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Quiet Time

When you work in an office outside the home, you rarely have to factor in noise-level considerations in the course of the day. When you work from home, you're part of the home office family. You are part of a living organism, in a way. Every household has a rhythm, has times when the house is quiet, and times when it is bursting at the seams. You need to learn those rhythms and think about them as you make decisions about scheduling your day.

Typically, children are quiet in the morning. In the afternoons, everyone has cabin fever, or the kids are coming home from school and need to let loose with their energy for a little while. Therefore, phone calls become more thought-out. If you worked in a corporate environment, you probably never gave a thought to picking up the phone when it rang or returning calls at any particular time of the day. In a home office, phone calls may need to be returned in the family's downtime.

Even those without kids may find their dogs bark incessantly at the mail carrier at noon each day. (Erica's dog has an intense hatred, bordering on psychopathy, of the man in the brown UPS truck!) If you live in the city, in an apartment building, you may discover the garbage trucks roll at an inconvenient time or your neighbor upstairs practices his off-key clarinet at 11:00 each morning.

We found some 60-second commuters have the opposite problem—it's too quiet. When making the transition from an office to home, the silence may actually take some getting used to. For instance, if you are used to chatter, phones ringing, faxes rolling, printers spouting out pages, and so on in a corporate environment, the sudden silence of being home alone, especially if you are home alone all the time, may make it hard to concentrate.

In Creating Emotionally Safe Schools (HCI, Inc.), Jane Bluestein, an educational specialist and author, discusses how as children we learn in different fashions: Some learn by having background music, some by lying on the floor, others by having complete silence. As adults, we're probably still "hard-wired" in much the same way. We're sure you know people who work best with music playing and others who shut their office doors and demand silence. One of our clients has CNN running at a fairly high audible volume in his office at all times. Another client wears headphones with relaxing classical music. Regardless of your style, getting used to the quiet—or planning for it if you have kids or other noise—may be a factor you need to consider in your time management at home.

Voice Mail

While voice mail systems are covered in our technology chapter, it pays to remember that investing in a professional voice mail system or answering machine is a wise expenditure for the home office. If the household is noisy, don't try to carry on a conversation. Return the call when things settle down. You may play phone tag, but it's better than shouting over the noise. Today, with voice mail available through the phone company, or good machines offering quality sound, you can come across as very much the professional from the confines of your home. There is even a new service that makes it sound as if you have a virtual "receptionist." Don't feel compelled to pick up the telephone if a baby is crying or a dog is barking in the background for instance. Use voice mail and call when the atmosphere at home is more conducive to conducting business.

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