Getting Work Done At Home, Even During the Holidays

Guest Post by Angelo DiGangiWorking from home during holidays

The holidays offer a special challenge to those who work from home. Family members don’t always understand that freelancers or small business owners can’t necessarily take the holidays off the way those who work nine-to-five in an office are generally able do. Here are some tips to help you organize your home life in a way that will enable you to get things accomplished, even during the holiday season.

1. Make sure to have a distinct work space.

One key step towards maintaining a strong focus is having a clear delineation between your professional and home life. That means setting a space aside for work and nothing else. Even if you don’t have the funds or square footage for your own home office, you can still create a dedicated area that you use just for professional activities. Of course this should be a part of the house that other people use as little as possible.

2. Make sure your work space looks professional.

When working from home, it is easy to get in the habit of working on your laptop on the couch in front of the television. Having a professional-looking work space instead will help set the right mood and encourage you to get things done. Make sure you have an actual computer desk and an organized-looking workspace, with a filing system for your papers and records. Using appropriate furniture, especially a good office chair, will also help ensure that you don’t get carpal tunnel syndrome or other repetitive motion related injuries.

3. Make sure to have a distinct work time.

Setting a specific time of day to get work done can help you hold yourself accountable. In addition, it can make it easier for you to schedule other times to do activities with your family and any guests you have in town, so that they don’t feel neglected. You can all plan on enjoying dinner together, for example, then while everyone else goes to a movie, you can go home and take care of whatever business is at hand.

4. Take steps to eliminate distractions.

One of the biggest barriers to getting work done at home is the constant availability of distractions. Once you’ve figured out where and when you’re going to work, try to free the surrounding space of distractions. Keep your desk free of personal papers. Put holiday catalogs and gift to-do lists out of your line of vision. In particular, unless you need the Internet for a project, consider using programs that allow you to turn off the Internet for a few hours to ensure that you use this work time as efficiently as possible.

Angelo DiGangi has been helping customers as a Home Depot store associate in the Chicago area since 1994. Angelo provides advice on home offices for Home Depot’s Home Decorators website. He provides DIY tips on using room dividers, bookcases and other furniture to accent home offices, and separate these areas from the rest of the home.

Home Office (and more) Shortcuts to Make Your Life Easier

When you work from home, tips and tricks that can help you save time and money are invaluable. The Twisted Sifter blog post “50 Life Hacks to Simplify Your World” is filled with home office and home tips that are both cheap, and easy to follow.

Here are a few of the top tips:

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For more tips from Twisted Sifter, click here.

 

Discover the Seven Principles for Time Management

The path to success takes time, patience and a plan. As the old saying goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?” In her new (must-read) book, What’s Next? The Seven Steps to Discover Your Big Idea and Create a Wildly Successful Business, Joy Chudacoff shares the proven strategies she’s used with clients for over two decades.whats-next-book-joy-chudacoff

As a Professional Certified Business and Life Coach, Joy has helped her clients discover what has been holding them back, how to identify their target market, and more importantly, how to grow their business.

The following is an excerpt from her book. There are more detailed descriptions of the principles in the book, but I’ve highlighted key points.

Principle #1: Create a Positive Relationship with Time.

My old relationship with time was one in which I saw time as the enemy, Time was always eluding me, ignoring my needs, and leaving me stranded at moments when I needed just a little more. My new relationship with time is one in which I honor and cherish it. I’ve learned that if you develop a better relationship with your time and honor its value, you will gain the most you can with the time you have.

Principle #2: Commit to Your Values.

Determine what your values are in both your personal and professional life. Your values are those areas in your life on which you place a high priority, and nothing else is allowed to push its way in front of those areas. Some examples could be family, self-care, business, friends, community, or spirituality. The key is to peel back the layers on what you value most about a particular area in your life.

Principle #3: Create Boundaries and Embrace the Word “No.”

I can remember a time in my life where I would always say yes to anything that anyone asked me, because I wanted to feel like I was supportive to everyone in my life, sometimes even strangers. But if you are to live a life embracing what you value most, creating boundaries is necessary. A different way to look at boundaries is to think about the different types of time. There are three kinds of time we all have in our day:

Focused: Focused time is when you concentrate on an area of high importance in your personal or professional life.

