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      Run a Small Business? Here are 8 Ways to Manage Your Stress


      There are plenty of perks to owning your business — like being the boss, for one. You get to see your own plans and dreams come to life. And you can set the company track exactly as you see fit. But the downside to running a small business? All of the stress that comes with it. That’s why learning to manage stress is crucial for small biz owners.

      “Managing stress is important as a business owner because typically, we tend to be sole proprietors or have few employees,” says Amanda Pratt MSW, LCSW, CPLC, The Chronic Illness Therapist, Imagine Life Therapy. “This means that if we burn out, it can ultimately slow business progress or momentum and when we aren’t well, our businesses can’t be well. We also know that if we cope poorly with stress, we tend to have worse physical and mental health outcomes overall, so business owner or not, this is an area that I feel should be a top priority for all of us.”

      Reducing stress should always be at the top of your to-do list to keep you sane — and your company healthy, too. “That’s why it’s important not to feel guilty for stepping back or prioritizing some ‘me’ time,” says Poppy Greenwood, mental health advocate, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of female entrepreneur support platform Meyvnn.

      Luckily, there are plenty of small business stress management techniques that will help take away the tension and anxiety of your work. Give these tactics a try to manage your stress levels.

      8 Ways to Handle Small Biz Stress

      Stressed small business owner.

      1. Recognize What’s Going Well

      “This is one of the first things I will point out to clients — it’s just as important to recognize what’s going well (if not more so) as it is to recognize where things aren’t going so well,” Pratt says.

      “Strategies that work best for us tend to play off our strengths. It’s also good to take inventory of areas of coping where we tend to have more engaged or active responses to stress (versus disengaged responses) and can inform our future attempts at other areas of stress management. We all have habits that come more naturally to us that are healthy, and I believe these are the strategies we should tap into first to address when creating a stress management plan.”

      Plus, when you consider what’s going right with your business, that instantly puts you in a positive mindset, which makes it much easier to combat stress. “Taking stock of things that have gone well helps you put into perspective the change you are affecting and the growth that you have achieved,” Greenwood says. “Feeling that you’re making progress, no matter how small, is one of the best ways to relax. It helps you to recognize you’re on a journey, and that your work towards whatever goal you have is pushing you forwards.

      “It also just makes you feel more organized,” Greenwood says. “Being able to identify where things are working or are not makes you feel like you have control over what is happening, in what can feel like the chaos of running a business.”

      Focusing on the good things about your business also keeps your mind in the present. “When you’re stressed, your brain tells you that you have to stay vigilant,” says Drema Dial, Ph.D., psychologist and life coach. “Your brain goes into hyperdrive with all the things that could be going wrong, will go wrong, might have already gone wrong, and how will you fix it! This is one way our brain uses to keep us locked into familiar routines. This is precisely why it’s imperative to break this cycle, which keeps us chained to unhealthy coping behaviors and keeps your stress level high.”

      2. Identify Your Stressors

      “Identifying your stressors is vital to be able to tackle them,” Greenwood says. “Stress usually comes from a problem you haven’t yet started to solve or are having trouble solving. I think the best way to identify stressors is to take a step back. When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re constantly working and adjusting and testing to grow. Being in that kind of intense mindset all day long can really constrict a wider perspective you need to really pinpoint the areas that are causing you stress and how best to tackle them. Once you’ve identified what is causing you stress, you are much more able to work out how to deal with it. And even just identifying what is causing you stress can help alleviate some of it.”

      Remember that people respond to stress in their own unique way. “Self-awareness is key here because everyone is different,” says Mike McDonnell, international speaker, serial entrepreneur, global brand co-owner and podcaster. Once you know what stresses you out, you can delegate those tasks to others. If that’s not an option, knowing that a particular part of the job triggers anxiety can help you prepare to tackle it and just take a deep breath before going in. Over time, you can work on changing your response to the stressor.

      “We can do this through practicing mindfulness techniques to open our awareness to our body sensations, thoughts, and behaviors,” Pratt says. “We can also self-monitor through journaling or tracking mood states, symptoms and thought habits. And while it’s good to identify stressors, it’s even more important to identify our perceptions and responses to these stressors. Research shows us that it matters less what the stressor is and more how we respond to the stressor.”

      3. Build a Solid Schedule

      “Structure is important because the more we plan, the less we have to actively anticipate what might happen,” Pratt says. “Planning helps us have a greater sense of self-efficacy or confidence in our ability to handle whatever might come up.”

