working from home requires some thought especially when you are just starting out. A goal should be to create a working space that is suitable for you and works for both your personal and business life. For me, feeling physically comfortable when I’m working, noise control and keeping things organized are pretty important.

Although I do have an extra room with a desk, like Brenda, I find myself working out of my guest bedroom because my back and legs get tired from sitting for long periods and I also like to elevate my legs on the bed. I find that I tend to stay more productive in that position. I do bursts of exercise in between to keep my circulation flowing and mind clear. I’ve also considered getting a higher desk to work while standing like Stephanie discussed because of the negative health effects of sitting for long periods.

I also need complete silence to work effectively because I get highly distracted and lose my focus really quickly. It takes me much longer to get it back. Therefore, when I start to work, my husband knows that I’m in work mode and doesn’t overstep that boundary. Maintaining boundaries with your family is really important especially if you are sensitive to noise and distractions like I am. Having a chat with your family or even putting up a sign on your door or work area can help establish an understanding where after a while, you won’t even have to say or do anything.

In keeping things organized, I keep all of my business related things in one room and just bring my laptop with me when I move around in my home. The majority of my files are in digital format so most of the time my laptop will suffice. If I do work on my desk, it has to be completely bare. I can’t work in an area that is messy and cluttered. It doesn’t allow me to think clearly or creatively.

The key, I think, is to find a space that works for you and contributes to your sanity, health and  productivity. From a psychological standpoint, structuring and finding a “place for business” in your home will separate your home life with your business endeavors. Assess your personality and find a home setup that will best contribute to your business success. Your home-based business workspace and the way you organize your biz endeavors is an expression of your personality. Try to create an environment where you will feel most empowered to do your best work and will enhance your productivity.

Have you assessed and reconsidered your home business workspace lately?

Nine Tips For Writing An Effective Task List

Do you ever have a hard time completing your task list for the day? Are there some tasks that sit on your list and rollover to the next day, and the next, and the next? Do they ever get done? Or do they eventually just fade off into oblivion?

Well, believe me, you’re not alone. This is one of the most common issues I see when working with coaching clients.

Most people recognize the power of creating task lists but far fewer people seem to know how to do it effectively. And here’s the interesting thing: A task list done poorly is worse than no task list!

Why is that?

Because when you create an ineffective task list you inevitably end up with tasks left undone. Any time you think, say or write done something you’re going to do, and don’t do it, you are reinforcing a pattern of failure.

Think about it from a Law of Attraction perspective. Remember, the Law of Attraction says that what you focus on expands. If you keep writing down a huge list of things you’re going to get done every day and only complete half of them and then rolling the other half over to the next day’s list, what are you focusing on?

Right, the unfinished tasks!

So how do you create an effective task list? Well here are 9 things I keep in mind when creating my daily task list. Check them out, give them a try, and see if they help you crank up your productivity and success!

1. Start with the end in mind.

I don’t think Steven Covey will mind if we start off with one of his habits! One of the biggest stumbling blocks I observe in my clients is that they don’t know why they are doing the things they’re doing. They don’t have the end in mind. If you’re just writing down a bunch of stuff to do without knowing why you’re doing it, it’s very likely that some of those things won’t get done. And it’s very likely that the things that do get done will not take you where you want to be. After all, someone once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s very unlikely you’ll get there.” Where are you going? What is your end? You should have a very clear picture of where you’re going and why you’re doing what you’re doing. Each time you create a new active task list, take a moment or two and get very clear about where this list is taking you.

2. Know your priorities and make sure the tasks that address those are on your list.

The only way to really know your priorities is to follow step number 7 above. Know where you’re going and you’ll know what your priorities are for that day.

3. Only put things on your active list that you are absolutely intending to complete today.

We all have a long list of important things that need to get done. And writing them all down is a great idea. But just because they’re written down doesn’t mean we’re going to do them right now. Have one list where you write down all of your tasks and ideas so you won’t forget them. Then, when you create your next active task list, refer to your master list to see what is ready to move to the active list for that day.

