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work-life balance

The idea of starting a home-based business is appealing to many people for a variety of reasons, including work-life balance, professional flexibility and the elimination of the daily commute.

But it can take a lot of discipline to be productive and focused, particularly if you're working by yourself. Regus, which operates more than 1,200 flexible workspaces around the world, asked Canadian business professionals about their biggest distractions.

Here are the top five:

  • Children and family wanting attention (60 per cent)
  • Inability to access proper office equipment (28 per cent)
  • The desire to complete household chores (26 per cent)
  • The temptation to keep TV on as ‘company’ (24 per cent)
  • Lack of proper work space (18 per cent)

Based on personal experience, I would add other distractions, such as the temptation to do errands, frequent visits to the kitchen for "breaks," and too much time spent online out of personal interest and to check out social media sites.

So how do people who work from home enjoy the benefits while remaining productive and efficient? Some of the tips suggested by Regus include setting parameters between your work and personal life. This may mean, for example, making your schedule clear to everyone so they don't bother you during calls or at times you want to get work done.

Regus also recommends establishing a routine, which provides much-needed structure. Knowing what you have to do and when it has to happen creates an environment for getting work done during specific periods of time.

By establishing good habits, it is possible to be productive without being stressed about eliminating distractions or losing focus. And it's important not to beat yourself up for spending some time on personal activities and interests. One of the rewards of working from home is the freedom to treat yourself – you aren't tied to a rigid corporate structure. You can have coffee with a friend after dropping your children off at school, or go out for lunch after a few productive hours of work in the morning.

Working from home is like eating well. You'll develop good habits over time to the point where they will come naturally and you won't have to think about it. And just like a diet, it's okay to indulge every now and then.

Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting, a communications and marketing strategic consultancy that works with startups and fast-growing companies to create compelling and effective messaging to drive their sales and marketing activities. Mark has worked with four startups – Blanketware, b5Media, PlanetEye and Sysomos. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshmarketing and meshwest conferences.

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