Stress happens when we are not relaxed, when our minds aren’t settled. When there’s too much to do, too many distractions, and too many problems. Many of you started your home-based business to avoid some of the stress of working for someone else, or to ease the stress of financial worries.
But working at home can create it’s own stressors. Isolation. Kid’s noises and distractions – which always seem to happen when you’re on an important phone call. Worrying about where the next client will come from, and if he’ll come in time to meet your obligations. Procrastination – household chores that never end even though you know you should be at your desk.
An overload of stress is bad for your body, your emotional health, and your business. You can’t eliminate it completely, but there are ways to reduce your stress levels.
1. Organize your time. Set a schedule based on your priorities and your goals. Yes, flexibility is one of the major reasons for working from home but it is still a good idea to have a basic time-use plan for your day. Decide how much time you need to spend each day on household tasks, family and children, and your business activities. Break your day up into manageable blocks of time and write down which activity belongs when. This will help stop that nagging little guilt in the back of your mind when you think you should be doing something other than what you are doing.
2. Get your family involved in your business and your plans. Let them know what has to be done and share your plans with them. Older children can help out – either with the household or maybe even with your business. Giving them tasks helps develop responsibility and pride in accomplishments. Schedule business time for when smaller children are sleeping or otherwise occupied. You might even consider having someone help out by distracting or entertaining children during set times for your phone calls or other business activities when you need quiet.
3. Develop a strong support network. Everyone occasionally needs someone to talk to. Join online or community networking groups. This can be an invaluable source not only of emotional support, but for tips and advice as well. Nothing helps more than talking with people who are or have been in the same situation that you are in. Ask questions, give advice, or just vent. Thats what these groups are there for so take advantage of them. You can get great ideas on both family and business issues, and these networks also can sometimes be a good source of business leads.
4. Create a soothing working environment. Even if your home office is a converted closet or a corner of the den find ways to separate it from the chaos of the household. This helps in two ways. First, it helps you remove yourself from the household distractions in the background, and second it allows you to emotionally change gears when you “leave” work. If your living and working spaces aren’t separate you’ll often find yourself worrying about work during family time because you can see it if it’s constantly in view. You’ll think of one more memo to write, or the proposal that you didn’t finish. And the same goes for work time – you can’t concentrate and be productive when you’re looking at a sink of dishes that need washing and laundry that needs folding.
If you don’t have an actual door to close on the office use a screen or shelves; something to create a sense of a physical barrier between home and work. Make your working space relaxing. Display a picture of a soothing scene or something funny so that you can take a mental mini-break when you need to. Use warm inviting colors, or soft music in the background. Don’t go overboard though. You don’t want to create a space that puts you to sleep, just relaxing enough to keep your stress at manageable levels so you can do your best and most efficient work.
5. Avoid procrastination. This is related to the first idea – scheduling your time. Often, stress is created by the pressure of knowing you haven’t done what you planned to do or what you should have done. There’s no need to beat yourself up – guilt is very stressful too. And it will happen occasionally, but that’s one of the best advantages of working for yourself. You have the flexibility and the freedom to get yourself back on track.