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Time Management Tips for Working From Home

With more and more start up businesses trying to keep costs down, many people are working from home whether it is turning a bedroom into a home office or using the kitchen table. However, keeping your productivity and focus high while working at home can be a challenge for many of us as working from home can hold many distractions. As someone who has worked from home for the last four years, I’d like to share some tips that I find work for me.

Working from home can be distracting – from a family member coming in and asking if you would like a cup of tea to wondering if you should rescue the clothes from the line as the clouds darken!  As someone who sought professional help three years ago for my time management, I eventually feel equipped to pass on those tips that I found worked best for me.

Closed Lists

The to-do list can seem never-ending and the feelings of achievement never live up to their potential as the list doesn’t diminish.  Create a ‘closed list‘ from the to-do list each day by prioritizing the jobs that need to be done and the feelings of satisfaction will come when the completion of the closed list is achieved.

  • Some people use techniques such as Pomodoro (slots of 25 minutes) to ensure they are not distracted and remain on task.  I prefer deciding on a length of time for each task or a number of tasks and sticking to it. If it needs 15 minutes longer than I originally thought, then it may be more beneficial to finish it off rather than moving to the next task and coming back to it later.
  • It is very easy to be distracted by your inbox or social media sites such as facebook. Try to check your inbox at regular slots during the day but not too often as it just eats into your time.  Using a timer on your phone will prevent you spending too long on twitter and facebook too as ten minutes can fly by on those social networks.

We all have tasks that we dislike doing (mine are VAT returns and filing). We can outsource those tasks or find a way that makes them manageable. Rather than saying ‘I will finish xxx today’, I find it easier to factor in an hour or two on a dreaded task and then feeling I achieved x amount in that hour.

Priorities

How do you prioritise your to-do list? You should be focusing on those tasks that produce revenue – some tasks will produce revenue by a nearby date whereas others will be in the future. Some will reward with revenue directly, others will be indirect.

This bloggertone post may raise my profile, it may inform others about my business but it is unlikely to generate income for me today or tomorrow, hence I must ensure that other tasks completed today produce revenue that will deliver in the short term. For example, sending press releases takes time and will indirectly lead to income in the future, an important task that needs to be completed but you also need to be factoring in tasks that bring in money this month.

By know how much money you need to bring in each day/week/month, it will help you to achieve/surpass that amount.

Owl or Lark?

One of the beauties of working from home is that you don’t have to work 9-5 every day.  You are saving time on not having to commute to and from work. The downside is that you may often be working at midnight.  If you are a lark, it is likely that you are very focused in the mornings and gain that sense of achievement early on in the day.

If you are an owl (like me) it can be difficult to get started and remain focused. Getting  out into the open for a walk as early as possible helps to set the body clock and awaken the senses, thus preparing you for a more productive working day. Do not work too late into the evening either as it will affect your sleeping pattern.

Rewards

Don’t forget to celebrate those achievements and reward yourself – be it making a large sale, landing a good contract, achieving some press coverage or finishing a task you dislike. Making all the rewards chocolate related though is not a good idea!

Fun

Have some fun accessories in your workplace, some family photographs at the very least. They can act as mind-boosters rather than as a distraction.

Do you work from home? Are you empathising with some of the things I have said? I’d love to hear what has worked for you in terms of improving your focus.

Image: “A red alarm clock placed in a Grey clamp/Shutterstock


Lorna Sixsmith is a social media trainer at Write on Track, providing mentoring, training and content creation services to SMEs. Particularly passionate about blogging and Pinterest, Lorna also teaches these courses online at We Teach Social. Married to a dairy farmer in SE Ireland, Lorna recently self published her first book 'Would You Marry A Farmer?', a humourous look at life married to an Irish farmer. http://www.writeontrack.ie

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Comments
  • Tori Hawthorne

    Great post,

    I am a Lark and an Owl ;)I have set things I do  that suit the time of day and responses I need/expect. I do get distracted by Blogs and Commenting on them 😉 but as long as I have my “to do” list to my right I will always check it and get most things done…

    That reminds me …. 😉 (just glanced at it)

    🙂

  • Great post Lorna. I’ve worked from home for nearly 10 years now and whilst I don’t adopt a time per task it’s normally a day or 1/2 day depending on the client I’m working for and I plan for the week ahead mostly. 

