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5 Tips to Stay Focused & Productive at Your Home-Based IT Business

5 Tips to Stay Focused & Productive at Your Home-Based IT Business

Tuesday, May 10, 2016/Categories: IT Business Tips

You’re ready to start a home business, but are you prepared to manage your own work schedule? Falling behind on projects can lead to lost profits, or worse, a lawsuit from an upset client. You can manage the costs of such a lawsuit with Errors and Omissions Insurance, but it’s much easier to stay on top of your work.

Here are five tips that can help you stay focused and productive when working from home.

Tip #1: Create a Work-Friendly Environment that Fits Your Style

Your surroundings directly influence your productivity. Set yourself up for success by creating a dedicated and motivating home office, says Megan Shroy (@MeganShroy), founder and president of PR firm .

“When setting up my home office, I picked a space with great natural light, far away from noise and distractions,” Shroy says.

Make the space your own. Want a bunch of foliage? Plant some plants. Want to be surrounded by inspiring posters? Hang them.

“Invest in making your workspace comfortable and you'll look forward to working in it more often,” Shroy says. “I recommend carefully curating the furniture and décor to make your space both functional and in line with your sense of style.”

Tip #2: Mix It Up When You’re in a Rut

There can be some drawbacks to isolating yourself at home all the time.

Maxwell Ivey (@MaxwellIvey), a blogger, author, public speaker, and life coach at , identifies two problems with working at home:

  1. The scenery never changes.
  2. You have no people around you.

“Most of the time this is helpful to your productivity,” Ivey says. “But sometimes it can make you feel lonely or closed in. You have to figure out how much isolation you need and then take whatever steps are required to create this work environment.”

Ivey recommends changing it up once in a while. “Work in a different room, change the décor of your work space, alter the music or background noise.” When that doesn’t work, he says, going to a restaurant or coffee house can be a great way to break the routine and get some social interaction.

Tip #3: Create a Schedule, Structure, and Limits for Yourself

When you’ve found the space (or spaces) that facilitate your focus, it helps to have a plan for when and how you’ll work. Chris Huntley (@MrChrisHuntley), owner of , offers firsthand advice for how to do this:

  1. Structure your week. “Each Sunday, Google Calendar and I have a date. I figure out what my office commitments are, pinpoint my goals, and make a schedule. If you do not plan out your hours, responsibilities can pile up at the end of the week – just when you want to be winding down.”
  2. Eliminate personal social media during business hours. “As an entrepreneur, social media is part of my job, but I limit use of my personal accounts to my breaks or lunch hour. When I am working – I am working.”
  3. Be real. “No one works a solid eight hours in a day. As someone who works from home, I have to take a cold, hard look at reality and set up an attainable schedule. This includes taking breaks. My favorite thing to do is go for a walk. This refreshes me mentally and physically, which helps productivity.”

In sum: know how much you’ll work, what you need to do, and when you’ll take your breaks.

Tip #4: Connect with Coworkers

If you have employees or contractors that work remotely, you can stay productive by regularly updating them and keeping them in the loop.

Emily Sidley, senior director of publicity at PR firm (@ThreeGirlsMedia), holds a weekly staff meeting via video so her remote staff can see each other face-to-face. Not only does this get everyone on the same page, but it allows socialization and relationship-building that you might otherwise miss out on by working from home.

“I give each team member a phone call midweek to check in one on one, giving them a chance to bring up any questions and concerns, as well as a few minutes to chit-chat about our weekends and anything fun we've been doing lately,” Sidley says.

Another option? Meet at a co-working space when you need to collaborate with others and change up your scenery.

Tip #5: Fear the Taxman

For those of you needing a little external pressure to keep you on your toes, here’s a good reason to stay on task:

“Running errands, making personal calls, and doing anything but work while ‘on the clock’ not only hurts your productivity – it also harms your credibility in the eyes of the IRS,” says Deborah Sweeney, CEO of (@MyCorporation), a company that helps small businesses incorporate.

“A home-based business needs meticulous records to prove it is actually a business,” she notes. “The IRS tries to differentiate businesses and hobbies and won’t let a hobbyist claim the same deductions on their return as a business owner.”

If you’re having trouble making a profit, Sweeney says, you may be able to avoid getting your business deemed a hobby by proving it is being run like a business, meaning you clock in and work from your home just as you would in an office.

In other words, if you can show you try to work like a business, you’ll have an easier time come tax season.

More Reading

Take a look at these articles for more advice on how to start an IT business from home and make it successful:

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