      When you have a regular routine, you know what to expect at work, and that gives you a sense of peace and control, making it easier to keep stress at bay. If you know in advance that you have a difficult item to cross off your to-do list, tackle it first thing in the morning to avoid that sense of dread. Plus, you’ll feel accomplished and ready to conquer whatever else comes your way.

      “Your body also likes a routine — it’s good for your circadian rhythm, which is effectively your internal body clock that can dictate things like when you feel tired or energized and can really impact your ability to focus,” Greenwood says. “For example, I know my energy and concentration dip around 3 p.m. So, in my routine around that time, I usually have a workout scheduled that gives me some time away to re-energize.”

      A common complaint from small business owners is that there are never enough hours in the day. “Usually when we delve into this issue, the problem is not a lack of time but a lack of a schedule,” Dial says. “A schedule allows a person to plan, to anticipate, and helps keep life organized. I recommend that all activities go onto a schedule, even play time!”

      4. Prioritize Your Time

      There’s a reason “self-care” has become such a buzzword — we’ve come to realize just how crucial it is to carve out time for ourselves to keep a healthy mental state. Looking after yourself is key to keeping stress under control.

      “Prioritizing ‘me time’ is really important because it is so easy to get caught up in what you’re doing, you can really forget about yourself and who you are — separate from your business,” Greenwood says. “Taking time for yourself, or using it to go out with friends and family, is often what re-affirms your belief in what you’re doing. It’s really important to not lose yourself within your business, because that, in the worst case scenario, then can lead to your business itself losing its way.”

      As a small business owner, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of always being on the clock. Just as you schedule time for certain tasks you need to get done, you should schedule free time. “I teach clients to see their downtime as beneficial to creativity and efficiency because they tend to work better after taking a break,” Dial says. “Taking a break allows the brain to take in new information and to generate creativity.”

      5. Learn to Say ‘No’

      “When you’re starting out, you may not have the luxury of opportunities flying at you, so you say yes to everything,” McDonnell says. “But eventually you focus on your mission and ask yourself, ‘Will this help me get there?’ before deciding yes or no.”

      Of course, saying no can be really tough. But it’s important to remember your value and that you have limited time. “Instead of thinking you may offend the other person, it’s an opportunity to show them that when you decide to do something, you really value what you’re doing and you’re doing it on your terms,” Greenwood says.

      Otherwise, taking on more than you can handle is the fastest way to fall into a stress trap. “It’s important to learn that setting boundaries is necessary to safeguard small business owners’ well-being, their time, and to protect their business,” Dial says. “When approached with a request, the small business owner should ask themselves the following: ‘1. Is this something I want to do? 2. Do I have time to do it? 3. What is its importance level, and will it fit it into my schedule?’”

      Saying no is also key to setting boundaries. “When we don’t set boundaries, we end up feeling taken advantage of, burned out, stressed out, and end up as people pleasers, workaholics, isolated, or feeling misunderstood,” Pratt says. “Simply stated: Boundaries are one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health and wellness.”

      6.Delegate or Outsource Tasks

      When you’re used to being the boss, it can be hard to let go and give up control. But as any small business owner knows, you can’t do it all. And if you’re trying to, then you’re probably not doing a good job at every single thing. That’s why learning how to delegate or outsource certain parts of the biz is a foundation for being successful.

      For example, do you struggle with Facebook but love working face-to-face with clients? Hiring a social media manager might free you up to do just that. Figure out how you want to spend your time — and what you’d rather avoid.

      In the end, outsourcing allows you to grow your company. “It’s important early on to recognize where your weaknesses are, so that you can hand over those areas to other people who do them much better,” Greenwood says. “Doing this can also relieve so much stress, not having a task hang over you that you know you need to do but that you struggle with and find time-consuming.”

      7. Choose Your Tools Wisely

      Work tools and software are meant to make your job easier — not harder. But if you’re spending more time learning how to use them than actually using them, it’s not doing you any favors. “It’s important to choose tools wisely, because they are meant to be the things that take away stress and help with tasks instead of adding to the problem,” Greenwood says.

      Opting for reliable small business appsweb management tools, and hosting services will always pay off in the end. Imagine if your business’ website went down? That’s why it’s worth using DreamHost hosting and WordPress to have one less thing to worry about.

      “Test out different software until you find the one that takes your stress away so you can benefit fully from it,” McDonnell says.

      Shared Hosting That Powers Your Purpose

      We make sure your website is fast, secure and always up so your visitors trust you.

      8. Unplug During Your Off-time

      “You’re not a robot,” Greenwood says. “You can’t work all the time and expect to maintain the same level of productivity and efficiency. You need to replenish your energy levels, and not just physically but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. When you’re working on your business, you want to be present and in the moment. That would be difficult if you’re unable to unplug in your off time and feel a conflict between your work life and your personal life.”

