Your Worst Enemy

When it comes to working for yourself, who is your worst enemy? The mailman who comes by around 11 o’clock each morning? That pesky neighbor who rings you up around the same time every day just to chat? An elderly parent who needs you to take them to the grocery store?

No.

If you’re not getting as much work done as you’d like, your worst enemy is: YOU!

How can I say that? Don’t I know that studies have clearly indicated that those who work for themselves invest more time into generating revenue than those who are employed by others? How can I be so heartless and judgmental if I know what’s involved in being self-employed?

The bottom line is that most people who are self-employed are the bane of their own existence.

You are running a business.

That means you need to establish when your working day starts and when your working day ends, and keep to that schedule once it’s established. This doesn’t mean that there can’t be the occasional variation to address emergencies or medical appointments that must be attended during business hours. It means that when you get up in the morning and wander over to your work space, you need to treat it the same way you would treat a job in any other workplace. Show up prepared. Be ready to work. Have the mindset that the next 8 hours or 10 hours or 12 hours belong to the other you — the one who is your virtual boss and who expects you to perform your duties at work in a professional and efficient manner.

Have a designated workspace.

If you want to feel like you’re going to work, you have to actually go to work. This means you need a dedicated space that is designated as your workspace. No television. No DVDs waiting to be watched. No crossword puzzles books waiting to be finished.  Have a door on that workspace as well … as much to keep you focused on your business as to keep other people from wandering into your workspace and bothering you with non-essential and non-emergency chatter. At the end of your workday, that same door will signal that your “office” is closed for the day so you can balance your life with other non-business related activities.

No is an important word to use in business.

Saying “no” isn’t just about turning down contracts and business. Saying “no” is about setting clear boundaries with others.  Once you’ve established your regular work hours, don’t allow others to impose and infringe on your time and good nature with frivolous calls to discuss non-business matters.  Tell friends, family, and acquaintances that you can’t speak with them on the phone or chat with them on social media during work hours. To soften the blow, let them know when they can expect to speak or chat with you after hours. You’ll get far more accomplished in your work day if you stick to the clear delineation of work time and play time.

Some activities are time vampires.

Yes, emails and social media can be time vampires if you allow them to be. They will devour precious hours you scarcely realize are being destroyed. Schedule regular times when you will check and respond to emails (two to three times a day spaced three to four hours apart works well). Schedule regular times when you will access social media for business purposes, and keep personal social media time to your “after hours” time.

Blending household chores with business hours.

The ongoing problem of getting household chores done during business hours is one that derails many who are self-employed. The trick is to keep the big jobs for after hours, and fit the little jobs in where you take breaks.

For example, if it’s laundry day, put that first load in before you start your work day. When you take that first coffee break, put the load in the washer into the dryer, and put a second load in the washing machine. Have your coffee break and get back to work. On your lunch break, fold the first load fresh out of the dryer, load the second load from the washing machine into the dryer, and put a third load in the washing machine. You’ll still have loads of time for lunch, and you won’t feel rushed.

Keep your agenda book open and at the ready.

Use your agenda book daily, and use your agenda book efficiently. If used as it should be, this becomes a history of work you’ve completed, work that’s in progress, work that’s cued up, and added notes with regards to different aspects of your work. Track your email and social media time in your agenda book, and know when to move on to the next task thanks to notes in your agenda book.

Final note.

Over the past few months, people have asked me how it is that I get so much done in my professional life and still have a personal life. In the past 2 years, I’ve written and published 9 books, been asked to write short stories for anthologies, written a number of choral arrangements for established choirs, written songs, composed music, painted, and done photography.

I am currently working on the second book in the “Idiomation” series, the upcoming “Missy Barrett Adventure” book for young readers, editing my next novel, writing a new choral arrangement for the Pigeon Forge Community Chorus, working on the art for an upcoming comic book based on a short story I wrote last year, researching and authoring content for four blogs (Elyse Bruce, Idiomation, Missy Barrett, Midnight In Chicago) and one website (Midnight In Chicago), managing social media for myself, the Missy Barrett character, and a choral group, completing a commission to create 10 illustrations for a short story anthology, keeping track of other work that’s being cued up for the latter half of 2014, and more (this list being anything but an exhaustive list of what I’m working on professionally).

I also find time to hike, visit with friends, take trips, watch movies, read books for fun, listen to music, encourage and mentor the next generation of entrepreneurs, and support my friends in their endeavors.

How did I learn to be so organized without losing sight of myself along the way? It’s amazing how much you learn when you’re a single parent raising a child with multiple special needs including autism and a rare, incurable, life-threatening neuromuscular disease that strikes 2 in 1 million children and youth. Between the demands placed on parents by schools and school administrators, and hours spent waiting in hospital emergency rooms or dealing with hospitalizations when parents have a child with special needs, balancing family and work becomes a priority.

Next time on Business Tuesdays, I’ll share my tips on how to organize your agenda book so you can make the most of each day, whether it’s a work day or a play day.

Elyse Bruce

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