Working from home…isn’t that what we dream of when we’re stuck working for someone else? While working from home – and having our own home business – is easier now than ever, we need to be aware of these 20 bad habits that can sabotage our success.
Inconsistent work hours
One of the great things about working at home is the ability to set your own hours. In fact, if you took a survey of people who work at home they would likely tell you that one of the biggest reasons they work at home in the first place is that they wanted to be their own boss and not have to be a slave to the clock. They wanted the freedom to escape the traditional nine to five.
However, having the freedom to set your own hours doesn’t mean that you should just work when the urge hits. At least not if you want to make a success of your home business.
Instead, it’s important to have regular hours that you plan to work each week.
Now this doesn’t mean that you have to work five days a week for eight hours every day. You’ve got flexibility in how you set up your schedule. If you want to work three days a week for seven hours, you’re the boss.
But what it does mean is that having regular hours in which you regularly plan to work will help you to stay on a schedule. It will prevent you from looking up and realizing that you haven’t worked on your business for the past two weeks.
One of the best things you can do if you’re serious about starting a home business is to sit down and make a conscious decision about how many hours you want to work each week and then create a schedule that you can follow week in and week out. You’ll find that having a regular work schedule…even if it’s not traditional…helps you stay on track and meet those business goals you’ve set for yourself.
not having systems in place
Another bad habit that many people who work at home encounter is the lack of systems.
When we work for someone else, we probably step into a job and a culture where the systems are already in place and we’re simply expected to follow them.
That’s because systems help us work more efficiently, stay on track, and having things done systematically ensures quality and consistency throughout the workplace.
But once we begin working for ourselves, we are the ones who must set up the systems that are going to make our business successful.
This means developing standardized methods for certain activities and having documented steps for how work is to be done and implemented.
Not you may wonder what kinds of things you need systems for. Here are some questions to ask yourself to figure out what you need:
- What are the specific steps that need to be taken to complete activities that occur regularly?
- What activities occur infrequently so it’s likely that you’ll forget how they’re done (or what needs to be done to do them correctly)?
- What activities/tasks might be done by others? You’ll need a documented process to ensure that they’re done the same way by anyone who might be charged with their completion.
not tracking your financials
Another bad habit that can kill your home business is not being aware of where you are financially.
Are you spending too much on a particular type of activity? How much is your business making each month? How much does it NEED to be making? Where do you stand in terms of profit-loss ratio?
It’s hard to make smart financial decisions about your business unless you know your numbers. Otherwise you’re playing guessing games in which your business may end up the loser…and you end up out of business or simply engaged in an expensive hobby.
What I suggest you do is set aside a set time each month (or weekly if needed) to sit down and look at your numbers. I actually schedule the first Saturday of each month as my business day. This is when I enter financial information into a spreadsheet that I keep throughout the year. I file receipts and invoices into an accordion folder so that I’ve got the supporting documents to accompany the information on the spreadsheet that will eventually go to the CPA when it’s tax time.
But this spreadsheet allows me to take a look at how things are progressing so that I know each month how we’re doing. It gives me the information I need to make decisions instead of just going with gut feelings (which don’t tend to be correct).
not keeping good records
This dovetails with the suggestion above. In order to know your financials, you need to keep good records.
And you need to hang on to invoices, receipts, and other information all during the year so that you’re not scrambling come tax time.
Decide how you’re going to keep your records – are you going to keep paper copies or scan them into a digitized app – and then be consistent in your approach.
What you don’t want to do is have a mish-mash of several systems and things stashed everywhere. This is a recipe for disaster. So pick a method and stick to it.
Doing too many things at once
There are people who will tell you that they’re master multi-taskers. I’m here to tell you that they aren’t.
Here’s the scoop – our brains really can’t do more than one thing at a time. What it CAN do is switch between tasks very quickly, which fools people into thinking that they’re doing several things at once.
But what is really happening is that our brain – quick though it is – is switching back and forth between the tasks we’re “working” on. And each time our brain switches tasks we’re losing a bit of time and efficiency.
What is really efficient is to stop trying to do several things at the same time and instead focus on doing one thing at a time.
