Why Does Self Employment Require Self Control?

If you are self employed, you manage everything. Now, this might be a bit of an over simplification, but this basically boils down to task lists and income profiles. I remember that as an employed person, the only thing that I had to remember was that my income would arrive on the 15th of the month – sometimes as early as the 13th (whenever this was a Friday funnily enough)! So I arranged my most important direct debits, mortgage, council tax, sky subscription(!) to come out before the 20th. And I did my socialising around the same time of the month – in the 2 weeks after payday. That was it, job done. Well almost, because very quickly I had to build in things like credit card payments, as I had borrowed on them to tide me over after the last batch of direct debits had gone out around the 1st of the month. Just the simple expedient of writing things down, knowing that 50% of my salary (after tax) would be gone in the week after payday, that another 25% would go out around 2 weeks before payday and that the remaining 25% to buy food and go out etc would have to be spread out over the full month. Simple? Well yes, but did I do it? Mmm, as the reference to my credit card would illustrate, no I bloody didn’t.

Progress Meetings

Work was a similar story. I remember as a project manager we had monthly team meetings which doubled as progress reports. We’d all be at there in a semi circle, with our manager in the middle at the front. We’d go through all of our projects, and would have to give updates on how things were going. Despite knowing a full month in advance of this meeting, I would have done nothing but the bare minimum until a week before this meeting. This brings another theme here, that of negative motivation, but that’s another article for you to read.

The week before this meeting would have been a whirlwind of rushing around trying to get things done – unfortunately, quite a few of these things had to be done by other people, so at our progress meeting, I’d be sat there defending myself, saying things like ‘such-and-such-a-body hasn’t been able to complete task x, so I can’t report progress here and now’, or ‘contractor z has only just started task y so I won’t have anymore news until next month’ and so on. I’d then have to spend the next week, frantically tidying all of these loose ends and then relax for a couple of weeks. And the number of times that AN Other got me out of a hole, well…

The Buck Stops Here

When you are self employed, this doesn’t work – the buck stops with you. For a kick-off, there’s not necessarily a regular monthly income – even though your bills will still go out, as regular as clockwork. So you need to manage your income and outgoings. Stagger your direct debits across the month, giving yourself space to make up any income gaps. Use the fact that there are four weeks (minimum) in any given month and have things go out on the 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd. Then schedule your income (and hence task list) around this – allowing time for cheques to clear or late payment from customers etc.

Longer Period

Then of course, you will need to play this out over the longer period. Unexpected things will happen, so you need some form of contingency fund. Also, never mind making Jack a dull boy, all work and no play is a recipe for burn out, so schedule time off. This means managing your money so that you can afford the time off. Annual events such as Christmas, your wife’s birthday(!) need to be planned and accounted for, both in terms of time and money. So do it. NOW!

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95% of People in Employment Behave Like This

I am guessing that you are one of the 95% of people in employment (as opposed to self-employment) who see themselves as having to attend their place of work for a set number of hours every day. I may be wrong on this and you may have a different take on things, but for most of you out there, you put in the hours you need and then call it quits, head for the door and go home.

Some higher ranking managers will have a task oriented view on things, rather than my narrow, time bound description of working life. In fact they, in common with any successful business man or woman, will have this task oriented view. Looking back over history any successful person, of any description, will have approached their work in the same way.

Put simply, it’s all about lists. So, if you’re self employed, you need to make a list. Before you make your list, it is essential that you know what your goals are, because I don’t mean a simple list. It needs to be a prioritised list. Knowing your goals allows you to assess your list in the light of what you need to do in order to achieve your goals. Some things will be ‘nice to do’ – they’re not important in the grand scheme of things, so they come low down. Other things will appear to need doing straight away, but don’t offer much in the way of progress towards your goals, again these come low down on your prioritised list.

What you should aim for then is a list of tasks that will deliver the results that you have identified in order to get you where you want to be. Achieving them is then a matter of application.

This article, written by me, has previously been published on my former on-line incarnation, www.thesimonlewis.co.uk.

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4 Top Strategies for Time Management

What do you imagine to be the biggest obstacle to setting up and running your own home based business?  I’d imagine that most respondents would say time.  Be honest now, are you one of those people who think that they just don’t have the time to devote to starting up a home business? You’re not alone. The vast majority of people would probably claim they have too much to do and not enough time to do it. So instead of focussing on what they want to do and where they want to be they get bogged down with the time issue before they even get started.

Your day job, family, keeping fit, the garden, watching TV and so on – ultimately these are just excuses, nothing more.  But, there is hope!  Believe it or not, it is possible to find and, what is more, to maximize your time in order to build momentum for your venture. What you must do is analyse your time and seek out the slack, then commit to using that time for your home business only. Here are some strategies for doing just that.

What are you doing at any given time of the day?

Write down your schedule. It may sound silly, but you should start at the beginning and write it all down until you go to bed.  Be honest and include everything.  So there’s getting ready for work, taking the kids to school, going to work (travel and attendance), exercise time and any other time commitments.  Do the same for weekends, and most especially, don’t forget your family.

This exercise is the bedrock of finding a better way to organise your time to devote some of it to working from home.  It will give you a great view of what your schedule looks like.  No matter how busy you think you are, you will see openings in your week.  Don’t beat yourself up now, look to find two hours you can commit to spend on your business.  There must be some slack in there that you can use.

Stay with your new schedule and reassess

So, you’ve found yourself some time, stick with it for a trial period. This may well be tough, after all, you are creating a new habit.  Once you’ve tried it for a week say, reassess your schedule.  You may well find more time to spend on your business.

I believe that discipline is the most important element in working from home.  So, you have to find a way after work, after eating, after putting the kids to bed and so on.  Remember this is why you analysed your schedule.

Don’t Forget Your Family

We all have different commitments, my family is my tope priority. If you have young children, like me, I’d imagine that your main time to focus on your business will be when they’ve gone to bed.  I find that the evening is best time for me to spend on my home business.  If nothing else, it’s the most quite part of the day.

If you do have to use family time to spend on your business, communication and managing their expectations are paramount.   There has to be give and take on both sides.  It is vital that you set a time aside for spending with your family.  Balance is the key here.

Embrace Distractions

Life goes on and distractions will arise.  I’d suggest that you embrace this instead of fighting it.  If your child stays up late, focus on helping him calm down and go back to bed.  Don’t dwell on what you could otherwise be doing.  Your work will still be there when you are ready.

If you are required to stay late at your day job, then do that.  Just focus on one thing at a time as getting yourself hyped up about things outside of your control is counterproductive. You’ll be less efficient and effective.  Having a clear and guilt free mind while working on your business is essential.

If you’re really excited about your new project, it’s likely that the ideas will be whizzing.  Keep something handy to record these new ideas.  You can always analyse and prioritise at a later date.  This will help you use less energy dealing with distractions, which in turn you can devote to growing your business.

So as we can see, there IS good news when it comes to finding the time to devote to developing your home business.  Forget despair and frustration, focus instead on this fact:

You and you alone have total control of your time and your ability to change your habits in order to build momentum in your businesses.

Good Luck!

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