Home-Based Business Fears Don’t Have to Hold You Back

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John Tarnoff

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The scariest part of a home-based business is… a home based business. Making the transition from a more corporate commuting lifestyle to working from home may feel like stepping into the void.

Almost 2,000 people have viewed my post of this NYT article on my LinkedIn. As we move towards a more free-lance and flexible approach to work, it is no surprise that there is growing interest in how to manage a home-based business. No, not everyone is an entrepreneur, but in order to survive, all of us are going to need to become more entrepreneurial in our attitude.

As I say in the post, younger people seem to be so much less dependent on the idea of going to an office. I've been juggling institutional clients, virtual coaching work, and my anchor job co-running a grad program for the past nine years. There's a part of me that LOVES the flexibility of my home-based business and would chafe at having to punch the clock, but there are days when I feel totally unfocused.

If I were still going into an office, I could drag myself in and hope that the stimulation would eventually kick-start me into some semblance of getting things done. But after my partner takes off for her work, it's just me, the dogs and my screen.

Sure, I miss the security of the corporate job or the collegiality and infrastructure of the office. But that fantasy is actually pretty short-lived, because the job security that we Over-50s grew up with is becoming a vestige of the past.

Photo by Renáta-Adrienn on Unsplash

Over the past nine years, I've spent plenty of mornings succumbing to my demons, avoiding work, or distracting myself with irrelevant busy tasks. But I keep pushing back and I'm getting better at this game. Here are some strategies to overcome the fears we all experience living with our home-based business:

I'll Be Lost Without a Supervisor

Here's a technique to help you become your own supervisor. If you're having trouble getting going in the morning, and know what you're supposed to be doing, but are having trouble prioritizing or figuring out your next action. try the GTD (Getting Things Done) methodology. There are many time management approaches, but this one is my enduring favorite from time management and productivity guru David Allen. The core idea: Your mind is for HAVING ideas, not for STORING them. This is more than keeping lists, although a list isn't a bad place to start. Read Getting Things Done to learn the system the right way. Or find a system that enables you to operate successfully on your own and never (I mean never) forget what you're supposed to be doing next.

I'm Going to Get Distracted

Use the Pomodoro Technique. According to neuroscience, our brain processes tasks best when it takes regular breaks. Named after a little tomato-shaped kitchen timer, the Pomodoro technique uses 25 minute work periods, followed by 5 minute breaks. I find 50 minutes + 10 minute breaks also works well. Desktop or smartphone apps are plentiful to make this easy to adopt. During your break, get up, walk around, check email, click on links – but then after your break, come back to continue your work. You'll be able to stay focused throughout the day, and also indulge the part of you that just wants to play.

I'm Terrified of a Blank Calendar

Use a technique called Calendar Blocking to make appointments with yourself. Don't just make a separate list of what you're going to do tomorrow, or the next day. Actually make an appointment in your calendar and schedule a definitive amount of time to do the task. If you miss an appointment, or can't finish in the time allotted, just drag the appointment to another time or day.

Change is uncomfortable, so use that discomfort to charge your battery, and motivate you to successfully launch and manage your home-based business. Don't let your fears hold you back. Remember that businesses started by older entrepreneurs are twice as likely to be successful as businesses started by younger entrepreneurs.


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