      As a small business owner, you probably feel tied to your phone, but you need time away from answering emails and checking in with customers. “Unplugging and doing a digital detox allows parts of your brain to rest,” Dial says. “Reading, watching TV, going for a walk, and talking with others are all great ways to engage a different part of your brain. Make sure you take time for activities you find enjoyable. It’s essential to combat stress by seeking out experiences that will help restore you.”

      It’s especially important to power down your devices and avoid blue light, which can keep you awake, at least an hour before bedtime. Plus, you won’t have to worry about an email keeping you up that night. You’ll sleep better so you can be rested and alert for the next day of tending to your business.

      Breathe In and Out

      It’s no secret that running a small business is one of the most challenging (and stressful) things you’ll ever take on. But it’s also one of the most rewarding! So tell us: how do you manage your stress as a small-biz owner? What keeps you fired up as you “Rise and Grind?” Connect with us on Twitter and let us know your thoughts!





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      30 Ways to Be an Ally for Women in Tech in 2019


      Happy International Women’s Day! First celebrated by suffragettes in the early 1900s, this worldwide holiday held every March 8 is as relevant and necessary today as it was then. While the fight for equal voting rights has mostly been won, gender parity on the economic front is, sadly, far from a reality.

      The 2018 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap report shows a wide gender gap in education, health, economic opportunity, and political empowerment — a gap, the report predicts, that could take up to 108 years to bridge.

      Let’s speed up that clock, shall we?

      It’s time to make gender equality a priority, starting in our own workplaces. While women are and have been making amazing strides in the tech industry, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to gender equality and even more so for women of color:

      How can individuals (remember, we all deal with unconscious bias) and companies be allies for women in tech? Whether you’re in an enterprise leadership spot or a recent hire at a startup, you can pitch in. We’ve rounded up 30 ideas to create a better, more inclusive environment — for everybody — at every level in tech.

      Getting Started

      Use these tips to do some background research and get started on your quest to building a more inclusive workplace.

      1. Celebrate International Women’s Day

      Timely, right? Acknowledge the holiday in your workplace and on social media. Throw a party and order some cupcakes. Recognize and thank female colleagues and other women who’ve made an impact on you and important contributions to your team or company. The International Women’s Day website lists ideas of commitments you can make to work toward gender parity this year — visit and make a commitment, share your goals, and invite colleagues to do the same.

      2. Study Up

      Read books and blogs for, by, and about women in tech. Become familiar with the challenges — and triumphs — of women in the industry, and stay up to date with relevant news and issues. Lucky you: we’ve already put together a reading list to get you started.

      3. Follow the Leaders

      Follow techie ladies and female industry influencers on Twitter and Medium. For ideas on who to follow, consult your colleagues for suggestions, ask women you respect who they are following, and spend some time exploring the hashtag #womenintech.

      4. Get Inspired

      Helping others on your team or in your company will benefit everyone. Set a goal to focus on the success and growth of your colleagues and cultivate an attitude of encouragement. With this mindset, you will take an interest in the empowerment of all your coworkers — including the women. Get inspired by watching Kare Anderson’s TED Talk Opportunity Makers and, especially if you’re in a leadership position, read up on Liz Wiseman’s Multipliers.

      5. Get Motivated

      Did you know that an organization with at least 30 percent of its leadership comprised of women could add up to 6 percentage points to the net margin? If for some reason you can’t find the motivation to spend efforts supporting and recruiting more women in the tech industry, at the very least, numbers like this can be the inspiration.

      On the Ground Level

      So you’re not in much of a leadership position. You can still make enormous strides toward crafting your company’s culture. Read on to learn how. (Pssst! Leaders, don’t skip this section — there’s plenty for you here, too!)

      6. Amplification

      Author Therese Huston suggests this technique to make sure that women — and everybody, really — are heard and get credit for their contributions. To amplify a colleague who has just shared a good idea in a meeting, speak up, name and credit the first person, and repeat the idea.

      And don’t just amplify an idea because it came from a woman! Naturally look for promising ideas and do your best to make sure it gets its due. If you’re a woman who feels interrupted or overlooked in meetings, try teaming up with a fellow female coworker (or a male ally) and committing to amplify each other’s ideas.

      7. Keep a 50/50 Mindset

      Sometimes, a man in tech may worry about coming off as patronizing when he may simply intend to do his part to support his female colleagues. To help offset this fear, men and women alike might try to keep a 50/50 mindset. That is, about 50 percent of the world’s population is male, and the other 50 percent is female. So ideally, half of the workforce would be male, half female — this is the ideal gender parity.

