As Anne Koepsell, Certified Legal Nurse Consultant says “the phrase ‘working from home’ creates images of total freedom from structure and time commitments. And that is the challenge – there is no structure, no office hours, no peers to watch what you are doing and how you spend your time. Those of us who have worked at home rarely want to trade it for a structured job or office setting. But successfully working from home requires the right attention and intention.” I asked 16 CLNC® Pros to share their best practices for working from home, guaranteed to deliver the attention, intention and effectiveness to succeed.
Set Regular Office Hours and Stick to Your Schedule
- Whether it’s laundry or lunch out, there is potential for distractions, so it’s in your best interest to establish regular business hours. Your schedule may vary from day to day and week to week, but have a written goal for start and end times and how many billable hours you want to achieve each week.
“I do as much as possible between 9:00am-3:00pm while my husband is at work and my children are at school. No interruptions, no questions, no needs. This is the best time for me to work. If I have to work at night, I make time for my family and for dinner. Once I’ve taken care of them I can do what I need to do in my office with a clear head.”
Nikki Chuml, RN, C, CCE, FMC, CLNC
- Include regular lunch hours and days off in your schedule.
- Communicate your office hours to your family. This reminds them that you are not available every second of the day.
“On a weekly basis I make certain that my household is aware of what commitments and expectations I have involving my CLNC® business. I accomplish this with a few simple steps including a calendar posted in my home office, an Outlook® calendar that is shared with my husband’s email accounts, and syncing my calendar on my smart phone with my husband’s phone using our MobileMe account. When my spouse is aware of my work load and commitments in advance, he can work with me to successfully keep my CLNC® business and my family and home environment in balance! This also allows me to stay organized and use my time wisely.”
Julie Somen-Becker, RN, BSN, CLNC
“When I left the hospital and was no longer sleeping during the day, my family thought they hit the jackpot – I was home all the time (not sleeping) and I had so much free time. I needed time to adjust to this new lifestyle. There were a lot of potential distractions, especially with three kids and a husband. In the beginning, I found that creating a calendar for myself and scheduling office time worked for all of us. I posted a big calendar on the refrigerator and wrote in everyone’s appointments and schedules including my own. When I did this, they all knew that from 1:00-4:00pm on Tuesdays I was working and not available for any errands, homework or laundry. This tactic helped make me accountable and it worked.”
Dorene Goldstein RNC, CLNC
- You might have to walk past the dirty laundry to get your office. Just imagine you are working in someone else’s office until you develop the discipline needed to ignore that laundry. Would you report to the office late to do laundry? Would you watch TV, play Farmville, shop or run errands in the middle of the day? Do whatever it takes to get into “work mode.” Close your office door, don’t answer your home phone and designate a time to handle personal tasks.
“Just as my multiple professional duties and many personal interests create an exciting and ever-changing lifestyle, they can often conflict. In a home-based office setting, home ownership and family responsibilities can infringe on your CLNC® business unless a clear delineation is established. For me, it is imperative to do whatever it takes to simulate ‘going to work’ in a home office. On days when I work in my home office, I get dressed for ‘work,’ put a do not disturb sign on my door and answer only my office phone. I resist the urge to do household chores but allow myself the luxury of slippers. Through trial and error I have found what works for me.”
Debra Good-Zeiner, RN, BSN, CLNC
“Drawbacks to working at home include that the neighbors tend to forget you are ‘at work’ when they see your car in the driveway and bang on the door or call (because they just know you are in there)! For awhile, my brother-in-law had a habit of dialing every separate phone line we have until I finally gave in and answered one. This happened pretty much any time he had a medical question that demanded (in his opinion), an immediate answer. The fact that I was ‘at work’ didn’t seem to be as important to him as his problem. We had a neighbor on sabbatical who kept knocking on our front door to chat or borrow things during my CLNC® business hours. We had a house guest for a few weeks. She would tap on my office door several times each day and say, ‘Sorry to bother you, but…’ Another drawback was my initial urge to work in my bathrobe or in sloppy clothes. I took more breaks when I did that and got less done.
Because of those and other experiences, I learned to do certain things differently. Whenever I was busy, I’d tape a laminated note to the door for the house guest, that said, ‘At work. Please do not disturb unless house is on fire.’ For my brother-in-law, I finally asked him to leave one message and I would call back after business hours, but not before. I put another sign on the front door that said, ‘At work. Please come back after 5:00pm.’ Our neighbor on sabbatical has our house key for emergencies (we also have theirs for the same reason). I asked him to just use his house key to borrow whatever he needed and lock up behind himself whenever he saw the sign on the door. The only people who have ever been given my office phone number are my clients, my accountant and my husband. With respect to dressing for work, I have learned to wear nice casual clothes to the office, and of course do my hair and make-up, so I am always ready to drop in on one of my clients. Of course, for our administrative law judge hearings, I step it up to the clothes suitable for a courtroom.”
Camy Joyner, RN, CCM, CLNC
Manage Your Time to Save Money and Your Sanity
- Create a weekly schedule based on your business plan. Allow flexibility for unforeseen changes. Keep your plan visible at all times. Schedule time for working on strategic goals.
- Power out for 50 minute increments to enhance your productivity. Evaluate your use of time often to see where you can gain efficiencies if you are not meeting your billable hours goal.
- Reviewing medical records, researching and writing detailed reports require intense concentration. Take a 10-minute break every hour to walk away from the project and watch your productivity soar.
- Structure your routine to take advantage of your peak performance times. You can finish big projects and those that require intense focus in half the time when you do them during your most creative and productive time.
- Save administrative tasks such as correspondence, returning phone calls, checking email and easy projects that don’t require your full attention for your non-peak times and break periods.
- Keep a running shopping list of office and marketing supplies so you can easily see when supplies are low. You never want to run out of paper.
- Plan your out-of-office time. In the beginning it’s easy to take a quick trip to the post office or office supply store on a whim. As you become busier, these trips will zap your focus and take time away from productive (billable) activities. Shop online when possible and group errands and appointments for efficiency.
Success Is Inside!
P.P.S. Be sure to come back on April 14 for Part 2 of The CLNC® Pros Share Strategies for Treating Your CLNC® Business Like a Business – Not a Hobby.