    I start my day with a lovely walk so that is like my commute or it would just be from bed to shower to laptop which isn’t good. Social media is a definite distraction but then as I pick up work from it sometimes it’s not a complete waste of time. 

    One major drawback for me is that if there is work that needs to be done I find it hard not to do it in the evenings or weekends when I could really put it off until the next day.

    PS. you know where to come to outsource your Vat returns 🙂

  • Good points Lorna – I too work from home and am very easily distracted – mostly by checking twitter, facebook, etc updates. The only way I can get things done is to deliberately shut these down and get on with the job in hand – otherwise the day passes with nothing done. 

  • Great tips and something I am sure most people who work at home struggle with.  I know for me daytime distractions usually mean late night work sessions.

  • I use a whiteboard to jot down the tasks I have ahead, either for the day or the week. Try as I might, it always seems that I never get everything done that I needed to.

    Am I the only one for which a task ALWAYS takes longer than I thought it would? Doesn’t matter what it is – painting a room or completing an important business task – it always takes (much) longer than expected.

    Maybe I really just need some better time management skills…

  • When I started allotting times to tasks, ie thinking I’d complete x in an hour, I couldn’t believe how much longer it actually took me. I obvioiusly had a completely depraved sense of time or else I was feeling my age! One thing it helped me with was being more realistic with my time as I was constantly feeling I wasn’t achieving anything simply because I expected way too much from myself.
    I recently started using a flylady tip that I read on a blog post where you give yourself a set time to do a cleaning task so I was doing it with the kids when tidying their rooms etc, ie 7 minutes to pick up all the tractors etc, 7 minutes to change the bedlinen – and was finding that it was taking longer than 7 minutes for those tasks too!

  • Hi Lorna, thanks for sharing your experience and this is definitely an area where I can improve greatly. I’m very guilty at times of not making space for me time. It’s one of my big goals this year so your examples are really useful.  

  • Rewards
    Don’t forget to celebrate those achievements and reward yourself – be it making a large sale, landing a good contract, achieving some press coverage or finishing a task you dislike. Making all the rewards chocolate related though is not a good idea!

    Oh ;-(  
    Great blog, very useful.  Particularly prioritising the jobs that earn revenue.
    Thanks.

  • Mje_medical

    I have worked out my home office for several years and I like a number of the insights in this article , particularly the closed list and priorities comments.

  • Great post – can never be reminded about these enough …Too many Owls I think 🙂 and Closed List – GREAT IDEA….have not tried that before……now where do we subscribe 🙂 

  • Great tips there Lorna, I really don’t know how you manage it at times!! Social Networking is tightly connected to procrastination and can exacerbate the “condition” we all suffer from periodically. When it becomes chronic, it can often mean total “cold turkey” and gradual re-introduction.

    And it’s all about balance and as Kathy mentions below, rewards 🙂

  • Some nice tips there Lorna. I think that if you work in social media/online marketing, you will have both a great personal interest, as well as a business interest in being online and browsing the latest interesting articles and updates – and so the lines can often get blurred! It’s important to be aware of I guess. That’s also a great idea you highlight on getting out first thing in the morning – make a huge difference and really gets you going for the day!

  • Michaeljoseph008

    I you are looking for painting in Toronto then don’t go any where just make a call to women painting.
    Painting Company

  • Love it!  Have linked it to an article in my TaskMaster™ series of posts on my ADD-focused WordPress blog, “Virture is Not it’s Own Reward” (but will move or add it to one of the later articles, once they post, probably Getting Things Done-101).

    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, SCAC, MCC – (blogging at ADDandSoMuchMore and on ADDerWorld – dot com!) “It takes a village to transform a world!”

  • Stephen Henry

    Thanks for the tips, its now 9.30 PM and I am still working.  Tooo Late.   I reckon time management is the main thing and priortising as well as doing the things you least like to do first.

    Stephen Henry

  • Nope – that’s common, and we ALL experience it – at least the optimists among us do.  The pessimists don’t START because they know they won’t have enough time to finish (lol).  