4. Think Micro-Tasks.

Another big problem I’ve observed in the goal setting and productivity habits of my clients is the tendency to create tasks that are far too big. You want big goals but small tasks! Writing down a task to, Build website (to give an over-the-top example) is going to lead to problems. That’s the goal. Tasks for your active list will include: Research web designers, hire a web designer, write first draft of homepage content, write second draft of homepage content, etc. As I was writing my task list today I caught myself writing a task to Read Charlotte’s new client questionnaire. That seems like a simple task, but after I wrote it I realized I hadn’t printed it out yet. So I added a task, Print Charlotte’s client questionnaire. This may seem like a silly example, but having that extra, specific task, serves a couple of important purposes. First it encourages me to think clearly and plan effectively. And, second, it gives me another task to check off my list. And never underestimate the power that little checkmark has to validate and reinforce your patterns of success!

5. Be specific.

To make prospect calls  is not a specific task. Make 5 prospect calls is better. But the best would be to list the 5 specific calls you’re going to make. Call John Smith. Call Becky Jones, Etc.

6. Do not add to your list while you’re working on it.

Don’t fall into the bottomless cup of coffee method of task creation. We all have ideas come up while we’re working. We all remember things we’re supposed to do after our task list is written. Resist the temptation to add those items to your active task list. As new ideas come up, and as you remember things you’re supposed to do, add them to the master list and when you create your next active list pull them over, if they make the cut.

7. Shorter is better.

Don’t you just love the feeling of crossing that last task off your list? I sure do! And there is a very important reason why you want to do that every day. Finishing all the tasks on your list reinforces a pattern of completion and success! And that is extremely important. Most of us have patterns of mostly done, or almost done, and they are hard wired into our brains. 90% done is not done. If you’re leading the race 99% of the way to the finish line and then stop at the last step, you lose! Every time you leave a task list incomplete for the day, you reinforce a pattern of incompleteness.

8. Have a separate busy work list.

All of our lives are full. We all have lots of stuff  that needs to get done. Resist the temptation to add that non-productive stuff to your active list. Instead, have a separate list for your busywork. This list includes, email, administrative work, organizing, bill paying, invoicing, etc. If you work at home, anything non-work related goes on this list. Tackle the items on this list during your prime-time periods of the day and, ideally, only after you have completed one active task list.

9. Celebrate!

Remember, you want to shift your focus off of what’s not done and onto your successes. So each time you complete your task list for the day, reward yourself. Do a happy dance. Have a little chocolate. Whatever is going to reinforce and help you celebrate your success.

Here’s the bottom line.

Keep your list short, specific and on target so that you can complete it every day and reinforce the critical success habit of completion!

If you want to check out some task list resources these are a few good ones:

The system I use for my task management is Simpleology: The Simple Science of Getting What You Want. I’ve been using Simpleology for over 2-years and have seen the system evolve from a paper-based system to a completely web-based version. This one has definitely worked for me. It’s really a perfect solution if you spend most of your time at the computer.

If your work takes you out and about and you’re away from the computer for much of the day, check out, David Allen’s Getting Things Done system.

Monday Motivation :: Planning for Distractions

Monday Motivation Home Office NinjaIt hardly feels real to say it, but summer is right around the corner. My kids have 3 weeks of school left… and then… my silent work at home haven will transform into a chaotic messy disaster for three months straight. I both look forward to and dread summer. I love getting time with the kids, taking them out to Millennium Park and the Zoo and all, but they also eat me out of house and home and make working well… challenging, to say the least.

So it’s time to start planning for summer now. Last year my 94 Ways to Keep Kids Busy for the Work at Home Parent post was so dang popular it made it to the front page of Digg. In fact, it was so popular that it was the reason I spun off Shannon’s Seasonal Kids Activities blog. She focuses on kids crafts and activities that only need materials you likely already have in your home, like her recipe for slime, making Origami balls, and some super cute spring crafts.

But for me, keeping the kids happy in the summer is only half the battle. I tend to want to go outside and play instead of work, and I admittedly have a harder time focusing with all the chaos in the background. So I’m toying with the idea of coming up with some kind of summer work schedule. I’ve resisted that kind of structure in the past, but the business is getting to the point where I don’t know how else I’ll manage everything that is going on. So, Brandie, do you have any time management suggestions for us?