      At your workplace, while the numbers of male and female employees probably don’t even out, men and women should be equally valued, honored, and heard. So everything you do could be working toward equal opportunity and visibility for women and men; many of the ideas shared here work equally for both genders. We would all appreciate a little help getting credit for our ideas and support in our work.

      8. Speak Up

      Don’t be afraid to point out non-inclusive or downright bad behavior, even when you spot it above you in the leadership chain. Consider approaching the perpetrator or their supervisor privately; you don’t want to embarrass them, and they may not have been fully aware of the behavior. Don’t be afraid to take ownership of your company’s culture and say something.

      9. Make Friends

      This may feel very “back to the high school cafeteria,” but take a look at who your work buddies are and try to expand your circle a bit. If you’re a guy who spends most of your day talking to men who are similar to you, make an effort to diversify your clique. If you’re a lady, a strong circle of female friends at work can be a huge support — but don’t forget to reach out to men, too.

      10. Share Stories

      As you develop relationships on your team and within your company, ask your female friends about their experiences as a woman in tech.

      If you’re worried about sounding patronizing, try framing it in terms of, “I’ve read discouraging statistics and stories about women in technology, and I’m wondering what your experience has been.”

      And women, don’t be afraid to share your experiences — good and bad.

      11. Inclusive Language

      When talking with coworkers outside the boardroom (around the proverbial watercooler), suggest a colleague share more about a project or product she’s working on. Ask her more about an idea she brought up in a meeting and have a genuine interest in the work of those around you. This will help foster an environment where credit is given where it is due — something women in tech, unfortunately, miss out on at times, thanks to unconscious gender biases.

      Also, use inclusive language in both speaking and writing. Especially in formal documents or wide-reaching emails. Despite what your high school English teacher might have taught you, they is now an acceptable neutral third-person pronoun that will help you avoid the awkward “he/she” construction.

      12. Find a Protege

      Do you know a young woman who might be interested in tech? Get her a book about science and technology, invite her to job shadow you, or suggest local STEM-oriented programs or day camps. Consider volunteering at one of these programs on your own time to provide an example and real-life mentor to girls and students in your community.

      Taking the Lead

      In a leadership role, you are uniquely positioned to make a real difference in inclusivity in your workplace. Here are a few good places to start.

      13. Invite Feedback

      If you’re in any sort of leadership capacity, make sure to invite, request, and encourage feedback on the work environment you create. And when you do get negative feedback, accept it graciously and take steps to make necessary changes. Consider offering your team some sort of way to offer feedback anonymously and make clear that you’re specifically working on inclusivity.

      14. Sing Praises

      Offer complimentary feedback to your team members and colleagues freely and openly. Notice and thank others for their contributions, and draw other people’s attention to good work and good ideas you’ve noticed. Be authentic and genuine in your praising and make an effort to notice the good turns and successes of all your colleagues. You’ll be more and more aware of the good work going on around you — and may be inspired to achieve more yourself.

      15. Nominate Women

      Any industry awards or recognitions coming up? Consider nominating a woman or suggesting that qualified coworkers apply. Same goes for internal company awards: is there a woman you could nominate for the honor? Make sure to keep a 50/50 mindset here as well. Perhaps half the awardees or nominees are women. Or if a man won last time, a qualified woman should be considered the next time around.

      16. Listen

      Listen to what your colleagues, teammates, and those you manage are saying. And we don’t mean be creepy; pay attention when others speak to you, try to understand the emotions and thoughts sparking their comments, and truly consider their ideas.

      Simply listening will deepen your empathy for a variety of experiences and foster creative solutions. And go a step beyond listening: actively ask for ideas and experiences in formal and informal settings.

      17. Share the Spotlight

      If you’re in any sort of leadership role, you’ve got a lot on your plate. And you’re most likely completely capable of handling it all — that’s how you got to be a leader in the first place. But take a minute to ask yourself: do you really have to be the one to give the presentation, take the lead on a project, or interview the prospective hire?

      Is there someone else on your team, maybe someone with a different experience or background from you, who is as capable of performing that function? Or maybe there’s someone you could mentor through the process. This is a simple way to give women leadership opportunities and more visibility.

      18. Make Time for Mentorship

      On that note, make sure to invest in mentoring. Let your colleagues and others know you’re open to sharing your expertise over lunch or coffee and, as stated above, invite capable team members to learn new roles and participate in leadership tasks. On the company level, try implementing some sort of formal mentorship program.

