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How Entrepreneurs Can Manage Their Work Hours

When you left your 9 to 5 job to start your home business, did you really believe you could keep the same work hours?

When you left your 9 to 5 job to start your home business, did you really believe you could keep the same work hours? When did you realize that more often than not you worked longer/later on business tasks or to meet deadlines than you did in a traditional job?

First, realize you are not alone. Other home business owners will tell you they work all different hours, depending on when they need uninterrupted time and just to keep up with their routine business tasks. It is an ongoing challenge to balance your business’ tasks with personal and family activities, but it can be done, without exhausting yourself and feeling guilty that you are neglecting your family. Here are some tips:

Multi-task when it makes sense. Note those personal and business activities that can be merged or multi-tasked and those that need your undivided attention. Filing, cleaning out folders, making “to do” lists, and other tasks where accuracy is not a factor, are examples of chores you can do while watching television or a movie in the evening. Since the kitchen has traditionally been the center of many homes, you can cook dinner, while cleaning up and talking with your children as they assist you in preparations or do their homework.

Multi-tasking has its “hazards,” though, such as talking on the phone and forgetting to check your pockets as you stuff clothes into your washer and washing your lipstick or making an error on a client’s account. The wrong use of multi-tasking can lead to costly mistakes and actually be counterproductive.

Work when others are sleeping. One business writer, Jamison, Penn.-based Pamela Carroll of, says that when her children were preschoolers, she perfected the “power nap.” “I would put the kids to bed at night, set my alarm clock for 22 minutes and get back up and work until 1:30 in the morning,” she says. “I also have been blessed with a tremendous amount of energy and do not need a lot of sleep.”

Not everyone can take evening naps and get up ready to work. Consider getting up earlier in the morning and working before the “chaos” begins. Nancy Clear, an independent publisher and mother of two, says she sets the alarm and the coffee-maker on “early”! “Sneaking into your home office a few hours, or even a few minutes, before the rest of the family gets up is a sure-fire way to stay ahead of schedule,” she says.

Just watch out for sleep deprivation or you, your family, and your business will suffer from lack of focused attention.

Invite your family to help. Debra Cohen, owner of a home-based homeowners’ referral service, says, “I like to take care of administrative tasks like invoicing and filing in the evening and sometimes enlist the help of my husband and two children to help stuff information kits.”
Pay or reward family accordingly. One parent designated Friday nights for taking her children ice skating or to a fast food restaurant in appreciation of their support and assistance. Pam Baker, a professional bookkeeper from Montgomery County, Penn., schedules a weekend at a hotel resort after every tax season to thank her family for their patience with her long work-nights during tax season. Still another parent saves her errands for the evenings and takes her family along so they can have time together and talk as they go.

Master technology, not vice versa. Technology innovation is a primary reason the home business movement burgeoned over recent decades. Today’s home business owners using the wireless capacity of their cell/portable phones and laptops can talk to and communicate via the Internet with just about anyone from anywhere in their homes or while on the road.

While waiting at long, afternoon or evening sports events such as track and field or swim meets, or theatre or music practices, parents can catch up with saved voicemails and emails or order supplies online. Just remember to refrain from operating any machinery (auto) while communicating, and DO NOT miss your children when it is their turn to compete or they will never let you forget it. Have a mobile work tote bag or briefcase you can grab as you go out the door to work on planning, jotting down ideas, and other low-maintenance tasks.

Again, a caution here: just because you can be in touch with everyone and work just about everywhere, does not mean you should! Turning off your phones, leaving your techno devices behind can be just the break you and your brain need to get away from work and be refreshed. Do not let technology dictate your life.

Work on vacations? It happens. You have a scheduled vacation, and you get an unexpected, well-paying assignment. Should you dare work on vacation? Unless the deadline is too short, you could probably do some preliminary research while the kids and their friends are at the all-day water park, or again, while your spouse or family are sleeping.

Many business experts advise home business owners to just “close” their doors and keep a regular routine with set hours. Easy for them, especially if they have a 9 to 5 job, because even if they slacked-off during the week, they still receive their paychecks. Home business owners only get paid when they produce quality products or services for their clients and that often means working odd hours to meet client demands.

However, when you work, especially on personal or family time, it is best to make sure it is for a reason other than just to be “productive.” Do not get caught up with being too industrious. Sometimes, you need that space away from work to let your brain ponder new ideas. Good, focused time with your family or for yourself is never wasted time.

Take advantage of the flexibility that being self-employed provides you to deal with unexpected “happenings” and being able to integrate work you enjoy with time for yourself and those most dear to you.

Categories: Home Entrepreneurs