Today, though, the kids are still in school. And I’m going to milk every last minute they are there. I’ll get a little ambitious this week with Monday Motivation, and here’s how it works:

Step 1 – let us know what you are going to get done today (your to-do list, so to speak).

Step 2 – put it in a comment below or a post on your own site.

Step 3 - let us know what will motivate you to get it done – a reward, consequences, or whatever you need to think that will ensure you do what you say you are going to do. I’ve found that the public announcement and accountability is a particularly great motivator, but throw down consequences if you really need a kick in the pants to get stuff done! Unless, of course, you are working towards a new laptop too, in which case I think the reward is particularly motivating.

We don’t care how you get it done, we just want to support you in reaching your goals.

Today before I go to sleep I will:

  • Set up a conference call with Lijit to get them set up on Sparkplugging
  • Create a house ad for the ProBlogger book
  • Get through the 252 emails in my inbox
  • 3 loads of laundry

And by the end of the week I will:

  • Have a project timeline in place for a new ‘Sparkplug U’ project I’ve been planning in my head for months
  • Go for two bike rides
  • Update my 10 Days to a Better Blog eCourse (which still says we’re ‘eMoms’, and still hasn’t been moved to the new domain yet!)
  • Send an update email to my mailing list
  • Make cookies for my hubby, our 10 year anniversary is this week!! :)

If I don’t have all of this done by the end of the week, I will go without coffee and tea for a week (Oh, I HATE it when I fail when I throw down that leverage!!).

So what are you going to get done today or this week?

Monday Motivation :: Last Day as a Technorati Hottie

eMoms at Home Last Day as a Technorati Hottie

I’m supposed to be well rested and revived on Mondays. But in preparation of launching with a new name *tomorrow* (we hope!), I worked over 25 hours this last weekend. My kids are so getting tons of mommy time when this is over!

And in honor of our last day as eMoms at Home, I thought it only fitting that I wear my Technorati Hottie shirt, because it’s going to be a while before I can put this thing on again. ;)
Am looking just a little bit tired in that there photo…

So needless to say, with all the work that still needs to be done, I’m not in need of motivation as I am in need of, well, sleep. But Monday Motivation MUST GO ON, so let’s get this over with so I can get back to work and give you anxious readers your brand new site!

So, what is the Monday Motivation drill?

Step 1 – let us know what you are going to get done today (your to-do list, so to speak).

Step 2 – put it in a comment below or a post on your own site.

Step 3 - let us know what will motivate you to get it done – a reward, consequences, or whatever you need to think that will ensure you do what you say you are going to do. I’ve found that the public announcement and accountability is a particularly great motivator, but throw down consequences if you really need a kick in the pants to get stuff done! Unless, of course, you are working towards a new laptop too, in which case I think the reward is particularly motivating.

We don’t care how you get it done, we just want to support you in reaching your goals.

Today I have so much to do that I don’t want to make my usual promise of getting through my inbox – and I apologize profusely to any of you who are waiting for a response from me. But there are a couple of things that I HAVE to get done today:

  1. Finalize new author contracts and send them to at least 6 of our 13 new writers
  2. Respond to any outstanding advertising inquiries
  3. Send out 5 emails to contest sponsors

Leverage :: If I don’t have all of this done by the time I go to sleep tonight, we won’t launch tomorrow and you will KILL me! But I’ll also give one of you $100 cash, just to keep in tradition with my usual tradition of building accountability into my day.

So what are you going to get done today?

Monday Motivation :: Spring Fever

I believe that the White Witch has finally been vanquished here in Chicagoland, which has had its snowiest winter since the infamous blizzard of 1979. I was seriously beginning to feel like we were stuck in Narnia :: always winter, never Christmas.

Yet behold, the signs of life:

Spring Flowers

Repeat after me:

I will not play hooky until my deadlines are met.

I will not play hooky until my deadlines are met.

I will not play hooky until my deadlines are met.

So, what is the Monday Motivation drill?

Step 1 – let us know what you are going to get done today (your to-do list, so to speak).

Step 2 – put it in a comment below or a post on your own site.

