The efficient entrepreneur: tips and tricks for your home-based small business

As more and more people choose to open a home-based business (or simply work from home) we've got a few tips and tricks that can save you time, stress, and headaches as you grow your business.

In no particular order, here are seven cost-effective ideas to keep in mind each and every day to make your home-based operation an efficient entrepreneurial machine.

1. Time is money…

Ensure you are keeping regular business hours at home. You can sleep in and skip the commute, but set a pattern so that you remain focused and ready to engage the tasks ahead of you. If prospective clients are filling up your inbox at 9 a.m. and you are still snoozing, that’s one less opportunity for you to strike while the iron is hot. The early bird often gets the worm, so be sure your home schedule approximates the same one in the outside business world.

2. …and space is wealth

The psychological effect of clutter can be profound. Take a few moments either at the beginning or end of your work day to organize your working space. It might seem like an insignificant detail, but a messy desk can often reflect a messy mind. This is not a hard and fast rule, because we all know successful business owners whose desktop is more of a rumour than a reality, yet for many people, the aesthetics of clutter can be a demoralizing distraction. In the same vein, always afford yourself a dedicated space in which to do your business (making phone calls, writing pitches, crunching numbers, etc.). This means you might consider calling the in-laws or a sitter to watch the kids, or simply close the door to your home office so the dog isn’t constantly looking deep into your eyes for a treat.

3. Dress the part

As tempting as it might be to sit in your pyjamas and bathrobe all day, this can put a dent in your productivity. Simply put, you really need to show up prepared to throw yourself into your work, because entrepreneurship is hard work that requires diligence and focus. A business owner who is dressed for success every morning, regardless of the environment, is ready to tackle the day and can jump into action for external meetings and events. Plus you’ll just plain feel good.

4. There’s definitely an app for that

Many entrepreneurs are wisely benefitting from the best of the new economy, using apps to simplify and organize their affairs. Even emails are slowly becoming your dad’s way to get a message across. This speaks to the reality that there truly is an app for everything: grocery shopping, assigning work tasks to freelancers, banking, document sharing … the list of possibilities for applications that could help your home-based business is endless:

5. Take care of you, too

Not everyone can work 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, without taking a break. In fact, those who do are headed straight for a burnout. While you go about managing the day-to-day operations of your business, it’s crucial to take a few moments each day to decompress, get some air, let your body loosen up, and free your mind of work. Your health is ultimately your wealth, because without it, your small business is standing still. Don’t forget to take care of yourself with proper snacks, nourishing meals, and enough breathing room to keep your body fueled and sharp. And if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed on a given day, remember: you have roughly two hours of bonus time each day because you aren’t commuting. You can use this time to meditate, jog, or simply listen to some music that gets you in the mood to execute. The extra time is a gift; use it wisely.

6. Do you even do a to-do list, bro?

This is an oldie but a goodie. As much as your apps can help free up some time in a busy life, a simple, old-fashioned list of things to do can really focus the mind and allow you to achieve some meaningful, measurable results every day. A good tactic is to over-promise and under-deliver to yourself: create a list with a reasonable number of deliverables (say six or seven) and go hard to ensure at least half of your list of to-do items is scratched off by the end of the day. It may seem archaic to make a physical list of action items, but the very act of committing these outcomes to paper will push you closer in the direction of completion. A bunch of action items floating around your head is no way to approach your daily priorities. Take a few moments to frame your priorities and then give them weight by writing them down.

7. Piranha productivity: small bites consume a large whole

Have you ever set out to clean and organize your closet, but once you opened the door and absorbed the reality of the massively oppressive mess in front of you, you simply got turned off and walked away? A similar thing will happen if you approach your workload as one indistinguishable whole: it will appear overwhelming. Following hard on the heels of creating a to-do list, this tactic will help get you through big projects. Break down the deliverables into many bite-size pieces and approach them one at a time. The constituent parts of the whole are as great and as important as the whole, and when they are broken down into smaller chunks, the weight of the total is much easier to contemplate. This tactic is a great starting point when you are working on a business proposal or a workflow outline: find your broad macro categories first and develop a simple, big-picture overview of what you plan on including. It almost becomes a game of fill-in-the-blanks once you have a basic structure in place, and the ideas will flow into one another. You can fight the curse of a blinking cursor on an empty page a lot easier by breaking things down into digestible parts.