      19. Invest in the Future

      Gender inequality in the tech industry won’t change overnight. In an industry once filled with women, men dominate the workforce. Consider some sort of community outreach, such as coding events or a “bring-your-daughter-to-work” day. Team up with organizations like Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code to host a program at your company. Volunteer as a mentor or guest speaker at local schools. For example, DreamHost has teamed up with Girl Develop It to promote software development and STEM education among women.

      Invite Expertise

      Conferences, trainings, seminars, and summits at the company level or beyond are great opportunities to showcase the expertise and experience of your female colleagues. Commit to better events by inviting more diverse voices.

      20. Avoid the “Manel”

      It’s time for the all-male panel to go the way of the dodo. An even greater offender is the all-male, all-white panel. Panels are a perfect opportunity to showcase a diversity of voices and to invite some female expertise. If you are invited to speak in a panel, ask about who you’ll be participating with and suggest inviting female or minority participants.

      21. Equal Speaking Time

      If you’re planning an event, commit to creating a better ratio of female and minority speakers. “Better” could mean better than last year, it could mean closer to 50 percent than zero — or you could go all out as the Shift Forum does and require perfect 50/50 gender parity. At the very least, strive to select speakers that reflect the diversity of experience in your company. If you need help tracking down a guest speaker, DevelopHer has a list of women ready to speak on tech-related topics, and Women Talk Design promotes female speakers in tech.

      22. Volunteer

      If you’re a woman, volunteer to speak on a panel or at a conference (or suggest another female speaker). If those in charge of planning the event are creating programs that are less than diverse, step in and provide a solution — even if that solution is yourself. Or offer to research a list of female techies outside the company that could be invited to share. Consider adding your name to a database of female tech speakers, such as the 50/50 Pledge.

      23. Don’t Go

      If you’ve been invited to or discovered an interesting tech conference in your field, check out the speaker lineup. If the diversity ratio is too low to stomach, just don’t go. And send feedback to the organizers letting them know about your objections.

      Diversity-Centered Hiring

      An inclusive workplace begins with creating a more diversity-friendly hiring process.

      24. Review Hiring Practices

      More diversity in your company will get you better results and give your customers a more realistic representation. Diversity starts in your hiring process so if you have any control over the hiring process, set aside some time to discuss how it can be improved to attract qualified applicants from a variety of backgrounds, including women.

      If you aren’t in a position to affect the hiring process, consider suggesting a review to someone who does. The next few ideas are great jumping off points for changes to make the hiring process more inclusive.

      25. Avoid “Bro-Speak”

      Take a look at your job listings and review them for language that is non-inclusive. The wording of your job descriptions could potentially signal that your team may be unwelcoming to women. The app Textico will scan your listings for language that could repel women — including phrases like “Nerf gun” and “crush it” — and suggest more neutral terms.

      26. Set Required Skills

      Set an agreed upon set of skills, capabilities, and qualifications in advance that a hire must have. Make sure that every candidate is judged against this specific criteria and hold yourselves to it.

      27. Make Candidates Anonymous

      Find a way to hide details such as gender, age, race, etc. of each candidate as long as possible during the application process.

      A 2000 study showed that when professional orchestras had musicians audition behind a screen, the number of women chosen rose sharply, suggesting that when people are assessed on ability alone, women are much more likely to rise to the top.

      Several apps can help you take away the bias, including GapJumpers, which hides identifying information and even résumés until after applicants complete a test you design to assess their skills. This app was built based on the results of the orchestra audition study.

      And Blendoor, much like Tinder, lets job-seekers and recruiters seek each other out: candidates can see company details and diversity ratings, and companies can only see information about skills, education, and work history. Kind of like LinkedIn but without the profile picture.

      28. Reach Out

      When it is time to hire, you probably have your go-to networks find a steady stream of applicants: your alma mater, suggestions from a former mentor, a particular coding program, a social networking group. This is a familiar way to find people you’ll probably like and trust, but it is also a great way to hire the same type of employee over and over.

      Try posting your listing as publicly as possible. Maybe reach out to a college you’ve never contacted before, or ask your female colleagues if they have any recommendations or connections. Diversifying who sees your job listing will lead to a more diverse candidate pool — and, hopefully, a more inclusive workplace.

      29. Fuel Your Talent Pipeline

      Widen your pipeline by supporting and engaging with organizations like Code2040, an organization of Black and Latinx techies, and Management Leadership for Tomorrow, which focuses on launching minority students into business leadership careers. Specifically, consider ways you can fuel your female talent pipeline, perhaps by reaching out to and creating relationships with tech schools and colleges with higher numbers of female students and grads.

