Unless you are a highly-disciplined individual who also has very clear boundaries, you may have difficulty separating your work and home life if you are self-employed. This is especially true if your office is in your home.
Consider some of these ideas for putting in pockets at work when you are self-employed.
- Evaluate the number of hours you work for yourself in a week and see if it is reasonable for your line of work. If not, hire help. [You might be interested in the recording of a 3-part teleseries I did entitled, “Deputize…Then Delegate”]. Note: You are the only person who can determine what is reasonable. For some people, 40 hours per week is reasonable while for others, 80 hours is reasonable.
- Do work that only you can do. This is a mantra that I repeat often. If you are doing work that someone else could do, then you are not working to your full potential.
- Schedule planning time for your next project, client, sale or other task. Effective planning will help you put in pockets. The best idea is to determine the deadline for the project and then “back plan” so that you have scheduled time to work toward the goal of the project. And be sure to find a place for your planning or project files so you don’t waste your pockets searching for paper. Consider a software program like Paper Tiger(R) to help you stay organized.
- Figure out how much “discretionary” time you have in a given day, i.e., time that is not scheduled for meetings, travel, appointments, etc. Then, only plan a “to-do” list for 50% of that discretionary time. This will give you some pockets (since our tasks usually take longer than we think they will AND we rarely have the amount of discretionary time that we forecasted).
- Plan for interruptions. For most professionals, interruptions are part of the day. Phone calls, drop in visitors, unexpected opportunities, etc. can all interrupt our day. If you realize that this is going to happen, then you can just plan for them. It doesn’t mean you plan that at 10:23, you will have an interruption, but it does mean that you are not blindsided when your day has 1, 2, 3, or 10 interruptions. You just know that they will occur (and this is part of why you must pay attention to #4 tip above).
- Schedule “home” time. If you only have one hour of home time per week (excluding sleeping time), that’s not enough. Review item #1. Part of taking care of business as a self-employed person is taking care of yourself–physically and emotionally–so don’t ignore this part.
- Don’t try to wear more than one “hat” at a time. If your home “office” is a card table in the living room, you won’t get much work done when your family is watching TV. Even if you have to set up “shop” in the garage, this may be the best situation.
- Being your own boss means that you have to be the boss. Would you let another employee dawdle away at a two-hour lunch when he/she should be working on an important project? Well, then apply the same guidelines to yourself. Don’t let yourself quit early on Fridays unless all appropriate work is finished.
- If you are self-employed and your office is in your house, then there are a whole set of “pockets” you have to put in for yourself and your family. Because your work and home aren’t really separated by miles, you have to do something else to indicate that you are “at work” or “at home.”
- Know your limits. This is the only way you can put in pockets, i.e., the special, protected spaces and reserves you need. You know what your time, health, relationship, money, client, product, etc. limits are. Be clear on those and then put in pockets so you don’t reach or even approach those limits.
The self-employed person has a natural tendency to ignore the limits and even to flaunt the fact that s/he is ignoring them. And it’s to the person’s and his/her business’s detriment to do so.
And for strategies to help put pockets of time into your writing, check out Putting Pockets in Your Professional Life: 52 Tips to Implement Immediately. This booklet is for professionals who are frequently rushing from meeting to meeting, promising and then not delivering, or wondering if they will ever “catch up.” In this booklet, readers will find tools to support them in our often-crazy world so that they can live their professional lives more peacefully and productively.