used with permission from Microsoft US Small and Midsize Business Blog
Does your home-based business run smoothly for most of the year but gets derailed in the summer?
Maybe the longer days make you want to spend more time outside. Or maybe you can’t stand the idea of all your friends going on a great beach vacation without you.
But warm temperatures and fireflies in the garden don’t mean you can forget about your small business goals.
Here’s how to stay focused when you’re working at home this summer.
1. Is your business seasonal?
You may not automatically think your business has a busy season and a slow season if you’re not selling, well, seasonal products or services. But take a look at your historical sales as summer begins.
If summer is your busy season, you’ll have to make a strategic plan for balancing work and life.
If summer is slower than your other business seasons, take summer Fridays off or work abbreviated days. The natural patterns of your business can guide your habits instead of forcing you into feeling like you need to work more.
2. Determine your distractions.
If you’re lured by outdoor activities, perhaps look at the weather report before planning your business commitments for the week ahead. If the summer heat fatigues you by midday, block time to take a long lunch and rest before tackling the afternoon’s tasks.
Remember, you can set your own hours when you run your own business from home, and don’t feel pressured to explain your reasoning.
3. Manage family expectations.
Having your kids home from school in the summer can throw your daily routine far off track. Older kids can work with you to uphold quiet hours when you can work and they read or play quietly. Smaller children may require you to limit your working hours to nap times if you can’t find child care.
There may be lower-cost alternatives if day camp isn’t in the cards for your family. Half-day camp programs at your local Y or library educational programs can help you squeeze in a few hours of work. Plus, they’ll keep the kids from getting bored.
If other family members have a hard time remembering you still have to work during the summer, you’ll have to have a conversation about your work hours and how those family members can respect your business time.
4. Don’t let long days stretch your work hours.
In the winter, it’s easier to start shutting down work tasks when you see the sun go down around 5 p.m. But when the sunlight stretches on toward 9 p.m. in the summer, you might catch yourself working well beyond regular business hours. If your energy is strong later in the day, go for it! But remember not to overwork yourself.
5. Use tech tools to your advantage.
Want to spend more time outside? Forward your home-office line to your cell phone, and go for a walk. Put your current clients on a VIP list so you can be sure to see their emails come through on your mobile phone.
6. Enlist help.
Teens bored with their summer reading list? Have them help you with small tasks for your business. If your children show an interest in what you do all day in your business, there could be an opportunity to teach them about it. Maybe your company could turn into a family affair!
7. Make a shorter to-do list.
Take a long and serious look at your to-do list each day. Are you accomplishing even a fraction of it? Or are you setting your expectations too high? The lazy days of summer can be a reminder to slow down and take it one task at a time. Challenge yourself to make a shorter, more focused to-do list.
8. Go ahead, take a vacation.
No one expects you to work all summer long without a break. Plan to take a vacation for a week or two, even if you don’t leave town at all. Taking time off will require planning, whether it’s organizing staff tasks or managing your client expectations. But the opportunity to disconnect and recharge can help you come back rejuvenated and excited to work on your small business again.
If you plan to take time off around long-weekend holidays like Independence Day and Labor Day, be sure to tell your clients and customers in advance.
Do you have a plan to be productive — or take time to recharge — this summer? Talk to a SCORE mentor to learn more tips for managing your work-life balance this summer.