      30. Form Inclusive Interview Panels

      Make it an unbendable rule to always have at least one woman on every interview panel. A female panelist can help other female applicants feel welcome and vet for gender bias. Consider creating interview panels that are as diverse as possible to project your team’s interest in diversity and inclusivity.

      If you aren’t in a position to impact the composition of an interview panel and are invited to participate, suggest that a woman be added into the mix. And women, don’t be afraid to suggest to your supervisors that you would be willing to help interview candidates.

      A More Inclusive Industry

      Putting in just a little effort to improve your company’s culture can make a big difference in recruiting and retaining a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Gender parity in the tech industry won’t happen overnight, but change can’t happen without a little effort.

      Every tech worker has a role to play. We’ve given you 30 ideas to get started; pick one to start with and work up from there.

      What else have you or your company done to create a more inclusive and balanced workplace? Any tips or experiences to share? We’d love to get your take! Join our discussion on Twitter or Facebook.





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      17 Ways to Stay Focused When You’re Working from Home


      When you’re working from home — whether you’re self employed and launching a small business website or a remote worker escaping the office grind — you’ll have to set your own schedule. That means not getting sucked into doing a load of laundry, taking the dog out for a long walk, or falling into a Netflix void.

      When there’s no one looking over your shoulder, it’s easy to get off course.

      “Without the watchful eye of a supervisor or clear expectations on your time, you are often left feeling aimless and easily distracted,” says Lauren LeMunyan, owner and executive coach at The SpitFire Coach. “Laundry, snacking, and reality television catch your eye and suck your energy if you don’t watch it closely.”

      While it’s fine to have a cheat day now and then (we’ll get to that later), it’s not okay to let that build up over time. That’s why having a work schedule — and sticking to it — is crucial.

      “Working at home brings business and personal aspects of life together under one roof,” says Ellen Williams, founder of The Data Chick. “As a result, it is easy to get distracted when trying to complete business tasks until you are able to separate business and personal. It takes time to get serious about work at home if you’ve never done it before. Working at home is an exercise in learning about yourself. It’s a mindset, so I don’t believe there are any hard and fast rules for success.”

      Follow these 17 tips to stay focused when you’re working from home.

      1. Have a dedicated workspace.

      Whether you have a sprawling home office or a nook in your kitchen, it’s important to have a dedicated office. Even urban dwellers with limited square footage should carve out a spot that’s just for work.

      “A dedicated workspace is the most important element,” says Peter Vandendriesse, founder and CEO of Guestboard.co. “It’s easy to sit with a laptop on your couch, but your posture and ergonomics won’t be right, and it’s often in close proximity to a TV, which is an obvious distraction. I also prefer to have a double monitor setup (which increases my productivity), so having a desk is an easy choice to make. Much like your bed should be reserved for sleeping, your workspace should be for working.”

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      2. Stay off social media.

      Is there any rabbit hole more tempting than social media? A quick scroll on Instagram can turn into a major time suck, but there are ways to avoid temptation.

      One of my favorite productivity hacks comes with the help of an app called Stay Focusd,” says New York City-based tech entrepreneur Lori Cheek, founder and CEO of Cheekd. “When working from home, Facebook and Twitter can be a major distraction. StayFocusd helps avoid these distractions by restricting the amount of time you can spend on them. The Google Chrome extension lets you set specific time restrictions on certain websites with a 10-minute default option. Once your time has been used up, the sites you have selected to block can’t be accessed for the remainder of the day.”

      3. Dress for success.

      While there’s no need for a three-piece suit or a pencil skirt and heels when you’re not leaving your home, there’s a happy medium for getting dressed in the morning.

      “It’s all a part of having a business mindset and daily ritual,” says Andre Fasciola, president and CEO of Matcha Kari. “We are creatures of habit, and it’s vital to have good habits. Sure, sitting in your pajamas will be comfortable, but can you really be in a professional mindset with PJs on? It’s not really about how you look that’s important; it’s about setting a professional mindset.”

      Wear what’s comfortable for you. But having a morning routine — meaning brushing your teeth and changing out of your pajamas — is crucial, even if you’re just switching to yoga pants.

      4. Set boundaries.

      It’s a common misconception that remote work means you’re hardly working. When a friend invites you for a mid-afternoon movie break or a long lunch, it can be tough to get across that you have to put in your hours, too.

      Most people don’t realize you work from home unless you tell them,” LeMunyan says. “By saying when you’re available rather than waiting for people to tell you when they can meet, you’re in the driver seat of your time. Working from home isn’t a disadvantage, so don’t make excuses for it. You are available when you’re available whether you’re in the office or not. Remember you have to train people how to treat you and your work time.”

