Running a small business from home or an outside office often poses problems when there is cross over. Cross over happens when email, mail, and paperwork is routed to different addresses, brought to work, and/or mixed together in systems and filing cabinets. The list could go on and on.
If I could offer one piece of advice to a new small business owner it would be KEEP EVERYTHING SEPARATE. Don’t intermingle anything… files, email, phone numbers, paper, bank statements, credit cards, receipts, Facebook profiles, etc. Draw a clear line in the sand in your office and stick to it.
Let’s look at a few of these areas.
From the start, get a business checking account and savings account. If you use a credit card in your business, make sure it’s for business only. I’d suggest using the same bank for all three. This makes paying bills and transferring money super easy. Keep all business bills, statements and receipts separate from your personal bills and receipts. Whether you take care of them or pass them onto a bookkeeper, give them their own place on your desk.
Give your business its’ own space in your filing carts or drawers in your office. Don’t mix the business files with your personal files. Choose a different color file folder for your business as well. This will help identify the business file folders more quickly if you tend to take them out of the filing cabinet to use them.
Email and Social Media:
This is an important one. Keep business and personal separate. Clients and customers don’t want to get an email from email@example.com. It’s more professional to get an email from firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, your son’s soccer coach shouldn’t be cluttering your work inbox up with all the soccer practice updates and announcements.
When you’re working, you focus on work emails.
If you are considering or are currently involved in social media, keep the boundary across the board. Clients don’t need to know you checked in at the local Mexican restaurant in your neighborhood. This boundary also allows freedom. You can be “you” with friends and family, not worrying about clients seeing your posts or tweets.
Tasks and Goals:
I like to keep separate goal and to-do lists for my personal life and professional life. They are completely different time commitments and take on different energy and concentration. So, as you’re organizing your thoughts, tasks, and goals, use a different reminder system for each.
For example, my calendar and a file of goals in my filing cabinet remind me what I’m working on for my business. My personal to-do lists are posted on my corkboard or listed in my iPhone. Choose whatever works for you, but keep them separate. This will help you stay focused with your time and get things done on a weekly basis.
There’s only one exception to this rule, and that is calendars. I’m okay with you having one calendar for everything in your life. In fact, I’d encourage you to only have one calendar. Just give personal one color and business another color in your online calendar.
Do you own a small business? How do you keep things separate? Where are you good at keeping things separate? In what area do you need to improve?
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