Now there are some exceptions to this “one thing at a time” rule. And that’s when you combine a task that requires focus with something that is automatic. For example, you can be thinking about the plot of your next book while you fold a load of towels. You’ve folded towels so many times in your life that you do not have to think about it. In fact, you can kind of zone out while you do it so that’s an example of “multi-tasking” that can actually work.
But the fact remains that you can’t do multiple tasks that require much thought at the same time and do them effectively.
Not batching Like tasks together
Another bad habit that many people who work at home make is doing different type of activities in the same work session.
For example, when I planned out the articles I wanted to post this month, I could have written one article at a time while looking for the photos and doing the keyword research all in the same sitting.
That would have meant opening several different software programs and having multiple tabs open at the same time. I’d have been going from one to the other trying to finish one article completely before moving on to the next one.
What I did instead was to plan out the articles I needed to write, then I did the keyword research for all of them and then I found photos, and finally I sat down to write the articles.
Doing it this way allowed me to focus on one type of activity at a time and get those tasks done in one sitting. It’s definitely more efficient that way.
Task batching is where you do the same type of tasks all in the same sitting so that you’re not switching from one type of task to another. Similarly, you’re not having to waste time switching between one software program and another.
This is called task batching and it’s a much easier way to get things done. It does require that you do some planning ahead of time rather than flying by the seat of your pants, though.
If you need to do research for several articles you’re writing, schedule a time when you sit down to find the information you need for all of the articles you’re working on and take the notes you’ll need when you sit down to write.
But opening your writing document and then going back and forth into Google causes your brain to switch tasks and you’ll end up wasting time because you weren’t focused.
Do yourself a favor and make better use of your time – and brain power – by focusing on one (or one type) of task at a time.
not focusing on products
When you first begin your home business there are tons of things to do. That means that we often put off doing the most important thing…developing the products or services that we plan to offer for sale.
We tend to focus on things like getting the website set up just so, developing or creating a logo, building our social media platforms. Instead, the first task we need to pay attention to is the one that is the foundation of our business…the things that will actually bring money in the door.
Now I’m not saying to ignore those other things. They’re important and do have to get done. But I am saying that we have to prioritize and get the most important things done first. Then we can focus our attention of the supporting details.
too much busy work
When you work from home it’s easy to confuse being busy with being productive. But they’re two different things.
In fact, we can fill up hours every day being busy but not really getting anything important done. We can spend time doing this and that…and at the end of the day end up wondering what we spent our time doing.
Now this is something I’ve learned through hard experience. When I first started I could work for hours upon hours and have nothing to show for it…other than the fact that my rear end was tired from sitting at the computer for so long.
I finally had to learn to focus on on what tasks and activities were necessary for me to move forward on my goals – and to let other things take a backseat.
Until we learn that being busy isn’t the same as being productive, it’s a bad habit we’re likely to struggle with for a long time.
letting social media interfere with work
Social media…you either love it or hate it!
Social media is one of those activities that can help you fool yourself that you’re doing something important when in reality you’re just wasting time.
I know – not a popular opinion – but it’s true.
Yes, we all need to learn to utilize social media to get attention to our businesses in the first place. Social media can be a place where we network, interact with potential clients or customers, and where we can get noticed.
It can also be a humongous waste of time.
The trick is to use social media effectively and efficiently. We need to determine what our purpose is there and then get in and get out as quickly as possible.
Otherwise scheduling posts to Facebook turns into a two-hour session where you’re engaged in political debate with a troll or looking at your best friend’s photos of their grandbaby and wondering if you’re ever going to be a grandparent yourself.
NOT a good use of your time (and something you can’t control anyway).
I recommend setting aside a certain time each week to do your social media scheduling and then doing a quick check-in each day to see what you need to deal with. But set a time limit so you don’t end up down a rabbit hole.
not thinking about the big picture
I read a book once that talked about looking at your life from the 30,000 foot perspective. The crux of the book was that we need to take a bird’s eye view of the big picture so that we can see the whole thing at once…even if this view doesn’t let us focus in on the details.
