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Ahhh…the stress-free life of working from home. There are no co-workers to interrupt you, no boss looming over your shoulder and no set work schedule. You can come and go as you please, dress however you like and even leave your home office early to catch a movie.
Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?
It is, except for the hidden stress-inducers including interruptions from your family and neighbors, a few household chores screaming for your attention and the lure of a nearby refrigerator.
You can’t control all of the stress related to working from home, but there are some things you should always do and other things you should never do to keep home office stress level low.
- Replace outdated equipment. Your old computer may work fine, but how much time and energy are you wasting on old, out-of-date equipment and older versions of software? There are great deals out there so get rid of your old fossil of a computer and buy something that’s faster and has more memory. The same goes for your scanner, printer, copier and fax. Combine all four capabilities into one piece of equipment using a multi-function unit, such as Brother’s MFC-J615W.
- Use a good planning system. Whether you use a paper-based system, a computer program or your handheld to plan your days, make sure your planning system fits your needs and comfort level. If you don’t have control over your schedule, your stress level will spiral out of control.
- Get ready for work each day. You don’t have to dress in a business suit, but by getting dressed each morning, you’re prepared both mentally and physically to take on any situation. Also, you never know when you’re going to need to run out and meet with a client or pick up office supplies, so you can finish a last-minute project.
- Set a work schedule. If you leave your work hours up to chance, you may not make it to your desk until 3:00 every day. Your schedule can be flexible — that’s the beauty of working from home — but knowing when it’s time to work and time to play can make each day a little less stressful.
- Get sidetracked by personal tasks. It’s easy to throw in a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, vacuum the family room and take care of anything other than the projects that need your attention and can improve your bottom line. There’s nothing wrong with handling personal tasks, but schedule them before you go to your home office in the morning or at the end of the day. A short personal task may turn into a long list of tasks that take you away from your business all day.
- Commit to more projects than you can realistically accomplish. When a client wants you to handle one more task or take on one more project, figure out how much time the new task or project is going to take and how much time it will take away from your personal life and family. A good way to respond to a client is to let him or her know that you would like to help, but you won’t be able to give the project or task the time and attention it deserves.
- Continue to renew print subscriptions. Before you renew another subscription to a magazine you haven’t read in over a year, decide whether it would be better to subscribe online or get the information you need, online. There are thousands of websites that provide detailed articles about any subject you can imagine. You’ll be able to get the news and information you want, when you want it.
- Let clients set your schedule. One of the more powerful words you can learn to use is “no.” Whether you have clients who wait until the evening to call you when they could call you during the day, or other clients who continue to ask for “one more thing” and an unrealistic deadline, you need to be able to call the shots. Your clients deserve quality customer service, but that doesn’t mean that you have to meet their (sometimes unrealistic) demands at the risk of being stressed day and night.
Stress is part of everyone’s life, but when you’re working from home, it doesn’t have to be. The lack of a commute, the ability to choose your clients, and the freedom to work whenever you want, can bring anyone’s stress level down a few notches.