      5. Avoid procrastination.

      If you think it’s tempting to procrastinate at the office, it’s even worse at home, where there are more distractions.

      “It’s easy to put things off to later in the day or first thing tomorrow morning because you are not bound by office hours,” Williams says. “However, this causes stress as you can easily push yourself tight against a deadline, and if something unexpected happens — like your internet goes down, you get sick, or a family member gets sick — you could miss the deadline, which may have grave consequences for your business.”

      6. Save household chores for later.

      It’s tempting to run the dishwasher while you work or take a break to vacuum, but doing so can interrupt your flow and focus.

      “Just like everything else, set aside a certain amount of time each day to do this — do not casually mix it into your routine if you are a very tidy person,” Vandendriesse says. “I had trouble with chores taking over my day in the beginning. Now, I do maybe 10 straight minutes of chores in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening.”

      7. Create a schedule.

      Your calendar should work the way you do. That means if you’re a Type A and love to have every minute planned, go ahead and fill up your day, even penciling in break times. If you’re more of a to-do list follower, write up a game plan and cross things off as you go.

      “For example, I like spending the first 15 minutes of my day creating a priority list for the day, then I go through emails to see how that list may be impacted,” LeMunyan says. “I then look at my top priorities and schedule them in where they fit best and allow for 15-minute breaks in between.”

      If you prefer to go with the flow, there’s no need to over-schedule yourself — but have an idea of what you want to accomplish each day to make sure you stay on task. And regardless of your style, make sure the way your day is scheduled is a reflection of your natural energy.

      “Why are you scheduling conference calls at the end of the day when you’re trying to close up projects?” LeMunyan says. “If you feel creative in the morning, block out that time to brainstorm and knock [out] critical tasks. If your work requires hours of focused time, I recommend stacking your meetings before lunchtime then using that critical meal to shift into your project and task time. By consistently blocking out this time, you train others to respect your time and productivity—and they’ll notice and appreciate the results!”

      8. Take a gym break.

      Scheduling a sweat session into your work day is a good idea as long as you plan it right.

      “Your physical health is more at risk than you realize when working from home,” Vandendriesse says. “Even those who sit in an office cubicle still tend to walk a mile or so throughout the day, to their car, out to lunch, and so on. I’ve found that signing up for certain fitness classes makes it much easier to stick to a schedule, as the classes begin at a set time. This is much harder to procrastinate or flake on, as opposed to loosely visiting the gym to go on the treadmill.”

      Plus, taking an exercise break provides a brain boost. Instead of reaching for a cup of coffee, a workout can get those endorphins flowing and deliver a natural burst of energy.

      9. Automate as much as you can.

      Technology makes a great administrative assistant! “Schedule alerts for important tasks and appointments, build email rules to filter out unimportant messages during business hours, use software that finds mistakes in your code or content for you, set up customer automatic billing, pre-schedule emails and social media posts, and use different ringtones for different people so you know when you don’t have to answer your phone,” Williams suggests.

      10. Find your focus zone.

      “After running my startup for over eight years, I’ve tried working from just about everywhere in New York City: a handful of co-working spaces, a members-only club called The Soho House, coffee shops, and even sometimes at a bar,” Cheek says. “The place I’ve found I have the most focus is at home at my kitchen table. As soon as I settle in, I organize my workspace — having a clean workspace helps me focus and feel structured. Next, I settle in with a cup of coffee and try to relax for 15 minutes before diving into the grind. Then, I prioritize my day’s to-do list and map out the rest of my day. I find a great Spotify channel, put on imaginary blinders, and buckle down for hours on end.”

      “I also save so much time in the day working from home because I never have to get ready, commute, and leave for coffee or lunch because they’re always at arm’s reach. There’s always reliable WiFi, and no one is around to distract me.”

      11. Know when to clock out.

      “The most common mistake is thinking that by working at home you have more time to work and better work-life balance,” Williams says. “Work is work, regardless of where you do and how much you love it. It needs to get done. And, you also need a personal life. When you don’t actually have a physical barrier between the two, such as a geographical distance between your office and home, it can be easy to work lots of hours, leaving less downtime for family and friends.”

      It can be tempting to squeeze in something after dinner or on a Sunday afternoon, but when it feels like you’re working all the time, that can quickly lead to burnout. That’s why you should stick to a predetermined set of work hours and maximize your workdays so that you can enjoy your time off and feel refreshed and ready to clock back in on Monday morning.

