Want to raise successful kids? Richard Branson has a few ideas.
He's written at length about how important he thinks it is not to protect kids from their mistakes--to let them fail. But in a recent interview, he also says there's something parents should definitely try to do if they want to spend time with their children and be there to help them grow into healthy, successful citizens.
It's a three-word mantra: Work from home. At least, work from home as often as you can.
"I'm a great believer in people working from home," Branson said recently in an episode of CNN's Boss Files with Poppy Harlow.
Of course, in Branson's case, working from home means working six months out of the year from Necker Island, his private Caribbean island compound. He wrote a long blog post and filmed a video (scroll down) about what that's like. Short version, it involves waking up at 5 a.m., lots of exercise, and taking business calls from his bathtub.
Branson has been his own boss since age 15. In case you're not so fortunate, we'll explore how to convince your company to let you work from home in a future column. For now let's address the first half of the issue: how to set up a home work space you'd actually want to work from in order to be there for your kids--even if it's not quite as enticing as a tropical island.
1. Own your space.
Rule number 1 is to carve out a dedicated place to use only for work. You want natural light and a door, because separating work from home life is especially crucial when you have a family. Also, you're going to want to take a tax deduction, and the home office deduction requires a separate space used only for work.
2. Own your time.
Working from home involves tension between your freedom to work whenever you want--and the fact that not everyone else has that freedom. Again, this is especially acute if you have kids. So, run errands or go to the gym while everyone else is chained to a desk, but also learn not to let work creep in and take over your entire life.
3. Design your space.
Maybe you don't have a view of a sandy beach and turquoise waters from your window, but working from home successfully means taking your dedicated space and making it into a place where you feel good and actually want to spend time: furniture, decor, and comfort. In my case, it meant a standing desk; yours might be something totally different.
4. Organize your organization.
Creative entrepreneurs aren't always the most naturally organized people, so if you work from home, it's triply important to have systems in place to remain organized. Whomever you work for might be skeptical of how this will affect your work, and there's nobody else to keep you on track. I've found two key visual components: a giant whiteboard and a huge, full-year, day by day calendar.
5. Delegate everything.
If you have kids, step one here is almost certainly going to be some kind of childcare help, at least if they're young enough to need supervision. Beyond that, get a virtual assistant and delegate mundane household tasks. Just because you're at home, don't spend your work time scheduling the guy to clean your gutters or calling to get a lower rate on your cable and Internet service.
6. Expand your circle.
The top knock against working from home is that people are afraid it will be isolating. Often it can be. So, make it a priority--a slot on your daily schedule--to expand your network and build relationships. Go out for coffee, schedule lunches, heck, be one of those people who scours Linkedin and makes connections. Don't let isolation happen to you; beat it back with a stick.
7. Have an escape plan.
Having done it, I can guarantee that working from home will drive you crazy at some point. So, have an escape plan, by which I mean a plan to escape your home and go work somewhere else periodically. Get a membership at a co-working space, for example, or at least find all the best coffee shops nearby. (Heck, I wrote half of one of my books at one coffee bar in Washington, DC.)