How to get everything done when your office is at home
When I started my own business in the 90s, I wasn’t prepared for all the extra business tasks I had to take on in addition to delivering my core service.
And as a result it didn’t take me long to feel overwhelmed.
I simply couldn’t get everything done. After all, I was also a mum with three children and a husband who was away a lot.
Like many women who start a home-based business, my biggest driver was to have the freedom to choose my work hours and make childcare options easier.
Now, over 20 years later, I don’t think it matters whether you’re a mum, a grandma or a carer for a sick or elderly relative. Most women already lead busy lives with lots of commitments.
But no matter how organised you are, when you also run a business from home, it’s probably best not to underestimate the logistics and amount of juggling you will end up doing.
The benefits of a routine
Traditional work hours may be a thing of the past, unless you’re a freelancer with regular working hours.
The availability of care options for children or elderly relatives may also dictate how and when you can work. Some of my clients have quite a fractured work day. For example, they work half days so they can spend quality time with their family, making up the work hours either early in the morning, late in the evening or even both.
Whatever your circumstances, getting into some sort of a regular routine is vital if you want to your stay on top of your work and make sure your clients are happy. It really pays to find a rhythm that works for you and then stick to it.
The search to be effective
The next step is to try and be as efficient (and effective) as possible during your actual work hours.
But this is where people typically get stuck!
It’s easy to assume that a good time management or productivity strategy will help you to pack more into an already busy day.
I’ve seen people flock to time management courses or experiment with the latest Apps, always hoping to learn new ‘productivity secrets’.
But courses, Apps and books with promising marketing messages such as ‘achieve more in less time’ can easily be misunderstood. Especially when they reinforce the idea that women can ‘have it all’. That it’s both possible (and desirable) to be ‘Superwoman’ and that you just need to try harder and work smarter!
But in my experience that’s not how it works.
Women often end up feeling inadequate and guilty when trying to fit everything in. We don’t realise that it may not be a very realistic goal to aim for, even with the best possible intentions.
Also, do you actually know what your real business priorities are? Even I didn’t always know which business tasks are really important, and whether they would pay off or be a complete waste of time.
It seems to me that the more we do, the less clarity we have and the more ineffective we become. Hmm…
So what’s the secret?
All the ‘Superwomen’ I know, who seem to effortlessly combine a growing business with a demanding family life, actually have a well-functioning support team behind them.
They may not always tell you about it, but it seems they know that no (wo)man is an island. They know that you simply can’t (and shouldn’t attempt to) do EVERYTHING on your own. Especially the things you’re not that good at anyway.
They know that to ignore that important point can actually be counter-productive leading to more stress and costing you time and money in the long run.
But I know from personal experience that outsourcing can be quite scary at first. The problem many women seem to have is finding it hard to ‘let go’ — to trust someone else to be as good as we are (and we don’t always like it when they are better than us, do we?!).
The trouble is, home-based business owners who resist taking on help (often because they think they can’t afford it) often find that their low-impact tasks end up competing with their high-impact tasks.
The to-do list gets ever longer and I see many women be so busy that their important business building tasks end up on the back-burner.
This could make your business run into trouble!
If you’re new to outsourcing, just think what you would do if you didn’t have to do your time-consuming low-impact jobs any more! Jobs like housework, admin, data entry, proof reading etc that can be done for a small hourly rate by someone else.
Once you find people you trust and see them complete their project in a fraction of the time it takes you, trust me you won’t look back.
Especially once you realise that outsourcing frees you to focus on what you’re really good at in your business.
And what’s even better: financially it usually makes complete sense too!
So I believe that the secret to better productivity is to lighten your workload. It can feel liberating, frees your mind, reduces stress and can even propel your business forward!
Do you find it easy to ask for help? Have you been able to build a good support network around you? Please share in the comments below what works for you.