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Time is money. This can be especially true when working at home. With that said, there are many people who work too much for too little results. This is where organization can help, by allowing you to be productive and efficient, you can work less and get paid more.
The challenge is that working at home has no structure unless you create some, and there are a ton of distractions, from Facebook to laundry to children and pets.
We asked these work-at-home experts share their productivity tips on how they stay focused, organized, and motivated to keep their work and income on the right track.
One of the best tools I use to get and stay organized is a project management system. There are many options out there but I prefer to use a simple and user-friendly tool called Asana which has a perfectly usable version that’s totally free and allows you to do pretty much everything required to run an organized business and ensure you are at your most productive.
I use Asana for logging every detail about my work, rather than get lost in emails I open and log any emails that need to be responded to in Asana at an appropriate time to do so.
I also manage every aspect of any projects I am working on ensuring everything is organized and in an easy to find place, rather than relying on a disconnected mixture of to-do lists, email conversations and Google docs, everything is either in Asana or linked to from an Asana task.
I also use Asana to create repeatable systems and standard operating procedures that greatly enhances my workflow and allows me to save a great deal of time when working on similar tasks and processes.
Adopting this approach is the one change I made in the last 5 years that has improved my organization skills and allowed me to take on more work with less stress and fewer mistakes and missed deadlines.
1) Create an image in your head of how you want your work space to look, but also ask yourself what you need in your work space. Mail station? Space to spread out? Area for supplies? Anything non-related to work, should be cleared away.
2) Create a designated work space and work storage space. Many of us can work with just a laptop so it’s the extraneous items (paper, pens, files, etc.) that need a home. Designating one or two shelves in a closet (or an entire closet), file cabinet, etc. for work items is the first step. Then only work-related items can go there.
3) Spend the last 15 minutes (more or less depending on your work stuff) of your day filing paper, clearing off your area, putting things away and creating the next day’s To Do list. This not only makes your space organized but starting the next day with a neat area is more motivating.
1) Break big projects into smaller parts before you dive in. Sometimes taking on a large project can feel overwhelming; where do you start? To take the edge off, start by writing down all the questions you need to answer to complete the project. Then write down the tasks you need to complete to answer these questions. These questions will form your to-do list so you don’t have to complete them all at once.
2) Plan your to-do list the night before. At the end of each day, take a look at your calendar and make your to-do list in advance. This way, you can dive right in when you arrive.
3) Estimate your tasks and know your limits. If you don’t have white space on your calendar, you’re setting yourself up for failure. A to-do list doesn’t matter if you’re trying to cram 12 hours of work into an 8 hour day. Instead, estimate how long it will take you to complete each task and assign yourself a realistic amount of work. At the end of the week, check your estimates. Did some tasks require more time? Keep yourself honest and you’ll accomplish more.
1) Create a workplace that you can call yours, away from all of the action within the home. If you’re here, you know you have to be in work mode.
2) Working from home isn’t always about luxury, so be sure to set hours. For me, I can only work when my children are at school (7:45-3) since my wife works outside of the home. Once they are home, it’s extremely hard to concentrate, so setting these hours motivates me to make sure work is getting done.
3) Every day/week, I create a visual list on paper. There’s nothing better than checking off all of the things that needed to be done. I always try to overboard so that if I do finish, I can really feel accomplished! Plus, it could be a great reminder as well.
I’m organizationally challenged, but after 20+ years of working from home, I know that organization is key to working less and still being effective. Here are my tips:
- Create a schedule. Over the years, my schedule has changed. When my kids were little, having a schedule and sticking to it was crucial. When they were in school, I had longer periods of unintrupted time, but I still had to get a lot done, and the schedule helped with that. Now that my kids are out of the house, my days are pretty much my own, but I still use a schedule so I can get things done in a timely manner and have more time for other activities.
- Use a planning/schedule system that works for you. Whether it’s digital or paper, you’ll save a great deal of time if you have a planner that outlines all your to-dos so you can methodically get them done. Without a plan, you’re going to waste time. This year (2018), I used a Bullet Journal for my schedule. I really liked it and I was able to design it exactly as I need it to work. Other planners didn’t really work because they’re set up for times of day, that didn’t really matter to me. I don’t have a lot of appointments, so having time slots isn’t necessary. Next year, I’m planning to move back to the The Happy Planner. I use the classic size with the vertical weekly view. This change is pretty much to do something different (I get bored easily).
- Develop systems. Once you have a schedule, you need systems and workflows to help guide you through your to dos. The tool I like to help me stay on top of my workflow is Trello. Trello has many of my ideas and to-dos, but also, works as my checklist, telling me what is next in the series of to-dos. I also use social media automation to help in my marketing, which out spending too much time on social media, which can be distracting.
- Set up the home office for productivity. There is research that suggests messy people are smart and creative. If that’s true, I’m a genius! However, messy offices can feel uninspiring and will slow you down if you can’t what you need. I try to live in a happy medium, which means I have lots of stakes, but try to keep my space free from too much clutter. At least once a week, I go through to sort, organize, and deal with the stuff that accumulates.