Flex: Flex time is when you are performing the work associated with your business. Anything that involves working with clients or personal tasks is considered flex time.

Open: Open time is free time to enjoy family, friends, and self-care activities.

Principle #4: Master High-Priority Versus Low-Priority Tasks.

There are only twenty-four hours in a day, yet most of us would need double that to accomplish everything on our plate. It’s essentials that you gain a clear understanding about what is high priority and what is low priority.

Principle #5: Set Aside Focused Time.

Focused time is another tool you can use to evaluate your success on the road to entrepreneurship, as it helps you make sure you are on track with your goals. It’s a time when you eliminate all distractions to work on your Big Ideas and goals.

Principle #6: Master Your Energy Levels.

As we mature, our energy levels change. It’s important to notice when you are most energetic or have an energy surge during the day. In my own life, no matter what happens during the day, even if I’ve barely scratched the surface of my high-priority items, I go to bed at 10pm each night.

Principle #7: Operate in Your Genius.

In my work with women, one of the essential exercises we do together is peeling back the layers of their lives — both personally and professionally — to explore and discover their “gift,” or what I sometimes refer to as their “genius.” You may be reading this right now and thinking, “I don’t know what my gift is” or “I don’t have a gift.” But you do have a gift. You have genius inside you.

Joy Chudacoff is a Professional Certified Business and Life Coach. Her company, Smart Women Smart Solutions®, has helped women from all walks of life. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.

You Can Still Be the Boss Without Being a Jerk

boss is a jerkYesterday was National Boss Day. While my corporate counterparts may have been sucking up to a boss, I was thinking about ways to thank myself, the boss, for my hard work and dedication to my business.

I’ve come a long way from when I worked for a jerk. This awful boss demanded long work hours, rarely took breaks, and scheduled deadlines that were impossible to meet. She was annoying, a perfectionist, and impossible to please.

The horrible boss I worked for, was me.

When I reminded myself that I left the corporate world to get away from the exact type of boss I had become, I gave myself a break, gave up my awful boss habits, and finally enjoyed working for myself.

If you’re ready to work for a boss who is understanding, reasonable, and respectful of your time and talents, there are a few simple changes you can make.

Limit the number of hours you work each day.

When your commute is only seconds away, it’s easy to go to work early and stay late. Think back to the last time you walked into your home office to work on something for an hour, and then three hours later you were still working. The key is knowing when to stop working and when to start enjoying your personal life.

Keep your to-do list reasonable.

Keep in mind that you can’t do everything. Instead of making a long list of tasks to finish in one day, figure out which tasks you can move to another day or even another week. A long to-do list is overwhelming and can keep you from starting even one task.

Schedule at least one mini-vacation each year.

When you worked for someone else, scheduling two weeks off was easy. When you work for yourself, finding time to take two days off may seem impossible. Make a point to get away from your home office so you can recharge and reconnect with your family. You don’t have to leave town…just leave your home office.

Limit your weekend hours.

Depending on what type of business you own, and whether or not you can avoid it, limit your weekend hours. Some clients may only be able to meet with you on Saturday or Sunday, so it’s important to be flexible. Other than that, schedule all other appointments during the week. (Note to real estate agents: ignore that last suggestion.)

Establish rewards for completing difficult tasks and accomplishing major milestones.

A reward doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate. A walk around the block or going out for a cup of coffee can serve as a motivator to get the job done. Even taking time off to shop online, watch the latest trending video, or read a book you downloaded months ago can be as good as a pat on the back.

Don’t expect perfection all of the time.

Before you retype an e-mail for the third time, or make another change on a proposal, ask yourself why. Perfectionism is a dangerous trap. Before you know it, your standards become outrageously and unreasonably high. Find a balance between what is acceptable and what could hurt your credibility.

When you work for the boss from hell, and the boss isn’t you, you can quit and do your best to find another job. But when you’re the boss from hell, you can continue to make yourself miserable, or take steps to improve your working relationship with yourself.

How to Create A Great Website On Your Own

A WP Made EasyThree years ago, I never imagined I would be able to maintain my own website. Sure, I could upload new blog posts, but I left the rest of my site maintenance to a Webmaster.

