One of the major traps of working at home or running your own business is failing to set office hours. Ask any solopreneur and they’ll tell you the same thing. It’s just too easy to let yourself give into thinking that you’ll just work an extra hour or two so you can finish up a couple quick tasks but before you know it it’s 9pm, no one in your house has eaten dinner, and you haven’t moved from your desk chair in 10 hours. Oops!
You think you’re being productive, but you’re not. What you’ve done is buy yourself a one-way ticket to burnoutville. The best you, the one that produces their best work and maintains the best mood is the one that knows when to call it quits at the end of the day. You need to learn to prioritize your tasks, delegate what you can (which I know is super hard to do when you’re a business of one), and give in to a little self-care when you need it.
Here are just a few tips to help you set up an office hours strategy which is step one in self-care and prioritizing tasks.
Create a workday schedule
When do you feel like you’re the most productive? If you’re an early bird then you may want to plan to work 7am – 4pm. If you’re a night owl (like myself) you may find that you work best from 10am – 6pm so you can sleep in a bit later in the morning. Do you want to work Monday – Friday? Tuesday – Saturday? Or maybe you’re all about a 4-day work week and you do Monday – Thursday.
Review your family schedule. Consider your other obligations. Figure out what makes the most sense for you then set it and stick to it. Hang it up if that’s what you need to do in order to stay on schedule.
Take your weekends
Weekends are not work days! That needs to be a mantra that you print, or paint, or carve on to the wall above your desk. Weekends are off days. Those are days for you to spend with your family, your friends, or on self-care. No one should work 7-days a week and you deserve your weekends off! You need them to recharge.
As a home-based solopreneur it’s easy to give in to this mentality that you’ll attract more clients and make more money if you put in more hours but let me tell you right now that as important as your hustle is, it’s equally important to take care of yourself! Weekends are your days, enjoy them.
Advertise your office hours
I highly recommend putting your office hours in your email signature and on your contact page, at the very least. This helps potential clients, readers, etc know exactly when to expect a response from you and prevent them from feeling ignored.
Enforce your hours
A policy is only as good as your commitment to enforcing it. If that means that you have to turn off the email notifications on your phone so that you don’t give in to the temptation to respond to an email at 9pm then that’s what you need to do. I removed all social media apps and emails apps from my iPad so that when I’m on it reading, watching a show, or playing a game I don’t fail my office hours policy by responding to an email at 2am (night owl, remember) or answering FB messages.
Remember that part-time is ok
You do not have to work 40+ hours per week! I’ll sit here and repeat that over and over and over again as many times as necessary until you get it. When you own your own business you can work (or not work) as many hours as you feel fit into your schedule. If that means you work 9am – 6pm on Tuesday and Thursday and 9am – Noon on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday then so be it. Your clients will understand as long as you’re transparent about your schedule (re-read advertising your office hours).
You have to take care of yourself if you’re going to own your fire and build your own business. Self-care starts with setting office hours and unplugging.
Have you set an office hours policy for your home-based business? Do you find that you have difficulty enforcing it with clients?