Let’s face it: New Year’s resolutions are more than a little unrealistic. Planning on making major or minor changes based solely on the turning of the calendar is a recipe for failure, and as a result it’s little wonder that most people give up on them by February.
If there are things you want to change, behaviors you either want to gain or lose, you are only going to succeed if deep down you really want to change, and are willing to put in the time and effort to ensure that you succeed. As such, it doesn’t matter what the date is.
As you may have been able to grok from these blog posts—and our book, if you have purchased it—working from home and running a home business require considerable discipline. And a large part of developing that discipline is picking up good habits and breaking bad ones. We all have both, and they can mean the difference between success and failure.
In lieu of suggested New Year’s resolutions, we’re going to post one of the chapters from our book—good habits you should get into and bad ones you should break. These are meant to offer an honest self-assessment to identify which habits to keep and which ones to break. It is not intended you strive to pick up and/or break any of these starting January 1. In fact, we insist you don’t even try. But if you are planning—or continuing—a home office experience, being able to achieve as many of these goals as possible will be a great help.
Habits to Pick Up
- Keep a regular work schedule—whatever those hours may be.
- Tell spouses, children, or other cohabitants not to disturb you at certain times of the working day—your “office hours.” Also be sure to set up times when you will always be available.
- Ensure that phone calls and video conferences are free from distracting background noise or activity—or at least as free as you can make it.
- Develop the ability to “switch off” and not work during your dedicated downtime.
- File physical materials such as documents, receipts, statements, etc., in a timely and effective fashion. Don’t let it pile up on your desk or in a drawer.
- Diligently name and store computer files in a way that will allow you to find them again in the future—perhaps even long after you have forgotten about them.
- Work in the cloud.
- Enter all business expenses into your chosen accounting system in a timely manner. Save receipts (either physically or digitally) so that you can easily access them and supply to your accountant.
- Use only your dedicated credit card and bank account for business expenses.
- Be able to talk with energy and enthusiasm (and no false modesty) about your business.
- Pick a social media strategy and diligently and persistently post updates and otherwise remain active and visible.
- Attend in-person networking events at least once a month.
- Have business cards on hand at all times. Even if you’re just going to the supermarket, you never know whom you may run into.
- Always dress better than the people you are meeting. Although it’s not necessary for you to deliver a presentation in a tuxedo or a ball gown, a basic business suit and understated accessories always convey professionalism.
Habits to Break
- Dropping everything to answer the phone—especially the cellphone—or read an incoming e-mail.
- Indulging spouses, children, or other cohabitants whenever they see fit to disturb you.
- Throwing all papers and other physical materials into a single drawer or folder.
- Naming computer files randomly and vaguely. If your Excel files are all named “Book1.xlsx,” you’re already in trouble.
- Waiting until you have a serious problem to find a computer repair or tech support expert.
- Relying too heavily on new technology. How many times has someone brought a tablet or a smartphone to a business meeting to take notes or present ideas—rather than a more reliable medium, like a pen and paper—and been flummoxed when there were technical problems? Having to admit that “this isn’t working correctly” reflects badly on your business.
- Charging everything to the business, even if it is a personal expense. If the IRS finds this in an audit, it only makes them want to probe deeper. If they see a distinct separation, they move on to other things.
On a separate piece of paper, computer application, or mobile app, make a list of good habits you think you should pick up, and those bad ones you think you should break. At the end of every month, review these lists and see how much progress you have made.
At any rate, Happy New Year from The Home Office Gurus!