Since I made the transition from teaching to working from home less than a year ago, I realize that it can be hard to manage my time when working from home. It’s easy to get distracted, lose focus, and not get through my to do list. This is something I am continually trying to work on, figuring out strategies that work for me. And I am sure things will change again here in a few months after I give birth to my first baby! But for now, here are some tips of the things that are working for me to help me manage my time while working from home.
8 tips to help manage your time when working from home.
Time management isn’t really about the minutes on the clock. Everyone gets the same 24 hours in a day – no matter who they are. It’s about your actions, your to do list, and how you tackle those tasks. Time may be something everyone wants more of and generally struggles to get, but if you manage your tasks and your focus, you can get more done with less stress.
Sounds good, right?! I mean, who doesn’t want to finish their tasks and make progress with less stress? If you’re looking for ways to improve how you handle your time, read on.
Keep track of where you’re spending your time.
To get started with improving your own use of your time, start keeping track of where you are currently spending your time. Take note of anything you do and how much time you spend doing each task. But don’t stop there. You also need to track the time you spend doing nothing, or “wasting” time, including scrolling FB/Instagram/Pinterest/etc. Eeek! If your’e anything like me, you’ll realize you spend waaaay more time on unproductive things than you thought! This can be a real wakeup call and it may be unpleasant to see where you could be doing things differently, but that’s exactly the point. It is a good way to see where your time could be better spent.
There’s this attitude in our society that “busy” is a good thing, something to be proud of. But being “busy” doesn’t always mean productive and it can raise your stress levels. Instead of writing down every single thing that comes to mind on your to do list, it may be more helpful to prioritize your list. Take a look at your to do list and zero in on the tasks that will move your business or daily life forward. Focus on the income producing activities, or IPA’s. Choose 3-5 tasks to prioritize, and be intentional about what you choose. If you organize your list with intention, you’re more likely to get more done. Then when you get the most important things done, you can start working on the lesser important things as you have time.
Work with your energy and focus, not against it.
Most people can’t work nonstop. Energy ebbs and flows, as does concentration. Work through your streamlined to-do list when your energy is high, and take breaks when it’s lower. Figure out what time of day you work best and are most focused and plan your work day around those times. Make sure you have set business hours each day and that you stick to them. Maybe you work best early morning before the kids are up, late at night after they go to bed, or during their nap time because you have fewer distractions. Use your energy and focus, don’t work against it.
Focus on one task at a time and limit distractions.
Our brains go a mile a minute. It’s easy to get distracted by other tasks, random thoughts, and external interruptions. Sometimes those distractions can’t be helped, like if you have kids who need your attention. But other times our distractions are things like Facebook, thinking about what we’re going to do for dinner that night, or remembering something else you need to do.
As much as possible, when you settle in to do a task, just focus on that. Close your unrelated browser tabs, use Facebook feed blocking apps or extensions, hide your smartphone or put it on silent. Write down any other task or thought that comes up, then get back to the task you’re working on. It may be helpful to start by doing a brain dump, where you write down everything thing that comes to mind to get it out of the way so that you can focus on one thing. (Just don’t add everything to your to do list – keep it streamlined, remember?)
As you prioritize your list, ask if it’s essential that you do everything yourself. If there are tasks that someone else in your life can take on, let them. That frees you up for what you know you need to do.
Maybe social media is overwhelming to you and you end up spending way too much time on it, time that should be spent doing other things. It might be time to hire a social media manager. Or maybe you need a VA or an assistant, whether virtual or in person, to help take some things off of your plate.
Maybe it’s something not related to your business, like a housekeeper, to help you with other tasks so that you can spend more time on your business. If you have young kids at home, you may need to consider getting someone to watch them for a few hours a day or week so that you have some uninterrupted time to work. Whatever it is, delegate and get some things off of your plate if at all possible.
Set limits on how much time is allotted to each task.
It’s easy for a task to take up a ton of time. Give yourself a specific amount of time for each project on your priority list, then move on. If you don’t finish that task in the allotted time, schedule another session to devote to the task and move on to something else. Progress is better than losing focus and control over your to do list.
Using the Pomodoro Technique can be super helpful for this. The Pomodoro Technique is where you set a timer for a certain amount of time, typically 25 minutes (but you can do more or less depending on your needs and level of focus), and work for that time frame, then give yourself a short break. After a few of these “pomodoros” or work sessions, give yourself a longer break. You’ll be surprised on how much you can get done when you are completely focused on one task for even a short amount of time.
