Hours of Operation

When you are self-employed, especially if you work from home, Hours of Operation can be a very difficult thing to get a handle on.  Do you follow the hours of your clients or are you working randomly at any time of the day or night?

Quite often this will depend on the nature of your business and who your clients are.  My hours have changed several times over the years to match the companies I was doing work for.  At one point I was working a lot with a company in Florida – 3 hours ahead of my west coast time.  That meant an 8:00 am conference call was actually 5:00 am for me.  Not fun getting up at 4-4:30 am to be “wide awake” for a call. In this case, my day was broken up between “before breakfast” and “after breakfast”.

Having Hours of Operation does not necessarily mean that you need to sit at your desk for 8 hours a day as my great uncle did in my “Dress for Success” post.  For some businesses this works great.  If I’ve got a large program to map out and code, the 8 hour day works great.  I can sit down at the computer and work away for the whole day.  Sometimes I need to remember to stop to eat and stretch.  I find I get a lot done of those day where I can dedicate myself to a project.

The important thing about setting Hours of Operations is to set limits.  These limits are not just for you so you don’t work 24 hours a day but also to set limits for others in both your business and personal life.  If you don’t set limits, since you don’t have a “job”, you can become everyone’s gopher – from your significant other to your kids, parents, friends, neighbors, and so on.  “Since your not doing anything today can you…”  There is a common misconception of traditionally employed people that working at home means you’re not really working – one that you need to debunk as soon as possible.

That is why you need to post your Hours of Operations as soon as you start your new business.  MY BUSINESS HOURS ARE BETWEEN….

Of course, there are always exceptions and you have the freedom to make that exception especially if there is an emergency, but you need to set out what an emergency is.  Picking up dry cleaning or preparing a last minute meal for 8 is not an emergency.  Picking up your kid from school because he just threw up all over the home room teacher is.

If you have a certain amount of hours set aside each day to work, you can plan ahead and set your goals for the day, the week, the month, the year.  You can set your milestones – specific events you want to have happen, and you can meet deadlines.

Without your Hours of Operation how will you be able finish any project and how will you plan to finish your projects?  As with a manufacturing operation, you need Capacity Planning.  What are my resources (me) and what time frame do I have to with.  When you work alone, it is harder to keep to this discipline, but if you do, you will reap the rewards.

Make Your Bed

You may think I’m talking about the old adage: “You made your bed now sleep in it”.  I guess you could use that adage in regard to self-employment.  It works.  But I’m actually going to talk about, wait for it….Making Your Bed.

Why would such a mundane thing as making my bed make a difference in my home business, you ask?  Well, it would depend on you and your personality.  If you are an extremely disciplined, anal, Type A, obsessive compulsive personality, you probably don’t need to read this post.  You could probably bounce a quarter off your bed and it’s probably done before I even manage my first cup of coffee.

On the other hand, if you are of a similar personality to myself – lazy, procrastinating, easily side-tracked, then you may need to read further.

If you are working at home, one of the biggest problems is keeping on track and keeping motivated.  One of the biggest detractors of work is the nice, warm, comfy bed.  It’s so inviting and speaks to you as a lover, always wanting you to rejoin it at any time of the day browse around these guys. Don’t be fooled by its wily ways.  You CANNOT program or write from the comfort of your bed.  Believe me I’ve tried and, boy, did I get a crick in the neck!

Now here is a trick that you can try.  Buy lots of those horrid, little designer pillows to put on your bed.  Make your bed as usual and then NEATLY arrange all those pillows on the bed.  This creates a totally uninviting atmosphere for the possibility of sneaking a nap during the day.  For most men it’s a total turnoff anyway, but for women, once those pillows are in place, you really don’t want to mess them up – they’re so pretty.

Boring but Made

Once I got into the habit of making my bed, I found some other benefits as well.  1) If people pop in, your bed is made and you don’t look like a slob, 2) when it is time for bed, it feels like you’re living in a hotel with the bed nicely made (now if you could just train your significant other or your dog to turn down the bed and put a chocolate on your pillow you could feel like your living in a 5-star hotel), and 3) it’s easier to get to sleep as you don’t have to fight with the blankets and sheets to get comfortable.  It just makes life so much better.

Now if I could only do something about my EVIL lounge chair……

Once your in it won't let you out!!

Dressing for Work

As an entrepreneur, there are some things that employed people take for granted such as getting dressed in the morning that you may not feel are important to you.  If you are working from home you may feel that one of the perks of being self-employed is the ability to wear whatever you want to work.

Some of us have had incidents where we get on a Skype call and the video portion turns on.  There you are with your jammies or less.  You look like you’ve just rolled out of bed.  I heard of one woman who was on a call with a support person to suddenly find herself looking at a guy dressed only in his gaunch!!  And apparently, it was not a pretty site.

Even if you don’t do video calls, dressing is one of the most important preparations you can do every day.  It gets you in the mood to complete your tasks.  My recommendation is to dress based on the work you do.  If you are a programming guru you would probably get to wear jeans and a “software logo” T-shirt to work so it would not be presumptuous to wear that at home.  On the other hand, if you are a management consultant working with middle and upper management you may want to dress accordingly.  You probably don’t need to wear a full suit, but dressing professionally will make you feel professional.    Also, if you get called out to a client you won’t have to change your outfit.

When I was just starting out as an entrepreneur 25 years ago, I learned a lesson that has stayed with me for all of these years.  My great uncle, Ken Reitan, was a manufacturers’ rep for most of his working life.  He travelled a lot restocking stores and showing new products, but it was when he was at home that I got my lesson.  Uncle Ken had a little office in the basement of his house with a phone, a fax, his catalogues and whatever else he needed at the time.  I had a client in his city and I stayed with my aunt and uncle for a week or so while I was working there.  Here is what I saw.  My uncle would get up in the morning, eat breakfast, dress in a suit and head downstairs.  There was nary a peep from him until lunch at which time he would come up the stairs, take off his suit jacket and sit down and have a nice lunch with his lovely wife.  Once his lunch hour was finished, he would put on his jacket and head back down the stairs.  Again, there he stayed until “quitting time” when he would come back upstairs, change and relax.

You’re probably thinking what I thought at the time.  This is some disciplined guy.  How can you possibly work that way.  I can’t be that rigid.  Yes, you may be right.  I don’t know if he did that every day that he happened to be home rather than on the road.  What I have found is that on days that I do set out my “working” hours and follow his example, these are the days I get a ton of work done.  They are the days I feel like I have really accomplished something.   They are also the days that if I talk to clients or prospective clients on the phone, I feel and sound more professional.  I am a business person!

So the Tips for the Week is to dress for work.  Treat your home office as a “real” office and dress accordingly.  You will feel more like working and will act and talk like a professional.

Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year!!