Working from home can be extremely productive. There’s no commute, and no office drama to catch up on over a cup of tea. On the other hand it’s easy to get side-tracked and end up hours later wondering what exactly you have to show for your day.
To help you manage your time better we’ve put together some top tips to help you stay organised and make the most of your time…
Make a to-do list
To-do lists are the unsung hero of time management – especially if you’ve got several tasks competing for your attention, and clouding your focus. Writing down exactly what you have to do is a great way of clearing your mind of abstract concerns and simplifying jobs into manageable chunks. Plus, it’s very satisfying to cross things off and see visually the progress you have made.
To optimise your productivity, prioritise your to-do list. Separate tasks into what needs to be done immediately, what needs to be done today, what is pending input from others (and what you need to do to get that input) and what your next steps are.
Set your hours
Flexible working hours can be great but with no one supervising you directly it’s easy to get distracted and end up spending hours on a task that could have been completed much quicker. Set yourself a number of hours to work that day – decide when you will clock on and when you will clock off – and make a realistic estimate of what you want to have accomplished in that time. Then, stick to it. As much as possible. Pretend you are your own supervisor. What would a supervisor expect you to get done in that time? When it comes time to clock off, do it. If you know you have worked hard and with focus for your allotted 8 hours then you can log off and enjoy your free time without worrying.
Focus on one task at a time
“I’ll just make a cup of tea and then I’ll work on that presentation… let me just answer this email first… oh look breaking news, I’ll just look quickly at this…” It can feel like there are a ton of different things competing for your attention, especially when working from home, so you need to actively limit the distractions. Put your phone out of arm’s reach. Ban social media in ‘work hours’. Don’t look at your emails every 5 minutes. Check your email and if there is something that needs your attention, add it to your to do list according to its priority. You’ll complete tasks much faster if you focus all of your attention on them.
When you’ve finished a big task reward yourself with a mini break – make that cup of tea, read that article you were interested in, go enjoy 5 minutes of fresh air. Turn your mind off work for a quick reset so you can return to your to-do list motivated and calm.
Use your calendar
Keep track of upcoming deadlines on your calendar. At the end of the hours you have allotted for each working day, take 10 minutes to take stock of where you are, what you need to get done, and what is outstanding. Update your to-do list for the next day so when you log off you can do so with a clear mind.
Learn the subtle art of saying no
This is a tricky one. It takes practice. It’s tempting, especially if you’re working primarily for yourself, to say yes to every job sent your way. But do you have time? Having an organised calendar and to-do list can help you see realistically if you have time to squeeze in that last-minute client request. If you do, great, but if you don’t it’s best to be honest with yourself and with your client. It’s better to say no than to do a rushed job, or miss a deadline and look unprofessional. Be aware of your limitations. You only have so much time.
Posted by The Secret Businessman