Schedule breaks and meals.
It’s easy to get into a zone and completely forget to get up from your work space for movement breaks and food. Your mood and energy level will suffer if you don’t keep yourself fed and get a little exercise throughout the day. Using the Pomodoro Technique can help with this, as you are giving yourself a scheduled break after a certain amount of work time. Make sure to get up, stretch, walk around, get a bite to eat, etc. during each break. This will allow you to keep up your energy and be ready for your next work session.
Start and end your day at the same times, if at all possible. Routine helps, and that’s part of why so many people find it difficult to transition from employee to work-from-home business owner, or stay-at-home mom to mompreneur. Some amount of structure is important (it’s different for everybody), and keeping to limits will help you to regulate your energy and focus. But don’t forget to give yourself grace and freedom when you need it. That’s the beauty of working from home – you do what works for YOU and you have the freedom to work when and how you work best. You get to plan your work around your life instead of the other way around!
As I made the transition from teaching to a stay-at-home soon-to-be-mom and business owner, I know that managing your time and distractions when working from home can be tough. Even tougher for you mamas with young kids at home, as I’ll find out soon enough! I’m still learning to manage my tasks and will be continuing to revise my strategies as my life at home changes.
What tips and tricks do you have for managing your time when working from home? What helps you to minimize distractions and get your work done with less stress? Be sure to leave me a comment and let me know!
Many people make resolutions to get and stay organized at the start of the year. (Anyone raising their hand?) Almost as many find that they start strong, then burn out after a week or two. (How many hands are still up?!) That may be because they haven’t found a good system that is compatible with their habits and life/work style.
I have never really been the most organized, productive, or clutter-free person. There’s a reason my “word” for this year is discipline. I need more of it in ALL areas of my life! #reallife So I am right there with y’all, raising my own hand. I am working hard this year on getting systems put in place in my business and life so that I can get and stay organized in my business.
Like business and time management, organization is a very personal thing. There are a million strategies out there, but they don’t always work for everyone. So, it’s important to understand how you can approach organization and what you can do that will help you achieve your goals, instead of sticking to a system that others tell you to use, even if it doesn’t work for you.
Here are six tips that can help you get and stay organized, hopefully in a way that works for you and helps you achieve all of your goals. If you have other tips and tricks for staying organized, make sure to leave a comment on this post!
Six steps to getting and staying organized in your business
Create a filing system that works for you. Organization is a highly personal thing for each individual. What works for one person may not work for another and that includes filing systems. Some people do okay with piles – they know what’s in each pile and where specific pieces of paper are that they need. (Yep, I’m a recovering piler, in transition to using a filing cabinet!) Others need a more robust system, because they don’t like piles at all.
There are many furniture items and tools out there that you can use, like filing cabinets, desktop files, etc. There are also electronic systems. I recently heard about Neat, which allows you to scan your invoices and receipts, to organize the data and can even automate data entry into other business software systems. If baskets work for you, then use baskets. It’s all about finding a filing system that works for you, that you’ll keep using.
Create a system for communicating with clients/customers/team members. Business communication can be all over the place. (Yep, raising my hand here, too!) Some people prefer phone calls, while others use video chat software, Facebook messages, or email for minor conversations and updates. The actual communication isn’t what needs organized, most of the time. But getting those appointments into a calendar is an opportunity to create a new system.
There are a variety of scheduling platforms you can try, like Acuity, Calendly, or others. (I personally use Acuity to do coaching calls with team members.) Those platforms can input the appointment in your own calendar and in the other person’s calendar as well, and can send reminders.
Pick two or three items from your workspace to get rid of each week. Clutter can be a big reason for disorganization, stress, and a hindrance to productivity. Getting rid of a few things on a regular basis can help you to feel less stressed by the stuff. Eliminating the excess stuff means you have less to move around and less to gather dust. It can even help you to get more done, because it’s easier to find what you need – whether those items are paper-based, or tools and equipment.
Even if you’re not getting rid of things completely, make sure to take time each day to put things away where they belong. Leaving things out to put away another day ends up creating clutter and an unorganized office. This is one of my biggest issues that I am working on!
