When you work from home, or when you work for yourself, it can be difficult to really just sit down and work. Throw in the fact that you are taking care of your 2 year old son most of the time, and sometimes when you have a break you just want to sit. Time management is important no matter what career you choose. Here are a few tips to help keep you on track and make sure you accomplish your goals.
Write It Down
Almost all people are visual people. Some can organize things in their head quite well, but they still benefit from seeing what needs to be done. Instead of just knowing what you need to do, make a list of what needs to be done. This can be done on the computer, but I prefer to write everything down on paper. I do this in two ways.
First I have a piece of paper that I print off that has 2 week’s worth of calendars on it. I have the boxes filled in on what I will be doing each day. For example on Monday I have written “SSery Blog X3” to remind me to write 3 posts for this blog. These posts will then be scheduled to be posted on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
At the beginning of each workday, I have another sheet of paper where I prioritize the daily tasks and add in things that didn’t make my regular list of what needs to be done. So on Monday I will write down “SSery – Shop Local; SSery – Time Management; SSery – Stay Organized” to show that those are the specific goals for that day. I also include “Call Site developer, call accountant, call insurance” and so on for any other one-off tasks that need done. As I complete a task, I cross it off as a visual reminder that it is done. I try to organize this list so that the most important tasks are at the top of the list.
Relax and Take Breaks
If you try to sit down and work for 8 hours straight, you will burn out long before you hit the end of your workday. By the time you’re onto hour 6 or 7, you will likely be taking far longer to accomplish one project than if you had taken some breaks in there. To maximize efficiency, schedule yourself some breaks. There are many, many articles that talk about the science of taking breaks. How often and how long those breaks are greatly depends on the individual.
What I like to do is take a small break after I accomplish each task (with the exception of “call insurance” and small things like that. If the task takes me 2 minutes I don’t need a break afterward). What that ends up looking like is about 10 minutes of break for every 30 minutes of work. This is roughly in line with what a study actually found to be most productive.
Schedule a Power Hour
Now there are times, especially with an erratic work schedule, that you just need to work a little harder. The risk here is that you could burn out if you work TOO hard. I like to do what I call a “Power Hour.” Sure it’s a clichéd phrase, but it has application to time management.
If I have a bunch of work that I MUST get done today, I have to buckle down and work hard now, or else I will be working late into the night. So I turn off all distractions: set the phone to silent, close out Facebook, Twitter, and other non-essential internet screens, use the bathroom, and remove clutter from my desk. I then work for one hour non-stop. I work as fast as I can and still maintain accuracy, and I get as much done in that hour as I possibly can.
After my hour is up, I finish the task at hand, and I get up and take a break away from my desk. This is essential because if you are taking a break at your computer (surfing the internet, etc.) your brain is not relaxing away from work. I usually get a cup of coffee, use the restroom, and clean up something in the house to break my train of thought. I then can return to work refreshed, and if I still have a lot to do, I start a new power hour.
Time Management is a Learned Skill
There are some people who have a personality that is more organized and succinct than others. However, just because their desk is clutter free does not mean their time management skills are precise. No matter who you are, you have to learn time management; without it you will be wasting a lot of time that could be put to good use. Please notice that proper time management does not mean working constantly, but rather making the most of your time when you are working.
As a writer in Billings, Montana who offers SEO services, I have to stay focused when I work. Time management has been a skill that I have learned to adapt. I haven’t perfected it yet, but I am on my way.