Working from home may sound like fun, but what happens when the 1,000 distractions get in the way, or you’re simply feeling unproductive? Your business is going to suffer. Here are six time management tips to ensure greater success:
1. Create a sustainable routine that signals the beginning and the end of the work day. A great example is a client that was a software coder. He would go to a local diner every morning to read the paper, eat breakfast, and interact with other folks. Then he would come home, code for seven hours, and when his wife got home from work they would take a walk, and that was the end of the workday — no more coding until tomorrow. And no coding on the weekends!
2. Work when you’re most productive. Think about what time of day you work best. For example, if you’re a morning person, be sure to dedicate that time to your most difficult work projects. Save errands, mundane tasks, and networking for those times during your day when you typically feel less creative. And of course, it’s important to take breaks to clear your head.
3. Make sure your work space is not part of your family space. Create a room specifically to use, especially if you have children. This accomplishes two things: You know that when you walk into that room you’re there to work, and then you shut the door and all family members know that they need to respect your work space when you’re in it. Also, make sure your work environment is one you feel good in (organized and laid out to support your work and your work style). Occasionally, you may need a second location (coffee shop, library) somewhere you don’t have to pay attention to what’s going on. It can provide an opportunity to think, act and work differently.
4. Contrary to the beliefs of those in your personal life, you are at work even though you are home. Set boundaries and ask that they respect your workday when it comes to phone calls, pop-in visits, etc.
5. Use one calendar for all of your personal and business commitments. Are you scheduled to take the kids to the dentist on the same day you’re trying to knock out a business proposal? Make sure you have a solid mechanism in place so you build in (can visually see) how you intend to include (which means scheduling) creative time, family time, personal development, honey-do’s, social activities, business development and your actual workload. I call this Whole-Life Planning because you have to account for every commitment you make in every area of your life. This is how you effectively manage your priorities, become more purposeful about the extra commitments you take on, and be able to start pruning what is unnecessary, unproductive or unfulfilling.
6. Combat isolation. Join community groups, professional associations or volunteer for a nonprofit in your community. Attend or exhibit at trade shows. Take classes at the community college. You’ll find that interacting with other people will help keep you sane. It also affords you the opportunity to network and have a diverse group of individuals to bounce and test ideas, foster creativity, build rapport and develop strategic alliances. You’ll find that these activities enhance your business and increase your quality of life significantly.