Save email and social media for dedicated times. Make sure clients and/or team members know that you’ll respond during those specific times. Organization is about more than just physical items and calendars full of appointments. It’s also about managing your distractions. It may be tempting to respond to email and peruse social media during your work time, but that can create issues of disorganization, in addition to productivity problems.
Use checklists for rush projects. If you take on rush projects with tight deadlines, it can be easy to get a little stressed, and sometimes disorganized. It’s easy to miss a step and screw up when the pressure of a deadline is on. Checklists can help you to ensure that you complete each step of the project so that you deliver everything that is necessary to have a complete project.
How To Stay Motivated and Focused When Working From Home
People have this romantic view of working from home: working from wherever is comfortable, in fuzzy pajamas and slippers, with the freedom to do whatever you want. The reality is – it’s rarely that easy. Sure, there’s comfort, but there are tons of distractions too – distractions that usually don’t exist if you work outside your home.
The distractions just might be endless: TV, social media, a pet. Even the dishes or the laundry make good distractions if you’re not totally energized (procrastination, anyone?). The worst distraction though, is probably the complete loss of motivation and concentration.
Fear not. There are ways to avoid the distractions and loss of motivation that can be troublesome when working from home.
Make some effort in starting your day. Start your day not with a bowl of cereal in front of your computer with the first cup of coffee, but by getting dressed, as if you are going to work. It is harder to be focused and motivated when you are still in your pajamas. Make yourself breakfast and sit down to eat it before you move on to work. Then, move into your work space for the day and get started.
Set up a specific place to work and set up your computer for fewer motivation-killing distractions. Curling up on the couch (or in bed!) with your computer and phone may be comfy, but chances are, that’s also setting yourself up for distractions. I tend to scroll Facebook more when I am working somewhere other than at my desk.Put your computer in a spot where you’ll be comfortable, but able to focus and work. For me, it’s at my desk. Add things to your work space that will help you concentrate – like headphones, if needed, and a white board. Make sure you have the right tools for the job too, whether that’s your computer and planner, or tools you need to create physical items.
Track how you spend your time. There are a variety of task tracking tools meant to help you manage your time. RescueTime is one you can look into. Let it run in the background of your computer and then analyze where it says you’re spending your time. What comes out of that analysis can help you to arrange your tasks so you get more done when your energy is high and you’re motivated. It can also show you where your distractions are causing issues that lead to frustration.Don’t let yourself just scroll Facebook during your work time. It’s not actually work. Really. If you use Google Chrome for your browser, you can download an extension called Kill News Feed that will literally kill your Facebook newsfeed so you can’t scroll when it is turned on. You can still access your page, groups, etc, but you won’t be able to waste time scrolling your newsfeed until you turn it back on. Pretty handy, huh!
Structure your task list to work with your energy. This is a big one. The transition from office work with other people and outside motivation to working from home can be a strange one. For some, it’s harder to focus and there are massive energy spikes and lulls. That’s why it’s very important to work as your concentration allows it. Don’t force it, because that will kill your motivation and your work won’t be fun or enjoyable. Forcing yourself to work only leads to frustration and more trouble concentrating. It’s an annoying loop that’s tough to get out of sometimes.
Be flexible with that task list. If you find that a task is taking longer than it should, or you’re finishing projects more quickly than expected, it’s important to acknowledge that and be okay with changing up your project list. It is great when you can clear it more quickly than expected, and it’s a drag when you realize you can’t get everything done that you want to, but don’t put more pressure on yourself when things are difficult. Accept it and just keep moving.
Schedule breaks and take them. Plan something fun and energizing for a specific break time. Schedule it, and guard that scheduled time. When you know that you have a break coming up, it’s often easier to concentrate and get more done. Anticipation is a fabulous motivator. You might be shocked to find out just how much you can achieve when you know you have fun time coming up.
Also, it’s easy to forget to eat when you’re working from home, so make sure that you occasionally take a break to eat and get something to drink so you stay hydrated.
Every year I choose a word of the year. It is a word that I want to focus on for the upcoming year. I do this instead of making new year’s resolutions. For 2017 my word was Growth and for 2018 my word was Freedom. These words ended up fitting their respective years perfectly.
A look at the past
2017 was a year of growth for me, especially business wise. In 2017, I finished out my first year of teaching special ed instead of pre-k; I started a new web design business and learned a lot from it; I started a new direct sales business which took off and grew like crazy; and overall had a year of change and growth.