It made perfect sense to me. Because when you start a home business you need to be able to see the whole thing as you want it to look in your head. Granted, it may not look that way right now, but having a vision of what you want to build helps when you start setting goals and working on specific tasks.
After all, if you don’t know what you want the big picture to look like, how can you expect to create it?
So I encourage you to sit down and do some thinking and dreaming. Ask yourself the hard questions about what it is you want your home business to look like…eventually. Only then can you start putting plans in place to turn that vision into reality.
not having a plan
This goes right along with seeing the big picture. In fact, it’s the next step. Once you have that big picture vision, you need to think about how you plan to make it happen.
This is where you need to create a step-by-step plan. You’ll want to take those big dreams and turn them into specifics. Doing so allows you to break the goals down into projects, and then break the projects down into a series of separate tasks.
Because here’s something that a lot of people forget:
we don’t just DO a goal
Let me give an example.
Let’s say that your big picture is to write several series of books and become a best selling author. Your goals might look something like this:
Goal #1: Complete series #1 by (set a specific date)
- Finish first draft of book #1 by…(set date)
- Send book to editor by…(set date)
- Make revisions and finish final draft by…(set date)
- Have cover completed by…(set date)
- Finish marketing plan for book #1 by…(set date)
- Launch and promote book #1 by…(set date)
Now you’d likely have multiple goals to help you achieve your big picture vision, but this is just an example that you start from the biggest view and work your way down to the smaller steps it will take to turn it into reality.
The next bad habit will discuss this process in more detail.
not having a goal for each day
Each day you sit down to work you need to know exactly what it is you need to accomplish. This is how you make sure that you’re moving your business forward to achieve the big goals you’ve set for yourself.
And having a daily goal comes from that big picture vision. You start with the big picture and then break it down into smaller goals, projects, and tasks. I have a 5-year vision written out and then broken down into yearly goals. I then take my yearly goals and break them down into quarterly, monthly, and weekly goals. Then my daily goals are the activities that are going to feed into the larger goals. But the key is to know every day exactly what you need to do.
Without that, you’re likely doing a lot of busy work that gets you nowhere.
being easily side tracked
Sometimes I think it’s amazing that any of us manage to get anything done when we work from home because there are so many other things that are screaming for our attention.
In addition to the lure of social media and the internet, when you work from home there are always chores that need to get done as well. Laundry, and meals, and clutter continually call for you to come take care of them. And if you’re not careful these home tasks can sideline you to the point where you get nothing done in your business.
Instead, that’s why I suggest having regular hours that you set aside for work. Once you know your work schedule you can plan when you’re going to work on the home tasks that always need tending.
Because it’s very easy when you work from home to do one of two things: you either work all of the time and end up neglecting things in the house, or you do the opposite and ignore your work tasks because you spend all your time taking care of the home.
Neither will get you where you want to be so learning not to get side tracked is uber-important.
spending too much time learning instead of implementing
Boy, have I been guilty of this one!
When you first take the plunge and decide to start a home business there are so many new things you need to learn. And there’s a good chance that you’re striking out on your own and don’t know people in real life that you can ask for help.
So you end up searching the internet to find information. This can cause a serious case of information overload and what some have called “procrasti-learning”.
This is when you end up taking course after course or reading article after article without actually implementing anything you’ve learned.
And it’s a very common bad habit!
You see, we can convince ourselves that all of the time we’re learning is really work time. We’ve got to learn what we need to do, right?
Yes, we do need to learn what we’re doing and there are definitely skills we’ve got to learn and master.
But at some point we’ve got to turn off the courses, quit attending the webinars, stop watching videos, and actually get to work.
It’s scary because learning makes us feel productive and it’s comfortable. Implementing…not so much.
Start implementing anyway.
You can always continue learning the skills you need as you need them.
not taking your email list seriously
Here’s a truth that is learned sooner than later: Your email list is the backbone of your business and the only way to reach “your people” that you actually own.
Social media is great, but you don’t own it. Those of us who have been around for any length of time have encountered an algorithm change that cut our reach on social media platforms. And it’s frustrating as all get out when it happens because you can literally lose a lot of time and effort spent trying to build a following.