Step 3 - let us know what will motivate you to get it done – a reward, consequences, or whatever you need to think that will ensure you do what you say you are going to do. I’ve found that the public announcement and accountability is a particularly great motivator, but throw down consequences if you really need a kick in the pants to get stuff done! Unless, of course, you are working towards a new laptop too, in which case I think the reward is particularly motivating.

We don’t care how you get it done, we just want to support you in reaching your goals.

Today before I go to sleep I will:

  • Clean out my inbox of 462 emails
  • 3 loads of laundry
  • Finish changing WordPress settings all new blogs
  • Create thumbnails for each blog
  • Call Kelly McCausey

If I don’t get all of this done by the time I said I would, I will give a Kiva Entrepreneur another $250.

So what are you going to get done today?

Monday Motivation :: Crunch Time

Spring Break. Entrepreneurship. Neither are for the faint of heart.

This week is my crunch week. Next week, I guarantee you my house will look like this.  I am praying, *praying*, that we can relaunch next week with our new name. Of which yes, since you asked, has been chosen & obtained, and will remain a secret for just a little bit longer. ;)

I have so much to do I can’t even begin to figure out what to put on my Monday Motivation list… but since this little kickstart to the week is starting to become a popular habit among many of you, I had better pull myself together and figure out what needs to be done.

What is the Monday Motivation drill?

Step 1 – let us know what you are going to get done today (your to-do list, so to speak).

Step 2 – put it in a comment below or a post on your own site.

Step 3 - let us know what will motivate you to get it done – a reward, consequences, or whatever you need to think that will ensure you do what you say you are going to do. I’ve found that the public announcement and accountability is a particularly great motivator, but throw down consequences if you really need a kick in the pants to get stuff done! Unless, of course, you are working towards a new laptop too, in which case I think the reward is particularly motivating.

We don’t care how you get it done, we just want to support you in reaching your goals.

Today before I go to sleep I will

  1. Set up emails & adserver with new domain information
  2. Clean out my inbox of 203 emails
  3. Send out new logo info for authors to review

And before the end of the week I will

  1. Have all pages set up in new root level blog
  2. Have all settings/plugins/widgets set up in 2 new blogs
  3. I’m scared to commit to anything else because that is a crapload of work right there

If I don’t have all of this done by the end of the week, I will have 15 pissed off authors on my hands. I’m quivering in my bunny slippers at the mere thought of that. :o

So what are you going to get done today?

Monday Motivation :: Your Week on Caffeine

Its Monday, and its another week in home office land. Time to band together to get stuff done!

Last week was both extremely unproductive and yet I moved mountains. I opened up the discussion on rebranding eMoms at Home, and I got an earful. I spent every waking minute on naming, branding and research. Which unfortunately meant that I didn’t do a few things on my list from last Monday. So I picked three random participants from that day, and will the following people please send me a 125×125 ad for your site:

Selene M. Bowlby

Ria Kennedy

Suzie Cheel

This week I’ll have to throw down a little steeper leverage, because my inbox is spiraling out of control and I’m close to a decision on a new name. Which means no. time. for. slacking.

So what is leverage and what is Monday Motivation anyway?

Step 1 – let us know what you are going to get done today (your to-do list, so to speak).

Step 2 – put it in a comment below or a post on your own site.

Step 3 - let us know what will motivate you to get it done – a reward, consequences, or whatever you need to think that will ensure you do what you say you are going to do. I’ve found that the public announcement and accountability is a particularly great motivator, but throw down consequences if you really need a kick in the pants to get stuff done! Unless, of course, you are working towards a new laptop too, in which case I think the reward is particularly motivating.

We don’t care how you get it done, we just want to support you in reaching your goals.

Before I go to sleep today I will:

  • Clean out my inbox of 504 emails (I’m SOooooo bad!!)
  • Do four loads of laundry
  • Spend 30 minutes on author contracts
  • Email Megan
  • Meditate

I’d usually also put up a list for the week, but knowing I have a mountain of work ahead of me, I’m not going to commit to specifics. I’ve found the hard way that jumping into a rebrand is way more unpredictable than I ever could have imagined!

If I don’t have all of this done by the time I go to bed tonight, I will give a Monday Motivation participant $300 cash.

There. That should make sure I don’t get off track. :)

So what are you going to get done today?

Last updated by at .