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.