Then Ori Bengal and I crossed paths. He was coaching a friend of mine at the same time I was looking for a business coach. After Ori and I met (virtually), my business and site changed forever. He helped me focus on the main parts of my business and redesigned my site to make it more user friendly.

It’s easier to learn when a program is interesting.

Ori is more than a web designer, as you can tell from his CouchSuringOri site. He’s the type of person who sets goals and achieves them, while at the same time helps others achieve their dreams. So when Ori told me about his new WordPress program called Make WP Easy (affiliate link), I knew that the program would be simple, filled with helpful information, and, best of all, entertaining.

So simple, even a 9-year-old can do it.

The key to Make WP Easy is how simple it is. This program is divided into modules that offer step-by-step directions. Ori not only shows you how to set up and configure a WordPress site, he shows you exactly how to find the right theme for you and helps you determine what makes a good theme. One of Ori’s favorite clients is a 9-year-old girl who created her own site using Make WP Easy.

You don’t have to be a programmer to understand WordPress.

Ori draws on his skills as a business consultant and coach to teach you how to mind map and design what you want your site to do. “Make WP Easy is about simplicity… taking the complex, and breaking it down so that anyone can do it,” says Ori.  One of the best parts of this program is that you don’t have to know HTML or CSS to create your own site. “The program came about because there were tons of courses on WordPress,” says Ori, “but they all expected you to understand programming and other things that overwhelm people.”

Take control over your website.

Rather than depend on someone else to create and maintain your site, do the work yourself with Make WP Easy.

To learn more about Make WP Easy or to order the program today, click here.

 

Cool Home Offices To Inspire You

The right home office can inspire you to work harder, or keep you from working at all. It all depends on where you set up your home office, how you furnish it, and whether the space fits your needs. Recently, ODDEE featured 10 cool home offices that prove a little creativity can go a long way. Here are two of my favorites:

Beach office

                     The Beach Home Office

 

simple before:after office

                     The Backyard Home Office

 

Ways To Stay Safe While Looking For Online Jobs

FlexJobsGoogle the words “legitimate work from home jobs” and you’ll find around 4 million listings. Some of the listings truly are legitimate, but others are clearly scams. Sara Sutton Fell’s business, FlexJobs, is one of the exceptions. FlexJobs offers legitimate work from home jobs — every company is screened carefully before any of its jobs are posted — that can be done from home.

FlexJobs has had to overcome a few misconceptions (I admit I had a few doubts), thanks to less-than-honest scam artists out there who are ready to cheat anyone. Fell offers a few questions to make it easier to tell whether an online placement company is legitimate or not.

  • How much information do they provide up-front? Any company that has you sign up or provide personal contact information before giving you comprehensive details on what you are actually signing up for is a big red flag.
  • Do the words “evasive” or “sketchy” come to mind when you look at their site and read the information? If there is anything that gives you a gut reaction causing you to wonder if it’s legitimate, that’s a red flag.
  • Does the site provide contact information, including an address? If there’s a contact form, use it to try to talk with someone to ask some questions before signing up, or if there’s a number, try calling it. If you can’t reach a company as a prospective client, you will NEVER be able to reach them as a dissatisfied one.
  • Check with the BBB, IC3.gov (the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership including the FBI), and even google. Google the company name with the word “scam” and see what comes up.

Not only does FlexJobs offer legitimate jobs, they have a blog filled with helpful articles including How to Find a Real Online Job (and avoid the scams!).

Happy (online) hunting!

Cutting-Edge Tech Tools You Need to Work from Home

home office tech toolsGuest post by Elizabeth Phillips

You know the benefits to working from home: increased productivity, improved happiness, and lower costs. And more and more people are beginning to catch on. According to Forbes.com, 30 million Americans work from home at least once a week, a number that is expected to rise by over 60% over the next five years. Three million Americans already work from home full-time.

Whether you’re self-employed or you telecommute from a large corporation, here are a few cutting-edge tools that can help you make the most of working from home.

High-speed Internet

The most important tool for at-home productivity, and the one you need to use all these tech tools, is a high-speed, reliable Internet connection. It will allow you to communicate with clients or coworkers, research projects, keep up with industry news, share and organize files, and schedule and keep track of appointments.

