When I started my business, my daughters were still at school. I also had a part-time job managing a film production business and I was doing the books for my husband.
Life was busy but I still managed to be productive. I picked the kids up from school every day, had time to clean the house, do the supermarket shopping and even found my way to the gym a couple of times a week.
Fast-forward twelve years and my husband and I are empty-nesters. He does his own books, I work solely in my business these days and I have a fabulous VA. But lately I’ve been struggling to find time to exercise and the housework is being done in a mad rush on the weekends. Even a trip to the market has become something of a rarity these days.
So what happened to my time management?
Well I’m working solely from home these days and have more time than I’ve ever had. It seems all of that freedom has created a different kind of problem: an accountability problem.
Are you in the same boat?
Here’s some tips for managing your time and getting your productivity back:
1. Understand your time-management style
If you’re someone who works more efficiently with a busy schedule, try adding a couple of tasks into your weekly plan to keep motivated. Schedule a session of exercise at the beginning of the day or give yourself a tight deadline on one of your business goals. Once you find yourself on a roll and focused, you’ll likely find you end up powering through your whole ‘to do’ list.
If, on the other hand, you’re someone who’s easily overwhelmed and you know you have too much on your plate, revisit your goals and take something off the list. Outsource what you can so you can take the pressure off and stay focused on your most important priorities.
2. Make your home office beautiful
Don’t kid yourself that you’ll be happy working amongst piles of unfiled papers or sitting on an uncomfortable chair. Spend the money on a decent desk and chair and make your workspace beautiful, no matter how small the space is. Get organised with the right kind of files and storage options and personalise the space so it feels like an inviting place to be. For me that means photos of my family and inspiring quotes on the pinboard behind my desk, a scented candle, a music player and being surrounded by my favourite books.
3. Set some clear boundaries
Most of us are more creative and productive if we balance busy work with rest. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean that every day should have a work focus. Get clear about your work hours and workdays and stay true to those boundaries.
If you really must use the weekends or evenings to catch up, schedule emails to be sent in business hours to avoid setting a precedent of being available at all hours.
4. Eliminate long lists
Often the biggest time management issues belong to those with the longest lists. Use a simple productivity tool such as Asana to group individual tasks into projects. If you’re outsourcing, you can assign tasks to team members and share files via the same system, keeping everything in one place.
5. Top and tail your day
I’ve discovered that the best way for me to have a truly productive day is to start my day with activities that sharpen my focus. Exercise, meditate, journal – do whatever it is that works for you – and make sure you eat a decent breakfast.
When you arrive at work (in my case, that means coming to my desk in the front room of our house), make a note of your top three commitments for the day.
Finish your day by reflecting on what went well during your day. Most people have a tendency to focus on what didn’t get done which perpetuates negative self-talk and stops you from feeling that you are being your best self.
6. Bring yourself back to focus
If you’re overly prone to procrastinating and losing focus, set an hourly alarm (try the free iPhone timer app, i-Qi). When the timer goes off, check back against your top commitments for the day and make sure you’re focused on what really matters.
What do you do to help you with managing your time and holding yourself accountable when working from home?