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Deb Neuman Deb Neuman
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It's 11 o'clock have you showered yet?

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For the last 30 days I've been working from home, launching a new business - Maine Dock Designs (shameless plug) - and tending to my other freelance activities. It's been a huge adjustment going from years of working in an office setting to working from home. I can tell you this it's not for everyone! Sure, we all fantasize about not going to 'work' staying in our PJs all day, not dealing with office politics and having complete control of our lives and schedule. All of that is possible when you work from home. The best part about it is the lack of structure. The worst part about it is the lack of structure.

For most of us, our work lives and personal lives are blended even when we work in an office. You may check emails, make phone calls and work on stuff from home. But you still leave the house and 'go to work.' When your work is in your home, it can be extremely difficult to separate work time from home time. It requires discipline to 'go to work' and discipline to 'not go to work.' It can become very easy to fall into the trap of working too little or working too much.

The greatest advantage of working from home is making your own schedule. I love that I can work from 5 a.m. to noon (my peak hours) and accomplish more in that time than most do from 9 to 5. I love that at any time I can do lunch with a friend, run errands, go to the gym or take a walk in the woods and no one is wondering why I'm not at my desk. I love that I can take a day off during the week simply because it's a nice day and I want to go for a hike. I love that if I get inspired at midnight, I can go to work. I love that I'm in control of my own destiny and future rewards.

What I don't love is that my business has consumed my dining room. That there isn't anyone down the hall I can talk to when I need a break (the cats just don't get it). That a paycheck doesn't appear in my bank account every other week. Time will tell if I continue to work from home or if I return to an office environment. But for now, I'm learning to adjust to this new way of life, and I kinda like it!

Here are five lessons I've learned since I began this home-based business 'ad-venture.'

1. Establish a schedule

Try to establish times to work and times to play. If you have a family, let them know they need to respect that schedule. Just because you're home doesn't mean you're available.

2. Establish a work area

If you're lucky enough to have a separate office for work great! Do whatever you can to contain your work to your office. If not, you still need to contain your business activities to one area or it will take over your life and your house. I've made it a rule not to do work when I'm sitting on my couch. That is my 'rest area.'

3. Network

Since you no longer have colleagues to confer with, find other like-minded business people you can spend time with. Join business groups and get involved and engaged in your community.

4. Get out!

Take a break during the day and get out of the house. Cabin fever can be a real problem for people who work from home. The advantage of a flexible schedule is having daylight hours to get in some exercise, tend to yard work or run errands when fewer people are out and about.

5. Get dressed

It's very easy to get up early to start working, and before you know it the day is half over and you're still in your PJs! You'll feel better about yourself if you're cleaned up and ready for work - and less awkward when the UPS man knocks on your door!

Working from home definitely has its advantages, but it also presents challenges. If you thrive on structure and prefer to keep your work and home life separate, then this is not the lifestyle for you. If you enjoy the independence and freedom of making your own rules and a flexible schedule to better balance your work and personal life, then working from home might be right for you. It starts with knowing yourself and what situation is best for you. Right now what I need is to take a shower.

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