If you never seem to have enough time to do all the things that need to be done, more efficient use of time and use of tools and systems can help. This week, I asked work-at-home experts to share their opinions and advice on time management.
Tricia Sciortino, eaHELP
Have a designated work space, even when working from home. When you work in an office setting, you need a space that’s relatively distraction-free to do your best work. That doesn’t change when you work from home. Ideally, it’s best to use a separate room as a home office where the door can be closed. However, even a designated corner of your bedroom or living room will do the trick. Avoid your couch and bed – they’re super comfy, but won’t help you get into a proper frame of mind for a productive work day.
Have an “off” time. Those who work remotely struggle to “leave” the office since they can’t actually leave the office. It’s important to set up work boundaries and be mindful of when your work day begins and ends. Try to avoid ‘work creep’ into your dinner, weekends and family time. This practice will help you avoid burnout.
Respect your work as your full-time day job. Believing you can care for and interact with your roommates, spouses and children while working remotely is doing a disservice to yourself, your clients and your employer. While working from home offers tremendous flexibility, it still needs to be treated as important work. There’s no way to focus on your children and your job full-time and remain productive. Seek out a babysitter or daycare service and make sure work is the sole focus for a few hours every day.
Han Chang, InvestmentZen
For time management, my biggest tip is to spend 15-30min at the end of each day to go over what you want to accomplish the next day and write it down. Make sure it’s written with pen and paper where it’s impossible to miss the next day (not on a file on a computer, too distracting!).
Here’s the crucial part – circle the most important thing to do; you’ll know because you’re probably hesitant to start on it. Then commit to doing that thing as the first task of the day next morning! Once that’s ingrained as a habit, magical things start happening…
Also, I use RescueTime as a time tracking system to measure productivity, and review it weekly to figure out what’s distracting me and also when my most/least productive times of day are and plan accordingly!
Barry Maher, Barry Maher & Associates
My favorite time management tool? Simply spending a few minutes at the end of every day planning the next day, then a few minutes every morning reviewing that plan, saves far more than 20 minutes each and every day.
Simon Slade, Doubledot Media
Try to perceive stress as an alarm that needs to be turned off. Stress alerts you that you are not operating effectively, so use this warning to make changes. Recognize that stress may mean you don’t have enough time to complete every task perfectly, so give yourself permission to complete tasks adequately rather than perfectly. Each time you experience this stress and have to reduce the quality of your work, make a mental note to designate at least one task to someone else. Stress is only negative if you react negatively to it. It can also be used constructively.”
Jamila T Jeffers, J T Jeffers
I started my business last year but I think of my business as 1 year old with 10 year’s experience.
My favourite Time Management tip of 2016 is ‘Say No more’, We say ‘yes’ to stuff that just makes us busy, often in an attempt to be liked, or to impress others. But in the end we waste time and effort, while not getting any closer to our own goals.
Mark Aselstine, Uncorked Ventures
I use Evernote at this point fairly extensively. I found that I was keeping different to-do lists for work, the kids, home projects etc etc. Having a pretty clear and concise place to keep track of notes, as well as, what’s coming up helps keep me organized and my time managed quite a bit better.
Bob Littell, NetWeaving International
The A’s are those things that are most ‘important’ . Usually they are more complex and longer-term in nature and they’re the ones we tend to put off saying we need more time to focus on them.
The B’s are those things that are ‘important’ but not nearly as important as the A’s and they tend to have some ‘sense of urgency’ about them.
The C’s are those items that are neither that important or even that urgent. They’re those gnat-biting things that we need to get done and are fairly short-term in nature.
With our limited ‘windows of time’, we tend to finish the week by knocking out a nice list of C’s; work on a few B’s, and get little or nothing accomplished on our A’s.
Lakein’s two tips include: 1) constantly ask yourself, “What’s the best use of my time?” 2) “When in doubt, CHIP at an A!”. That’s the saying by which I try to live my life.
Start your week out by first looking at your A’s and decide what bite-sized piece or pieces of my A’s can I knock out this week and don’t do anthing toward working on a B or a C until you have finished that portion of your A. What often happens is that once you get started working on just a small piece of your A, you tend to get wrapped up in it and spend a great deal more time than you had expected. That’s how you get the most important things accomplished.
