Working from home is a wonderful experience that enables people to take control of their destiny. But, there are so many issues that can pop up each day that interrupt your otherwise smooth day. You might even participate in some interrupters and time suckers willingly without even realizing it. The days go by so fast, it’s hard to tell what end is up and you start wondering whether that leisurely life you dreamed of actually exists.
Create a Plan
Every business owner needs to have a plan in order to manage their time. It’s one of the biggest secrets of time management and a step that people often try to skip over. They just go through each day without any idea of how it should end.
Having a work from home business is an exciting journey in which to take part, but if you have no plan and are so harried that you can’t breathe it will feel more like a nightmare. Creating the plan takes time, of course, but it’s time well spent and having a plan in place can actually save you time in the future.
Just like you need a map to go on a cross country trip, you need a plan to achieve your business goals. The best way to create a workable plan is to start with the end-goal and work your way backwards toward today. But, making the plan does more than just help you reach your goals, it helps you to manage your time effectively while arriving at your destination healthy and happy.
You need a plan that spells out your daily, weekly, monthly and yearly projects and goals. Write out each project with each task that goes with it and a time line so that you can see the plan in black and white.
Create a Schedule
I know, one of the biggest perks to working from home or being self-employed is that you don’t have to follow a schedule, but here I am recommending you create a schedule, even if it’s just a rough one. The truth is that having a basic schedule will actually help you find more time to do what you want to do with your business, as well as the freedom to spend more time with your family and friends.
If you worked for someone else, you would go into work with a clear idea of what your day will be like, and what tasks you’ll perform. It is important to do this with your own business too.
Once you have a plan it is helpful to create an outlined schedule using a calendar or project management system. We’ll look at some tools later on down the page that can help you with this part.
If you have created your timeline appropriately, you can easily see at a glance what you need to do for the next hour, week, month and year. Don’t forget to schedule in time with friends and family too. If you don’t, you are more likely to suffer from irritating interruptions and time sucking situations.
Whether it’s the radio, the television, your cell phone or other technology, it’s important to avoid distractions when you are working. Innocent activities that you do out of habit can cause a lot of time suckage. Other than making allowances for emergencies, turn email off, social media off, and have a special emergency number for true life altering emergencies. Turning on your email, sending email and social media to your mobile phone, having an “open door” policy for friends, contractors, and even family can all lead to little minutes of time being stolen from you that can add up to several hours a week and in some cases several hours a day.
I find it helps to have a visual signal when you work from home, something that immediately helps your family know that you’re working on a focus task and shouldn’t be interrupted right now. When my kids were little I had a bright orange rock that I put on the corner of my desk, because with little kids even a closed door doesn’t really mean very much. If it wasn’t super important, they knew to wait until I finished or to go ask Dad. It was especially helpful when I was on a client meeting call. The signal let them know as soon as they approached that I wasn’t just chatting with grandma on the phone and I’d need some quiet time.
Set Goals and Track Results
Having daily, weekly, monthly goals written-out very explicitly is an important factor in effective time management for a business owner. If you don’t know what needs to be done and what you’re working toward, you will be just flailing around with no direction. What is your ultimate business goal? What one goal do you want to accomplish this year? What are the steps that you need to take to achieve the goal for this year? Will that goal enable you to get closer to your ultimate business goal?
Tracking results is one of the most important time management success secrets that is often overlooked. Once you create a plan of action and start implementing it, track the results to see if you are accomplishing the goals you’ve set out to realize. If you’re not seeing the results that you want, rework each aspect of your goals and plans. Evaluate your schedule and goals frequently to ensure that you’re making the most of each day.
I realize that is easier said than done, but multitasking is overrated. It’s not efficient, it leads to more mistakes, and simply doesn’t work. While someone like a receptionist may need the ability to do a few things at once, like talk on the phone and write notes, the constant need our society places on the ability to multitask is just plain wrongheaded.
Most tasks done in a multitasking environment simply aren’t up to par. If you’re engaged in any type of creative work, bookkeeping, details or other tasks that require your full attention, it is truly important to give it all your focus.
It is surprising how much work you can get done when you give the work your undivided attention. Without interruptions, what used to take three hours might actually only need one hour of your time. Just imagine what you could get done with an extra two hours in your week 😉
Tools You Can Use to Help Track and Manage Time Productively
Managing time is more about learning to manage yourself around the time that you have available. There are many ways to go about finding ways to self-manage in a way that saves the most time for money making activities, as opposed to time wasting activities. You already know what a money making activity is, and you probably know deep down what a time waster is, but you feel powerless to get it together. Fortunately, there are tools to help you get a handle on your time so you can shift focus when needed. A few ideas are:
Paper Planners and Notebooks
One thing that really helped me was logging and tracking every single thing I did for an entire week, all seven days. I used a plain old composition book for that and made a lot of notes and detailed tasks, interruptions, and did a bit of journaling each day about how the day went overall and if I felt like I was productive or not.
Here’s a downloadable PDF with pages for time tracking and some journal writing exercises to help you with this step.
If pen and paper is your thing, a plain old paper planner or classic Day Runner might be the thing that helps you stay most organized and on top of things. I know for me if I don’t write something down, I won’t remember it. That might be something that is helpful for you, too.
It’s free and simple to use. While it’s not a robust time tracker, it can be a good alternative to a paper day planner once you have your time wasters eliminated.
Most mobile phones will integrate with Google Calendar, and it can be used on your computer or tablet device. Another really great feature is that you can invite as many people as you want to view the Google Calendar and you can even make it so they can add to the calendar if you want.
Asana Project Management System
This is my current tool of choice. My Google Calendar just wasn’t working for me, I wanted a few more features. Asana allows me to have a personal project section to schedule out and keep track of my own tasks, basically my digital to-do list, and then I can set up individual client projects in seperate ‘work spaces’ and easily navigate to those as I work through their tasks.
You can set a to-do task to be repeated, so you don’t have to write those out every week or every month. It also integrates well with automation services like Zapier, which is really handy.
There are both free and paid plans available at Asana. Start with the free level and try it out to see if you like it first. You can upgrade to a paid plan for additional features and bigger teams later as needed.
Toggl Time Tracking
A quick and easy time tracker that you can use for personal time tracking or to track time worked for clients. Toggl is a free tool that can be really handy for service providers and freelancers with all sorts of features beyond just time tracking, like time reports that you can send to clients. You can do in real time tracking or you can manually enter time for various projects.
A really awesome time management tool will help you prioritize, schedule, and focus on the goals you’ve set for your business. It’s individual preference that will determine what type of tools you use to organize yourself and manage your time effectively. (You know my favorite thing to say, do what works best for you!) Your choice will also depend on what kind of business you have, whether or not you’re working with a team, and what goals you’ve chosen to focus on.
The important factor is that a plan is implemented to put the focus back on accomplishing money making tasks in your work at home business. Either software or traditional methods can work, but they will only work well if you actually implement and use them. While setting your system up can take some time in the beginning, it will be more than worth it once it’s done.
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