But social media platforms aren’t there to build your business. They’re there to build THEIR business…and you’re just along for the ride as long as it benefits them.
Yes, that’s a harsh statement but it’s the truth.
So put your efforts into building your email list. That way you can contact the people who are interested in you and/or your products any time you wish…with no need to depend on the goodwill of some algorithm to help you get the word out.
listening to/following the wrong people
You have to be careful who you listen to these days. Anyone can hang out their flag and pretend to be an expert. But that doesn’t mean they are.
You also need to be careful even when you do discover an “expert” because you want to be sure that what they put out and advocate for resonates with you. Not every expert is right for every person.
I actually learned this the hard way a few years ago.
I joined a mastermind group and was so excited. I was finally going to get the help and advice that I needed…or so I thought.
So I whipped out my credit card and signed up (and paid) for a year in the group. However, it wasn’t too long before I figured out that the leader of the group was more interested in getting us to open our wallets up further than she was in helping us.
While she had some expertise, her approach did not work for me and her values certainly did not. I finally left that group feeling like I’d been nothing more than a dollar sign and vowed that I’d never treat anyone else the way she’d treated many of us in the group.
So check people out. Get to know them. Figure out if their values and approaches mesh with your worldview. If not…run the other way.
Your time (and money) are too valuable to waste on people who can’t, or won’t, help you.
confiding in/trusting the wrong people
This is similar to following the wrong people but it involves choosing who you personally confide in or take on as a business buddy.
The truth is that when you work from home, home may not have real-life friends who have a clue about what you do all day. You may not know anyone else who works from home or who has ventured out and started their own business.
Which means that they may not be the best people to talk about your business with.
But you do need someone you can talk to.
You’re going to have struggles that you need advice about. You’ll have plans that you’d like to run past someone. And you may have a disappointment and need a pep talk from someone who understands.
But choosing the wrong people can be worse than having no one at all. Because not everyone will be your cheerleader. Not everyone can offer sound advice for your situation. And not everyone will be rooting for you to be successful in what you’re doing.
Whether they’re clueless or competition, not everyone is going to be in your corner. So choose wisely who you confide in and who you take on as a biz buddy.
doing everything yourself – not delegating
When you work from home it’s easy to think that you should be responsible for all of the home chores. After all, you’re already home, right?
Unless you live alone, you should delegate some of the household chores to others who live with you.
After all, you’re not the only one who lives there so you’re not the only one who should be responsible for taking care of things.
There’s nothing that says our husbands or adult children can’t help out. In fact, I’m personally of the belief that everyone who lives in the house is responsible. It’s only fair.
So stop doing everything yourself and start delegating.
cheaping out and not spending money to save time
When you first start out it’s likely that you will be doing everything yourself. Probably because your business isn’t bringing any money yet and you can’t justify spending money that you don’t have.
And that’s not a bad thing to do.
But at some point it becomes wise to start delegating the smaller, routine tasks to someone else so that you free up your time to work on the bigger picture tasks and projects. These are the ones that make you money and that only you can do.
“But I’m still not making much”, I can hear you say.
Okay, no one said you had to spend a lot of money to delegate. But you may be able to hire a VA for a few hours a month at a reasonable rate and end up saving yourself a lot of time to work on other things in the process.
Think of it this way – if you can hire someone to work for you for five hours on things that would take your ten hours to do, isn’t that smart?
And here’s the other thing to consider – someone else may be able to do that tasks much faster than you could so you’re getting more done and in less time. If you spend 5 hours a month scheduling social media and a VA can do the same work in 3 hours, you’re definitely ahead.
Your time is worth money. And the more of your time you can save the more you can spend it where it counts the most.
not repurposing content
If you’re a content creator of any kind, you want to get as much mileage as you can out of what you create.
For example, if you’re a blogger, you want to use the information in your blog posts in other ways – as tweets, Facebook posts, as the basis of videos. In other words, you don’t want to have to re-created the wheel every time you need something. Instead you want to look to what you’ve already created and use it in another way.
If you’re an author, you want to create boxed sets from your individual books. Or use your method of plot development as the basis of a class you’re going to teach.