    Seriously, in my niche (Attentional dysregulation), the big time management aha! is to schedule 1/3 again more time than you THINK it’s going to take for each and every task, and pare down that list.  Keep a “job jar” of little tasks mixed with rewards that you can pick through any time you finish early (keeps you from stretching the task, simply because you’ve alloted the time).NOW, do *I* do that?  Of course not.  I right there with you, wondering why tasks ALWAYS take longer than I think they will.  We teach what we need to learn.
    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, SCAC, MCC – (blogging at ADDandSoMuchMore and on ADDerWorld – dot com!) “It takes a village to transform a world!”

  • Time management has always been a struggle for me. I secretly try to be both and owl and a lark and end up exhausted. Some things that have worked for me have been (1) getting a timer and setting time deadlines on projects throughout the day and (2) designating a regular time for Happy Hour each evening so that I step away from the computer. Speaking of which…

  • Demian Kasier

    I love the use of closed list as opposed to prioritized todo lists. Since I have to do everything on my lists anyhow. (If it doesn’t need to be done, I don’t write it on a list.) I like the fact that a closed list always gets smaller and therefore always gets done. 

  • I would add http://www.businessballs.com to the list. I haven’t used it in a while which proves to me that it was invaluable during the early stages of building my businesses 🙂

    A great list of resources there Tara, thanks for collating them.

  • I like using topic-specific forums, which you can find using Google, but you can interact with members and often get very detailed information.

     

  • Hi Tara! Wonderful suggestions. Most of the sites that you’ve mentioned really gives a lot of informative topics you  want especially Google which most of us are using when we look for great contents and other searches, just like your website where It appear on the first page of Google. Other business sites like Score will be my next list of website to visit. Thanks for this great resource. More success!

  • Great list! I’d also go to smallbiztrends.com, they give out lots of advices and tips for small businesses.

  • Well you know me Elaine – would be sure death for me 🙂 Brilliant post – I read it thinking how great it would be…..for anyone but me 🙂

  • John Dawson

    thanks for the article which raises some interesting points. Can I comment on point four.
    I don’t think audience members think they are invisible. What’s happening is that the listeners have simply moved from being active listeners to passive listeners. As an audience member they don’t have to look after the speaker like they would in a normal conversation. So they don’t show approval signs such as nodding and smiling.

    So blank faces are absolutely normal in an audience.

    This means that the speaker needs to shift from using the normal conversational skills where both parties are offering micro-signals of approval to public speaking skills where the speaker needs to STOP looking for those clues. Because you won’t get approval signs from the audience very often. You get passive listening faces. It’s really worth learning these public speaking skills – it makes it a lot easier to be the centre of attention when you realize that the bored look is just standard practice in a normal audience. You might of course get one person who is nodding and smiling – the danger with that is that you spend all your time with that person. If you learn to love blank faces then you can include and connect with all of your audience – even the ones with grumpy faces.

    http://www.speaking-infront.co.uk/

  • Great advice again Elaine. Sharp and to the point. I like the outward focus at the end – WIIFT.

  • Christina Giliberti

    Elaine, I know that fear well! But getting better and in actual fact, now I think about it….your tips are why. I started to notice how uncomfortable people were, so switched to sitting down and chatted to them like a collaborative group. Suddenly barriors dropped and we felt much calmer. Obviously this tactic doesn’t work with large audiences, but it does highlight that mindset and approach are key.

  • Elaine: Have you participated in meetings by the Toastmasters International?

  • If we feel the passion, I believe it will show 🙂
    Thanks for reading John, and monotone is a no-no, I agree!

  • Once a want to change becomes greater than the need to stay the same, change happens. And change is generally perceived by humans as negative, whereas it can also be positive.

    And just sometimes, it means simply putting yourself in that position to stand up there, and then realise it’s not so bad, afterall. And the sense of achievement and euphoria so outweighs the initial fear.

    Best wishes Sian, perhaps a local toastmasters may be an opportunity to get over that initial hurdle!

  • Hi John,

    Thank you for your very wise addition to the conversation. I agree that the “blank look” is simply the passive listening face. I would add that it is the responsibility of the speaker to turn passive into active, to ensure interaction and acceptance of what they are speaking about (after all as speakers, we want them to at least remember some of what we say – rather than leave wondering “what was that al about” – a bit like arriving at a destination in a car and wondering how you didn’t notice the journey).

    I believe the clues you speak of are a cue to change state, as suggested in my post. This enables the audience to subconsciously switch from passive to active listening.

