How can you improve your time management when working from home?
We all have so many pulls on our time and when you work from home, there are the added distractions of housework and family. If you ever get to the end of your day and wonder where the time went, read on.
An Effective To-Do List
What’s longer than a piece of string, constantly has things removed from it but is never finished? The To-Do List. Your best friend and at times, the cause of many a frustration.
It’s so useful to do what I call the brain dump where you literally chuck everything in your head down on to paper (and yes, paper, not typed up). It metaphorically, but also literally, gets it out of you and your head and on to something you can see and act upon.
Looking at it might seem daunting but it frees up a lot of mental capacity rather than trying to keep everything in your head.
From there you can make a better decision about what to prioritise. Then compile your actionable list for that day or week ahead. The language of your to-do list plays a key part here. Ensure you write your list in a way that means you get the desired result. It’s a point covered in the Productivity section of Issue 2 of The Homeworker magazine and it can have a huge impact.
Your to-do list system
Another tip in the magazine is about using your planner.
Use a system which works for you. I find keeping my to-do lists in one place most useful. It’s easy to write them on scraps of paper and have several lists scattered about your home and on your phone. When it comes to time management, I find that’s not so much a system as an easy way to miss something from one list or forget to add to another.
If you like having a digital list then using the cloud to keep your lists consistent across your devices is a good idea – even if that’s just something like Notes on your iPhone.
I also like the bullet journal system for keeping things organised. You can be as creative and make them as pretty as you like. For me, the actual note-taking system means you get a clear idea of what you’ve done, what needs to be carried over and what can be scheduled for much later in the month or even year.
If you want to explore the concept of high and low-energy to-do lists, check out issue 1 for some effective strategies.
Prioritise your tasks
It sounds obvious but it’s very easy to lose track of what’s important, especially when there are so many demands for our attention in the digital space – and our home space. Careful prioritisation is crucial for your time management when working from home. It allows you to be more focused and present on the work you do.
It can be easy to get to the end of the day feeling as if you’ve achieved very little. More commonly, feeling as if you’ve been very busy but also that nothing important has been achieved.
Prioritise your top three items and be realistic about what you can commit to. Don’t try to do it all at once.
Previously, in issue 2 of the magazine, Mynd Map Founder, Rosemary Ikepeme, looked at three principles and ideas to help you make the decision about what to focus on. One of those is understanding your ‘why’ and focusing on that regularly to keep you from veering off to another distraction.
Managing Your Time
Every day is a bank account, and time is our currency.– Christopher Rice –
No one is rich, no one is poor, we’ve got 24 hours each.
Blocking out your time is a helpful way to keep yourself accountable. Scheduling in this way allows you to plan your day so that you make time for work, life, friends and family.
Allocating a task to each block of time keeps you focused and doing the one thing well, rather than a multitude of things in a distracted fashion.
Ensure to time block ‘white space’ to allow for leeway to give yourself break time. It’s as important to schedule in the breaks as it is your work time.
They say life is a marathon, not a sprint. In this instance, a focused work sprint can be more helpful than a long, drawn-out day where you end up slogging yourself to get to the end.
Using a timer such as in the Pomodoro technique can help give you an incentive to get your work finished. This is usually where you segment your work into 25-minute blocks followed by a break. It even turns it into more of a fun game.
Batching is a useful way to maximise your time. Importantly, it keeps your brain focused on one activity rather than flitting between different jobs.
In issue 1 of The Homeworker, productivity coach, Briana Berner, describes the impact of this context shifting on your time.
Think about where you can ‘batch’ your work. Content creation is an obvious area where we can do it in bulk such as blog and social media posts.
The Social Media Vortex
There’s no escaping social media. It’s rare to find someone who isn’t on at least one platform and it’s a useful and (if you choose) free tool for marketing your business.
But social media is a time drain and at times, soul-sapping.
The problems arise because we’re always connected and actively encouraged to be constantly interacting. Your social media habits play a big part in how productive you are. Discipline around how long you spend on social media and how much you let it impact your life is needed to maintain healthy boundaries.
Using the time-blocking technique, schedule specific times to interact and post on social media. Creating a social media content calendar also means you know what you’re posting when without wasting time scrolling and thinking on the fly.
The One Tab Rule
You’re concentrating on one task and you see the alert flash up on another open tab, you hear the ping of another email and the notification slide across to let you know somebody’s replied to your Facebook message.
When it comes to deep work or just ensuring you’re using your time efficiently, the one tab rule is a simple but powerful time management tip when working from home.
Make sure you keep just one or two tabs (the most you need to do your work) open, or none at all if you’re doing some work offline. If you’re just typing in a document, keep your browser shut and emails and other notifications silenced.
We’re all susceptible to the dopamine rush of a new message. Or the feeling of urgency around checking emails or replying instantly. The one tab rule helps you avoid temptation.
For a constant supply of time management and productivity tips, subscribe to The Homeworker magazine. You’ll get a quarterly dose of productivity, time management and procrastination-boosting strategies as well as inspiration for your workspace, your mindset and your wellbeing.