Coronavirus is affecting all of us. If you’re a handmade business owner and you’re looking for help on how to manage your time better and other work from home tips, keep reading.
The COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown is unprecedented and I know there are a lot of you working from home who maybe haven’t before at this capacity. I’m going to share with you some strategies that will help you become more productive!
Hi! I’m Mei Pak, and I help makers, artists and designers create a consistent income selling their handmade products online. I’ve been running my own handmade jewelry business for over a decade and I want to share everything I know with you, so we can all get through this and be successful, together!
So, I’ve always worked from home (the commute is amazing), but the problem is that your work is always just right over there.
I can’t count the number of nights I’ve stayed up later than I should’ve because I was doing ‘just one more thing’. I’m sure you can relate.
It’s hard to get that work-life balance, especially when work and life are in the same place.
I know more of you are working from home than ever before and working from home is harder than it’s ever been. Maybe you have a spouse who’s also working from home and getting in your space or your extra bedroom that used to be your studio now belongs to a kid unexpectedly back from college.
Maybe you’re trying to focus on work, but it’s hard when you’ve got a pile of dirty dishes in the sink waiting to be put away in the dishwasher. Or maybe just not having your regular routine is making it hard for you to focus at your desk, because now you gotta figure out a new routine.
I hear you. I’ve definitely been through a lot of those moments myself and I want to share some of my work from home tips with you!
Set a Schedule
The first thing is, definitely set a schedule. Tell yourself that after a certain time, you’re not allowed to do work things anymore.
It’ll take practice, but after a while, you’ll train your body to know that certain hours are only for relaxing or doing home stuff.
Try to create a routine. Now this is slightly different than a schedule but related.
A routine is all the things you do surrounding a certain event.
So, maybe to help you settle in to work in the morning, you make yourself a cup of tea, put on light music and then start work. This can help you get in the mood to work even if you didn’t necessarily start the day feeling motivated to do anything.
A routine helps you get into the habit of doing things.
Maybe you’ve heard this before, but if you’re having trouble exercising in the morning, then experts have recommended that you put your workout shoes by your bed so you can put it on right away when you wake up. That small action will help you kickstart the rest of the sequences of actions in that routine. Now you’re much more likely to actually work out.
On the other hand, a schedule helps keep you organized and on track to working on different projects and different parts of your business.
For example, my daily work schedule usually looks like this; when I’m ready to work in the morning, the first thing I usually do is talk to my team. I take this time to answer any questions they have for me.
The next block in my schedule is to work on anything on my to-do list. This usually takes up most of my time before and after lunch. I do things like review work for one off projects that my team has done for me, or making business decisions that sometimes require me to do a bit of research or talking to people.
Then finally before I check out for the day, I check emails.
If I didn’t have a schedule, I would just be pulled in every direction, I would not have control, and it doesn’t help me be proactive.
If you don’t have a schedule, don’t be surprised if you feel like you’re always putting out fires and never getting ahead in your business.
I used to be like that and it feels like a hamster wheel. It’s important to carve out time deliberately for parts of your business because that’s how things get done.
A schedule helps keep you organized, but more than that, it can be strategic for your mental health. When I read emails, sometimes I get bad news, like a customer issue, and to me, it’s not productive to start my entire day with that tone because then I’m going to carry that weight with me throughout the day and it’s going to make me have a hard time focusing on other work.
You know what a schedule also does? It tells other people in your household when you’re working and they shouldn’t bother you. You’re setting boundaries. Which brings me to my next tip.
Undisturbed Work Time
Give yourself the gift of undisturbed work time. This is so you can clear your head and really pump it out.
You’re much more efficient and productive when you have momentum and laser focus to do work. Every time you shift gears between things, you lose a bit of that momentum and efficiency. So here are some ideas for what you can do.
Turn Off Phone Notifications
Turn off notifications on your phone, either all the time or during certain hours. It’s hard to work with your phone buzzing at you and lighting up all the time. Every time it does, your attention is pulled away from the task at hand for a split second and it does take a bit of effort or mental strength to get back on track.
Close the Door
If you’re lucky to have a separate space in your house that you can work in, close the door when you’re working so other people don’t disturb you. You might also want to close the door when you’re not in there so you aren’t tempted to pop in and do more work. Work life balance, right?
Communicate with Your Family
The fact is, no one likes being interrupted but you’re going to keep getting interrupted if you don’t communicate with your family and yourself that you have a schedule. You can create an ‘I’m working’ signal like a sign you can turn on to show people you’re working. I’ve even read about someone who wears a silly hat to tell her family that she can’t be disturbed when she’s wearing it. It’s different but it just might work for you!
Put Away Your Work
At the end of the day when it’s time to stop working, I recommend that you should put away your work, even if it’s just the act of shutting the door so you can’t see that work.
If you don’t have a dedicated space, do what you can to pack up at the end of your workday. When things are out of sight, it’s out of mind. That way, your ‘not working’ time can truly be about relaxing and connecting with your family.
I remember when my husband was still working at a regular office job, while it had its own disadvantages like work drama and politics, I used to tell him that I envied that he could just leave work at work. When he came home, he didn’t have to spare a single thought to his work and he can just relax and watch TV and browse the internet and he would still get paid his salary.
As business owners, you’re always thinking about work, and it’s especially hard to consciously force yourself to stop thinking about it when you know the more work you do, the more money you could potentially make with your business. Your income is tied to the work you do, at least in the earlier stages of your business.
I understand the challenge, and how work-life balance is especially hard for business owners, but I really do recommend you make it a priority because otherwise you’re on the fast lane to burn out and that’s a scary place to be in.
Spend Money to Make Money
I know money might be tight right now for some of you, but I do think now is the time to splurge on a bit of technology that might make your life easier.
Hear me out.
The logic is, if your life is easier, you’re more productive, you get more done, you’re moving your business forward and potentially setting yourself up to make more sales.
So for example, you can get yourself a subscription to software that can help you bulk schedule your social media posts then you’re saving time.
Or maybe you want to invest in a new backdrop and a lighting kit for photographing your products since you’re spending so much more time inside. You’re going to level up your product photos, which helps increase your conversion rates on your site which means more sales.
Whatever it is, if there’s something that would help you make the best use of this time, it’s worth considering it for sure!
I hope these tips are useful for those of you newly working from home! It might not be the easiest situation, but I know you can do it.
Efficiencies here will really help your business be successful!