While it’s so much more relaxed and casual to work from your home office, you still need to keep in mind that it is for the purpose of business that you are there. As part of focusing your mind on the work you need to do to develop and maintain a business, what you see in front of you is directly related.
Why add continually navigating chaos to your work-related tasks every time you do something? It wastes time and energy, not to mention causes you to lose focus on what you need to be doing. Make staying organized part of your work day and put things away! Get folders for things and even if all you have is a box or plastic crate, put your folders or important papers in there. ‘Out of sight out of mind’ has special relevance here. If your workspace is organized you will think and see things more clearly. Remove anything that is not related to business out of your office space entirely if you can.
There is more than one reason for creating a focused environment in your home office. For tax purposes, particularly if it is the case that you only make part of your income from home, when you are claiming home business tax deductions (which you should) then you have to have a clear delineation to separate ‘home’ from ‘business’. In fact an actual door on your office is required. (For those lucky enough to earn their entire income from home, you don’t need the door but you still need to have an area dedicated only to business.
In any case you can figure the square feet in your living space and determine how much is used exclusively for business. Then you can deduct expenses based on that percentage for rent, utilities, insurance, etc, in addition to directly related business expenses such as office supplies, equipment, advertising, etc.
Just be sure you have receipts for every penny you claim. Another element to organize is to keep a folder marked ‘Taxes’ where you put receipts and invoices all year long so you are not scrambling at the last minute, and maybe even missing something that would have been a deduction to your self-employment income taxes.
Be sure that part of your organization and focus involves committing your time (scheduling) – where you will sit and work and do nothing else. Turn on your voice mail and be sure that your family and friends know and respect your hours of business just as they would have to if you were going off to a job. If you have little kids then obviously this time allocated to your business should be when they are at school or sleeping if possible.
You really won’t get as much done, or retain as much information if you are constantly being interrupted by the doorbell, phone, kids, dog, etc. Of course the kids (and dogs) are some of the main good reasons you have for starting a home business; and of course you can’t always have 100% control over them, but with a little planning and mutual respect you can have more time for them and still have a successful business.
Oh – and don’t forget to rest – when you shut down (and put everything away) at the end of your work time, shut the door – even if the door is only in your mind. You have to have a time where you are OFF work – to relax and enjoy the other facets of your life. Resist the temptation to log back on your computer every time you get a bright idea. Just write it down and take care of it next time you go back to work.