Congratulations! You’ve finally done it and made the jump to being a full time entrepreneur, or maybe you’re now a creative small business owner. This is a big deal and you need to take some time to relish your accomplishment. While you’re doing that, also start to consider what it’s going to take to set yourself up for success right from the beginning.
While you might have traded in your commute to the office for the casual styling of your living room sofa you still need a system — and a set of ‘norms’ that will help you thrive in both the short and long term.
It can be tempting to think that you can sleep in a bit each day, wear pajamas while responding to your email and leave your house only to check your mailbox, but these behaviors might not help you over the long term. You lose the divide between your work and personal life — and space — and this isn’t conducive to doing your best job.
Establish a Routine
Treat your new gig as you would a regular job and establish a routine. This means giving thought to what your business hours are and trying to stick with them. While working for yourself offers limitless flexibility, you don’t want to start off on the wrong foot. Decide each day when you’ll work and find a time management system that works for you.
Try getting up at the same time each day and getting ready as if you were about to go out the door to the office. I workout in my basement, eat breakfast and shower before my husband and son leave for work and school. For me it’s also important that I wear something business casual, make an effort to do my hair and put on some makeup. It sets the tone for my day and demonstrates (even if it’s just to myself) that I mean business.
If you are working from home make sure that your mornings get you off to a productive start and are focused on your business — not doing things around the house. I know how quickly you can go from working on a client project to taking a quick break, and suddenly finding yourself distracted by the dishwasher and a mountain of laundry.
I’ve had success with chunking my time into blocks, each with a specific intention or use based on how I know my energy flows. This means that I typically start my days with time for large projects that require focus and attention. I’ll break these up with half hour blocks where I grab a bite to eat and deal with a few things around the house. Afternoons are a bit more relaxed and are when I deal with email, proposals and other administrative work.
Simply knowing that I’ve allotted myself time to do other things that aren’t business related has freed up a lot of mental space. Time chunking has become a part of my routine and the results have been impressive.
Create a Dedicated Workspace
One of the keys to being efficient and producing your best work is having a comfortable space to do it in. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy especially when you’re first starting out, but you need to have part of your space dedicated to work. This consistency will help you focus in the same way that a routine will give structure to your day.
It’s a lot easier to focus in an area that has been set up to support your ongoing needs throughout the day than constantly running around to try and find where you left your stapler and highlighter from the day before. It could be that you make a few modifications to your kitchen table or invest in a rolling workstation for your computer. Think about your space and where you’ll be most comfortable and productive.
In my case, I use my large kitchen table as my workspace during the day and quickly transform it for dinner at 6:00pm. The cost has been minimal — a standing desk converter, a small box to hold my office supplies, agenda and any paper files I have and a cute succulent garden to brighten the space. Once my work day is over I can have my ‘office’ cleaned up and out of the way in under two minutes.
Get Out of the House
While it might be tempting to spend each day at home, cozy in your sweats on the couch, you need to get out and mix things up. This type of variety in your work location can help with focus and may even spark your creative genius.
Try dedicating one day a week to working somewhere other than your house. Good options are a local coffee shop, your public library, or a co-working space. Not only is the change in scenery good for your mental health, but you also need some human interaction to keep things interesting and fresh.
We’re social creatures designed to be in connection with others, and by interacting with others we stimulate our brains in ways that help with creative thinking. It could be that your conversation with a barista gives you new insight into a particular problem, or the person next to you at the library shares how they manage their computer files in a really useful way.
You don’t know who you’re going to meet out there, so keep your eyes up and a be ready with a smile.
Your success as a new entrepreneur is based not only on how hard you work, but how smart you are when you do it. By taking a little time to set a strong foundation right from the start you increase your chances of meeting and exceeding your goals. Good luck!