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Topic of the Month

November, 2001

"One of the joys of owning your own business is time flexibility.  But that same joy can be a curse because it is easy to work too much.  How do you manage to NOT work?"

Summary of Past "Topics of the Month"

Bernard Collin, CEO
SafeComs Pty Ltd

Thought I would bring my 2 cent worth of idea in here... I have been in business for many years (started in 68, haven't stopped yet) and in many different configurations... home office, shop, service bureau, small office, larger office, small factory and today back at home where they are 8 of us working here full time. Due to lack of space we are moving out of here soon...again...

I am at this moment in my bathrobe, doing email, my wife just got in the shower, the coffee smells nice and it is already beautifully sunny outside... it is a lovely Saturday morning in Australia... I love life...

Some of us, and not the larger majority, are disciplined enough to work from home, however, the temptations are numerous enough to drag a few back in bad habits and they will end up returning to the normal workforce, back in the office...

Why is it so? I have observed many of my friends and colleagues trying to start a home office and the first few months were always great, new life style, more freedom etc... and then bad habits creep in... people start getting up later or stay in their bathrobe longer and passed normal office hours, they are still in their pyjama and bit by bit they start working later and later...

The end of the day also arrives sooner when some will allow themselves to play a game on their computer and then try to finish it late in the evening... sometimes in the night... which does not help with the bad habit creeping in the next day... or the internet browsing... so many pages of interesting stuff to read... or complain about their uselessness... and still no efficient work being done... and then lack of money will bring them back into traditional workforce.

Working alone at home is extremely difficult, let's face it. It requires a strong mental attitude that not many people have, without at the same time providing any of the stimulations that you get in a normal work environment and without any of the discipline imposed on you by colleagues or supervisors...

 To cut a long story short, I would like to give some ideas to people who are tempted to run their office from home. This is what works for me and this is what I observed that prevented others from being successful and forced them to return to the "normal" office life...

 1.) Have your objective in mind. Know what you want and how you will get it... and visualise what will happen to you once you have it... remember to include everything in your picture (Family, Friends, Work environment etc...)

 2.) Get up early, shower and wear normal clothes ASAP unless you get to do some physical activity first. (stretching works miracles on me). I noticed that staying in evening clothes like a bathrobe stops me from getting my adrenalin to flow...

 3.) Plan your day before you start to work or before reading your email... If you don't, you will end up eating a long part of your golden hours, when you are most efficient, in activities that do not require high energy and you won't have enough stamina to attack the big ones (that you hate doing) later...

 4.) Do the hard stuff first, if possible way before other people (colleagues) or visitors come... or it will be impossible to finish later on

 5.) Avoid temptations like TV, chatting, web browsing until you want to rest from the tough work you just finished.

 6.) Remove any game from your computer, you already spend enough time on it! if you want to relax do something else like walking or visiting friends or whatever... It is better to avoid mixing entertainment and work at the same place or using the same tools!

Entertainment creeps back in too quickly preventing you from doing work when needed (in NLP we call this spatial anchors, like a smell or music can bring you instantly in a situation that you lived many years ago and the memory be extremely vivid, seeing your screen and sitting in your chair will bring you back in your last stimulating game session and it will be a strong pull to play again ... hard to resist)

 7.) remove chat, ICQ and other distracting toys unless they are needed for your work. If you need them, reserve them on another workstation or limit the hours you allow them to kick in... Leave them off when you produce your hard stuff and do not want to be distracted

 8.) set yourself a program and objectives with milestones you can measure and DO MEASURE them. And if you are not on target, review why and ask some friends who are removed from the situation for their opinion...and listen... Someone told me one day that: It gets really bad when people start believing their own bullshit... Today  I still find situation where this apply that I did not realise before, this idea is really deep

9.) set time aside to read business and self development books and apply their teaching... as Steven Covey says in the 7 habits of highly successful people, sharpen your saw...

 Note:   I started in 68, at 16yrs old, with my cousin. We opened a home office selling insurance door to door and doing accounting for small shops. We were both at school and carried this business through to university.

At 25 I opened one of the first computer shops in Belgium, worked for Apple in Paris in 81 as central Europe Sales manager, then similar position in Geneva for Digital in 85 and started my own company in 87 in the south of France with another home office that grew into a 50 people business that I sold in 97. I also ran one of the largest ultra light manufacturing company in France,selling over 650 planes worldwide.

I trained in NLP with Bandler's group (NLP comprehensive, practitioner level) and then Dilts (Master).

I sold everything and retired in 98, lived in Japan and went to school and learned to speak Japanese, and then got sucked into business again in 2000 and I started from home a small company selling internet security solution... and this is now growing nicely... I live now in Sydney Australia, have 2 sons and we are expecting a daughter in January...


Geoff Dolbear

I, too, have only partly solved the time problem.

Several years ago we made a resolution to break away more often, and we planned several one-week trips that we had been putting off. These were spaced about two months apart.  That worked well, and we do it every year.  Sometimes I take along the computer, sometimes I don't. Usually I keep track of the phone, but even that was not possible when we did a 10 day cruise in 1999. The amazing thing is that I have only lost one potential job because of it, and that was no sure-thing anyway.

Another thing we have always done is go out for lunch. Cathy drags me away every day. It keeps me from becoming a workaholic.

The hardest thing is to be at home and relax. When I solve that I will have achieved consultant's Nirvana.

Kathy Collard Miller

The key for me is priorities. I'm very flexible in my business as a freelance writer. I schedule my priorites on my schedule but keep open to family needing me/wanting to spend time with me (grown children, etc.). They are more important than my work and somehow the work always does get done. I operate with the theme of: "God will give me enough time and energy to do what He wants me to do." As  long as I follow His leading, everything I really should do gets done--and I enjoy life.

Juli Shulem, Author
Home-Based Business Mom, a guide to Time Management
& Organizing for the Working Woman

I'm a Professional Organizer and own two other businesses as well.  I also have two school-age children.  There is clearly a lot on my plate.  I love the flexibility my home-based business offers me. Due to this wonderful flexbility, I got to work in my son's classroom today, and I also know that many times you need to be available to clients when they need you.  I have found wonderful balance with my office being in my home by setting specific office hours.  These hours are noted on my voice mail message so if someone calls after hours, they will not be expecting me to answer nor return their calls. 

I have also found that planning and prioritizing each day the night before I know where my "flexible pockets" are in my day and where they are not.  This allows for spontaneous activities like responding to this article request... :>

Being able to let the office phone ring, even though it is just down the hall, is a skill that is acquired.  It was hard for me in the beginning, but now I can say "I'm closed" and let the call go to voice mail.  Having children around helps that process as they needed to have my undivided attention after school and it was not fair of me to not give it to them.  None of my businesses are "life and death" situations, so retrieving the message when I am free still takes care of my client's needs.

My last little "trick" to keep from working too much is having a fun hobby and scheduling time for doing it.  I have various projects in progress at all times and they allow me to be willing to "let go of work" in order to do my projects.  This way I have a wonderful balance and enjoy all the activities I partake in from working to parenting and everything in-between.

Summary of Past "Topics of the Month"


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