To do all of that faster, try fiber-optic Internet like Verizon FiOs, AT&T U-verse or Google fiber. Fiber is a faster, more reliable, and more consistent Internet connection. With fiber Internet, you’ll be more productive – and happier – working from home.

Google Drive

Google Drive is a cloud-based file storage system that allows users to create, upload, edit, and save documents online instead of on your computer. The program saves limited storage space – and it allows you to access your files on any device. Google Drive is also a great way to back up your information in case of computer trouble.

Evernote

Evernote is like a personal assistant for all your tech devices. With Evernote, you can make to-do lists, save webpages, keep track of appointments, and share notes with coworkers or clients. You can type your notes or write them in your own hand with a stylus. And Evernote includes several cool add-ons like Evernote Clearly, which cleans up webpages for easier reading, and Evernote Food, for saving recipes and restaurants.

LogMeIn

Even when you work from home, you’re not always at your desk. But with LogMeIn, you can access the files and programs you need on your work computer – on any device. LogMeIn lets you run programs, control your desktop, fix problems, and access and edit your files remotely, whether you’re on your tablet, smartphone, or a public computer.

FindIt

You have a lot of files – and you probably save them in a lot of places. Find them more easily with FindIt. FindIt allows users to search files across multiple platforms, including Gmail, Dropbox, and Google Drive. Search by sender or file name, and filter by file type and time.

Elizabeth Phillips is a freelance technology writer with a focus on how the Internet improves our lives. She can be found (productively) working from home in Philadelphia, PA.

You Can Still Be Chic, Yet Cheap

Potterybarndesk

source: Pottery Barn

When I started working from home two decades ago, I did my best to hide the fact that I had a home office instead of a corporate office. It wasn’t cool to work from home and run a company.

As far as my clients knew, I was working in a stuffy office building instead of in a comfy home office. One of the drawbacks of working from home was that my only home office furniture options were cheap, badly designed computer workstations and desks that fell apart after one or two moves.

Now that working from home is more celebrated than criticized, furniture manufacturers — even from the commercial side — have created functional, stylish and even affordable home office furniture.

Some of my favorite places to shop for reasonably-priced home office furniture are Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, West Elm, Z Gallerie and commercial furniture dealers—they sell to individuals too. Sometimes you can find home office furniture by well known and respected manufacturers at Costco and Sam’s Club.

Before you buy anything, check for quality. You may think you’re getting a bargain, but don’t be surprised if you have to replace that same item after a few months. I’m still shocked when I walk into an office supply superstore and see a chipped or dented desk. If it doesn’t hold up in a store, is it really going to last in your home office?

With more decent furniture choices available, your home office doesn’t have to reflect the corporate office you just left (or feared being trapped inside for at least eight hours a day). Instead, your home office can, and should be, a reflection of your interests, taste and design sense.

Create the Perfect Team With Your Competitors

Guest Post by Lucinda Cross

Portrait of business people with their hands togetherA good way to increase profits, reduce risk and broaden your market is by joining forces with a competitor. Maybe not all of the time, but a project or two may be a good way for both of you to grow your businesses and to see if a long-term association is worthwhile.

If you have multiple businesses, the joint venture may be just one of those businesses, and the others you continue to run on your own. There are a few ways to work with your competitor.

  • Be creative. For example, if you’re both life coaches, you can offer more seminars in more places for mutual benefit.
  • Create a shared company name to help you brand your services.
  • Make sure the venture is on an equal footing. It’s probably a good idea to get a legal agreement that clarifies exactly what is shared, who is the boss, and other details. A legal document gives you the way in and the way out, if you need to end the venture.
  • Create a business plan for the venture. The plan should detail what the goals are and how you’re going to reach them together. You can’t work at cross-purposes if you want to succeed.

Of course, the most important factor in a joint venture, is trust. Without mutual trust and openness what could have been a successful venture (the usual result of a joint venture is success) will fall flat on its face.

Lucinda Cross, known as the Business Midwife, is the author and speaker of Corporate Mom DropOuts. The company provides signature online and offline educational marketing strategies and mentoring for mom entrepreneurs.