A lot of people dream of owning their own home-based business. They dream of setting their own hours, working when they want to work and with whom. The reality is that very few of these people ever take the time to ensure that they have the right skill set – the right tools – to make the leap to a home-based enterprise. The first major pitfall that most new home-based business owners face is a lack of scheduling discipline. They just don’t plan out their work days. This can cause problems in two ways, under-working and overworking. Let’s look at the first one, “under-working.” It’s very easy to sit at home, on the ol’ PC surfing the web. You might intend on working on your new website or putting up auctions on eBay, but, before you know it, you’ve spent the entire day reading email and surfing for the latest news and gossip. Sure, you were online and you were doing something, but the things you were doing are not the things that will put a dime in your bank account. Overworking is pretty easy to understand.

Some people simply don’t know how to keep business hours. When they work from home, the temptation is there to “work ’til you drop.” That’s not good, especially if you are building your home-based business on the side and still work a day job. If you spend all your time working, you’ll soon feel that you’re never getting any “down time,” and burnout is sure to follow. Believe me, I know all about this one. Here’s the solution. You must be very disciplined in planning your day. Write down what you need to accomplish every day and how long you will work on each item. Be sure to include downtime in your plan – time for your family, relaxation, exercise, whatever. This is important. after all, you’re building a home-based business to build a lifestyle, not to become the richest person in the cemetery! Your daily plans and goals need to be very specific. It won’t do you any good to write something like, “work on project x.” What does that mean? How exactly do you “work on something?” Your plan needs to include a definite finishing point, such as “write a new article on dog grooming for page one of the website.” See the difference? You can “work on” a project for years and never reach a point where you’ve had any success. By contrast, when you “write an article on x,” you know you’re done as soon as you’ve typed the final period. If you’re in a marketing business, try to farm out as much of the non-marketing related work as you can afford to do.

For example, if you sell products or services, it might be beneficial for you to hire someone to help build and maintain your website. The money you’ll spend to have someone else do it will be more than offset by the amount of time it will free up. Other areas you can outsource might be bookkeeping, mailing, etc. Be realistic when planning your day. If you’re still working your day job, schedule that from the time you get up in the morning until you get home from work. Don’t forget to include commute time. Then, plan out your evening accordingly. Don’t schedule a four hour task to be completed in one hour. It won’t happen. If you have huge tasks, break them up as much as possible and schedule your time accurately. This will allow you to have a feeling of accomplishment and you’ll get a lot more done in the long run. Don’t multitask. I know that this is the latest “buzzword,” but, in reality, multi-taking is one of the leading killers of productivity for most people. Schedule only one project at a time. You can work on more than one project during the day, but you shouldn’t work on more than one project at a time. It’s very difficult, if not totally impossible, to serve to masters at the same time.

Give one project your undivided attention. Once you’ve completed that task, move on to another tasks on that project or to another project. You should also be a little flexible in your scheduling. In any business, there are bound to be interruption s that you couldn’t possibly have planned for. In home-based businesses, the chance of distraction goes up exponentially. You’ll be working on that hot new project, only to have the toilet overflow or a neighbor ring the doorbell. Plan on it. There will be things that happen that you can’t plan for. That’s why your schedule needs to include a little cushion. What I like to do is plan out the items I want to get done and overestimate the time it will take to do them, by say 10%.

Then, I have other items which are “on deck.” These items aren’t quite on today’s schedule, but I want to do them soon. If I complete all of my scheduled tasks for the day, I simply look to see what’s on deck and start on one of them. It’s a bonus. Sometimes, no matter how well you plan, you just won’t finish what you schedule. It happens to everyone. That’s when you simply revise your schedule for the next day to include the missed item(s). Don’t get hung up on the fact that an item or two didn’t get done as planned. Just take it in stride and keep on moving forward. Now, if you find yourself routinely missing your deadlines, you’ll need to reevaluate your scheduling. Are you being realistic in your time allotments? Probably not. Adjust accordingly. Here are just a few tips to help you maintain sanity and get your work done. With a little planning and a little effort, you can balance your home life with your home-based business and literally schedule your way to success.

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