      “Creating a ritual that separates your work day from your off time can be an important distinction between the two,” Fasciola says. “I like to wash my hands and face as soon as I walk out of my office. Psychologists say this simple act serves as a powerful metaphor of ‘cleaning the slate’ and helps us mentally wipe away doubts and misgivings.”

      12. Make human contact.

      It’s natural to miss the water cooler chatter that’s typical for a regular workplace. Working alone from home can leave you feeling a bit lonely.

      “Make sure you schedule social time during the day,” LeMunyan says. “Reaching out to at least one to three people a day will help you feel connected in an otherwise isolated environment.”

      If you still miss the hustle and bustle of office life, find a coworking space in your area. For a nominal fee, these spaces provide independent contractors, scrappy entrepreneurs, and home-based business owners a communal workspace (and sense of community) that’s hard to replicate at home.

      13. Enjoy breaks.

      Figuring out when to take a break and for how long can be tricky. If you take too many, it can feel like you’re getting off track, but too few can actually be counterproductive, since you may be exhausted mid-way through your day.

      One that everyone should be taking? A lunch break.

      You might think it’s more productive to chow down on your sandwich in front of your computer to plow through more work, but taking a proper lunch break, especially when you work from home, is crucial. It’s not just about fueling up with food — your brain needs a break, too. And studies have shown that when you’re more mindful during meals, you’ll enjoy them more and feel more satisfied.

      Sometimes working at home can be too comfortable,” Williams says. “It’s easy when working on a computer for a couple hours to feel like a couple minutes. This isn’t healthy. Breaks are important in order to stretch and get the blood circulating.”

      It’s best to figure out what works for you and schedule breaks accordingly, but find a balance and let yourself take a moment when you need to.

      Sometimes you have to give in to your distractions,” Williams says. “If you start daydreaming and have to keep bringing yourself back to the task at hand, or your kids want your attention and you keep sending them away, it’s time for a break. Daydream a little — it may spark some creativity — and give your kids some attention. Don’t battle. In almost every case, you can spare a few minutes in exchange for greater focus. Breaks are also beneficial when you get stuck on a problem, such as code that isn’t working right, data that doesn’t seem to make sense or writing content that just isn’t flowing. Get up, hydrate, have a snack, play a quick game, and just think about something else for a few minutes. When you return to your desk you may see something that you didn’t see before.”

      14. Get face time with your colleagues.

      Even those who work from home solo still sometimes have a team, and interacting with them as much as possible is key.

      “It’s important to be as communicative with them as you would be if you worked physically in an office together,” Vandendriesse says. “Give constant check-ins as to what you’re working on and what you’ve achieved. Without seeing you in person, it’s easy for others to form an opinion that you’re not doing much, when in reality you’re probably more organized and productive than you’ve ever been before. Give them transparency into your new, awesome work life.”

      15. Take a vacation.

      Depending on whether you’re running your own small business website or a remote employee for a larger firm, you may or may not have the perks of paid vacation time. But regardless of your company’s size, it’s still important to give yourself a break. Whether it’s a single personal day or a week to jet off for a real vacation, you need to plan for it. Resist the urge to take a spur of the moment day off.

      If you look at it as a cheat day then you are really only cheating yourself,” Williams says. “Use the flexibility of working at home to help avoid the need for a cheat day. If you need time off, plan for it and take it. If you need to do something today, then get up early to get things done or plan to work late. Treat yourself well and with respect. Don’t cheat yourself or your business — simply take the breaks you need to continue to be productive and successful.”

      Giving yourself the time off that you need will make you more productive in the long run.

      16. Get the right tools for the job.

      No matter how organized your day is or how comfy your home office is, nothing can make a bigger difference with productivity than having the right tools to do so. Just like having the right desk and high-speed Wi-Fi makes work go smoothly, so does choosing the right hosting package when you run your own website from home. DreamHost has options for every type of site to make that part of your job as seamless as possible

      17. Have a long-term plan.

      Ticking items off your to-do list is a major component of working from home, but you have to think big picture too. When you work solo and from home, it’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day but always have your overall business plan in mind.

      “You have to know what your end goal is so that you can craft a plan to achieve your goals,” Fasciola says. “I spend a lot of time speaking with new business owners and all too often I hear about these great ideas but no plan to achieve them. Ideas are great, but without actionable steps, you’re just spinning your wheels and not going anywhere. Once you have an actionable plan, break down your yearly, quarterly, weekly and daily goals. Once you break your mission into actionable steps and bit size pieces, you’ll feel less overwhelmed and more motivated. Sufficient motivation + task = productivity.”

      What are some of *your* favorite ways to stay focused while working from home? Follow us on social and let’s discuss!

       





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