Freedom was a perfect fit for 2018. My new direct sales business gave me the freedom to be able to quit my teaching job and work from home. And what a blessing that has been! I am not sure how I would have managed to get through my first trimester with pretty bad morning sickness while teaching full time. It was definitely the freedom I needed.
I also was able to take my husband on a really nice vacation to Jamaica using money I made from my business. It was amazing to be able to have the freedom to go on that vacation without worrying about the cost!
My 2019 Word of the Year and why I chose it
And this year. My 2019 word of the year. This year my word is Discipline.
This year I am choosing the word discipline because it’s something I desperately need more of in all areas of my life. I am often not a very disciplined person, maybe even more so now that I am working from home and at home all day with the freedom to do what I want.
My home life needs more discipline: taking care of the laundry regularly instead of waiting for it to pile up and we’re running out of underwear (someone tell me I’m not the only one who does this); doing the dishes every day instead of letting them sit in the sink for days; cleaning the bathrooms before the get disgusting; and generally keeping up with housework and doing what I know needs to be done around the house, even though I don’t always want to do it. It takes discipline.
My business life also needs more discipline: sending hostess packets to my hosts each month and keeping up with mailings in a timely manner; hostess coaching and partnering with my hosts; chatting with those interested about the business opportunity instead of making excuses; writing the blog posts that I say I’m going to write; keeping up with my social media posts since I am running an online business; cleaning my office and keeping it organized instead of letting it get messier and messier; and actually doing the work that I know I need to do to run my business instead of wasting so much time scrolling Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest. It takes discipline.
In just a few months (June) I am due with my first baby. I don’t want him/her (we should find out soon!) to grow up and learn to be lazy and undisciplined like me. It is important to me that I set a good example for my child. I want to be able to create routines and have the schedule that my baby needs. It will take discipline. I know that I need to work on this NOW and not wait another moment.
We all could some tips to be more productive, amiright? You know, you get on your computer planning being super productive and get lots of work done…but then Facebook. An hour later, after you’ve caught up on all 101 groups you are in, you decide you really need to get down to business, but then you realize you left some laundry in the washer you need to take care of. Or your kids are still up and it’s past their bedtime. Or *insert a thousand different reasons here.* Sometimes you get to the end of the day and realize you really haven’t done any work at at all.
If you’re having trouble getting started and getting down to business, set a timer for 25 minutes (or however long you choose). Work for those 25 minutes, then let yourself take a 5 minute break before setting the timer again and working for another 25 minutes. This technique actually has a name… the Pomodoro Technique. Traditionally, the timer is set for 25 minutes, but you can set it for longer if you think that works better for you. After a few work sessions you can give yourself a longer break.
Another tip is to make sure you stay organized! This way, when you sit down to work, you know what needs to be done. Having a system for things like graphics, content creation, etc, will help tremendously as well! One of my favorite sites to use is Trello. I love how it helps me stay organized. I can keep track of to do lists, keep track of my blog post ideas or social media posts, communicate with clients, and more! It is easy to move cards around to different lists and I can easily access it from either my computer or my phone. It’s a great way to keep myself organized!
I have also found that having a list of content ideas and content calendar has helped a whole lot! I come up with lots of content ideas and put them into lists and a calendar for future posts in Trello. So whenever I need to write a blog post or social media post, I can go to that file and find an idea to write about.
Batching and Automation
Batching and automating my posts and graphics is another thing that helps me to be more productive. I often sit down and create content and graphics for my Facebook page and Instagram all at the same time. My goal is to get at least a week’s worth created, then schedule them out. I create and schedule at least one post a day for the next week on each platform, then go back and a second post for each day if I have time. When I schedule posts, I use Facebook’s business page scheduler for my page and Planoly for Instagram.
I also use Tailwind for Pinterest (you can use it for Instagram, too). Once I get this done for the week, I know I don’t have to worry about creating and posting content on my social media pages for the week and can focus on other things I need to do.
I’m Melissa Mackey, a leader with Color Street and a new lifestyle/mom blogger. A former special ed teacher turned work from home mama who loves coffee, wine, Mexican food, donuts, horses, and Jesus. Passionate about helping women like you feel just a bit more put together without taking much time out of your day – dry nail polish for the win! Sharing my about my pregnancy and journey to becoming a new mom while working my business. Come alongside me in my journey through womanhood and life. Even though it’s messy at times. Let’s be our beautiful selves together.