    I smiled at your comment about the nodding and smiling person – I have been guilty of that, especially in the early days. It’s still encouraging at least 🙂

    Great points raised, I appreciate your contribution.

  • Hi Warren,

    Thank you and just to expand a little on the WIIFT (or WIFT for short). This is the first Q we should ask ourselves as presenters, speakers and trainers. The next Q is WIFM (What’s in it for ME) – also vitally important because if we do not know why we are there, well then all bets are off!

    I have taken this a step further to the WIFE (no not that one but – What’s in it for EVERYONE) – my personal favourite – a WIN/WIN me thinks 🙂

    Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

  • Hi Christina,
    I love your response thank you! Indeed, when I am training, or facilitating especially, I much prefer to sit also, as it does indeed break down certain barriers. One important point to remember is that no matter what, you CANNOT become one of them, as they need you to be masterful and lead (if only even a little).

    There is always a danger of the “discussion” getting out of control and becoming a free for all, so it’s the speaker’s job to maintain control and stay on top (whilst remaining calm!)

    Thanks for sharing your experience 🙂

  • Hi Martin,
    Although there is a local group in my area, I have never joined, due to the nature of my work. Having just written that, I do realise and appreciate that a group like toastmasters is essential for refining techniques and getting to “Steve Jobs” level of presenting / speaking.

    Thank you for reading the most and making that recommendation, I very much appreciate your input!

  • Elish Bul

    Thank you for the quick soothing pointers! There is a new event series in Dublin called Speaking suppers where you can practise speaking or just go and watch whilst supping. I suspect there will be more such gatherings to help those who break out in a cold sweat each time. I find a big smile as you prepare helps generate a warmer state of mind , the right endorphins and it never hurts to listen to music that motivates you too ( pre speech/ performance)

  • The book of lists puts death at number seven on the fear scale and
    public speaking at number one. But it doesn’t have to be that wasy as
    Elaine Rogers points out in this article with five tips for overcoming fears. And I can tell you from experience that they work! Need a speaker on a marketing topic? http://jonturino.com/contact. And I can help you learn to be a better public speaker as well.

  • Hi again John,

    Ironically, when I went to vote on your post on Bizsugar, one of the “related” posts at the end was a post I wrote for TYB nearly 3 years ago – it is interesting reading back on it and my thoughts on leadership back then:

    http://tweakyourbiz.com/management/2010/04/13/and-then-there-was-sex-%E2%80%93-manager-as-leader-really/

    I particularly like the reference to the US TV drama LOST!!

    Bear in mind I was writing about Manager as Coach – using leadership (6th post in a 5-part series – the days when we had fun with blog titles that were completely SEO unfriendly!)

  • John Twohig

    Hi Elaine, Elaine, oops there’s an echo here:) Thanks for both comments.

    Not having watched “Lost” I am afraid your reference is a bit Lost on me.

  • Storewars News

    Nice
    read! Very informative. Did you know that Coca-Cola sales beat estimates as
    China volumes soar. Full story here: http://on.fb.me/RnuiwT

  • Sian, huge thanks to you for including Lynsey’s post on the UK Linkology blog.

    Could you update ‘Linkology’ to ‘UK Linkology’ please?

    I’ll get this shared with my followers!

    Hope you’re having a great weekend.

  • Did you do a holiday round-up?

  • Great post – all very relevant info … I also like to have a look at what’s trending, current affairs, time of year, what’s happening my my business. There’s blog-writing inspiration all around us!

  • intouchcrm

    Great post Sumita! Very interesting points. Everybody experiences writers block every now and then and knowing how to kind your muse, your inspiration and your subject is crucial. Here at InTouch CRM (http://www.intouchcrm.com) we have a few guides to keep us writing-motivated: Know your subject, Listen carefully (to customers, industry leaders and competition – what do they all talk about, what do they want to know), Learn from your mistakes and victories (if a certain topic worked for your audience particularly well, how can you get more out of the subject). I hope that helps! Really nice post!

  • Sumita Das Dutta

    Thank you Elizabeth for liking my post.

  • Sumita Das Dutta

    Hi Sian! you are welcome! Indeed the point you mention can be implemented for better outcome.

  • Successful bloggers enoy discussing their blogs’ topics from all angles and appreciate a healthy debate.

  • Sumita Das Dutta

    Thanks kara for liking my blog post! I hope to write more for your help




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