Elena Lockett, FM Outsource
We are currently using daPulse to help both our in office and outreach staff with their time management. daPulse is a project management tool which allows members of the team to add their own tasks and change the status depending on what is happening. It provides management with a view to who has spare time and who needs help. Especially with outreach, it helps attribute where their hours are going when they work, as they need to actually put a status next to tasks. This makes sure employees are also aware of how long a task tasked, before filling their shift in with tasks. For example, an employee may start by adding lots of tasks to one day and then realise they do not physically have the time. That is when they will start managing their time better and either spread their tasks across various days or spend less time on certain tasks/delegate to other members of the team.
Sam Williamson, Aims Media Glasgow
Trying to manage your time effectively in a modern office environment can be difficult, as opportunities and problems that need to be dealt with immediately can arise at any time and procrastination can be difficult to overcome. Fortunately, there are a few simple tricks that you can implement to ensure that you use the time that you have as effectively as possible.
The hardest part of the day is the lead up to lunch, and one of my favorite tricks to get through this lagging period is ’20 minute sprints’. Set an alarm on your phone or watch for 20 minutes, and work continuously until it rings. Once it does ring, stop what you’re doing immediately and take a 10 minute break, which you should also set an alarm for. This approach doesn’t try to avoid procrastination, it actually uses it as a reward. I find this extremely motivating and have no problem getting my work completed using this approach.
Robin Martinelli, Martinelli Investigations Inc
My biggest tip to stay focus an work hard is balance. You have to tell yourself their is a day each week I am taking for myself. Hiring great people an email me back or call and I can tell you some tools to help.
Scott Sherwood, TestLodge
Automate as much as possible. Whatever profession you may be in, you can only work so many hours in one day, so making sure you spend this time on the things that actually matter and make the difference is very improvement. Automating those recurring tasks that you may have to do day after day can be a huge time saver when you consider how much time you may spend on them over a full month / year.
Leah Thurber, LeahCompany
There are a lot of effective habits that people should possess. One of the most effective traits of the most successful people is being productive. And I can’t disagree with the idea that if you learn how to manage your time, the world will be in your hands. Productivity is one of the most important skills that everyone should possess. All of the best ideas are nothing without productivity that will turn them in real successful results. And time management is an unavoidable part of productivity. This is a skill that will last a lifetime, no matter what else must be learned.
There are a lot of various time management tips, but I’d like to mention the most important ones. First and foremost, you should set work hours for yourself just as if you were in an office. They can be broken up, but set aside a good 6-7 hours a day for actual productive work. And no personal phone calls or interruptions while you’re working. It is very important to plan what you’re going to do – “To-Do” list. Either before you go to sleep at night or first thing in the morning you need to plan each day. Moreover, it is far better not just plan what to do, but prioritize well that helps you not to move to #2 until #1 is accomplished. To be productive means to budget your time well, focus on the tasks at hand, and complete them on time. Plan your day activity in the right way and conquer the world.
Note from Leslie: As someone who likes to juggle many varying projects, I can attest to many of the time saving tricks mentioned above. At the same time, I think time management is a personal issue. What works for me, may not work for you. I work in the digital world, but I find I do best with paper planners. For many years, I created my own planning sheets because I couldn’t find a planner that best suited my needs. Recently, I discovered the Mother’s Organizer from Plan Ahead. I am a mom, but I don’t use it as a mom’s organizer. I use it to help me plan all the projects I have. Instead of putting my children’s names in the spots for kids activities, I put my projects; Misc/Appt, WAHS, DWS, About.com, LT (my personal site), and fiction writing. Then, by each day of the week, I fill in what I have to do for those days, such as social media, email, write a post, etc. I found this planner by chance at my local CVS, but you can get it at Amazon as well.
Along with a written planner, some other tools and tricks I use to get through my daily to-dos include:
- CoSchedule plugin to schedule social media at the same time I work and schedule my blog post.
- Hootsuite to share and schedule other types of social media across platforms.
- Virtual assistants to take care of some of the busy work.
Leslie Truex is an ideaphoric writer, speaker, entrepreneur, social worker and mom trying to do it all from the comfort of her home. Since 1998, she’s been helping others create careers they love by providing work-at-home information and resources through Work-At-Home Success.
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