Years ago when I worked for a technology consulting firm in the mid-80’s, I learned what would become of many hard earned lessons in time management. This was an exciting period me as well as the industry due to the lightning speed advances in technology. Our mid-sized firm was rapidly growing and I had recently taken on the role as Human Resources Director. This was a newly created role for the company and boy was I excited. However, my go-with-the-flow natural tendency would be challenged by the rigors and demands of my schedule.
I traveled extensively to top-tier universities scouting for super-smart talent, all the while, training all new hires, developing an HR system, raising two small children, and attending school at night. Yes, I was over my head. Well one day the owner sat down in my office, (as he could see my projects were piling up) and asked me to write down in 30 minutes increments what I was doing. Can you imagine that! I felt totally humiliated! That is a moment I will never forget, as then I realized I had never been taught to manage my time- effectively.
Flash forward to 2011, I’m now a work-from-home entrepreneur running an Internet Marketing firm and Style Coaching business. And things couldn’t be tougher to stay on task, and produce projects (such as this newsletter) on time.
When I see pictures of moms holding kids at a computer, I shake my head in sadness. That image has turned out more stressed out non-productive people you can imagine! There was a time I used to be one of them, but not anymore. Let me share with you the top time management tips of some of the most successful people I know.
1) Completely clear the clutter from your work space. Nothing creates more mental stress than to see piles and mounds of half completed projects. Immediately clear them away and notice the immediate peace that will overtake your spirit.
2) Work in solitude free from distractions. No TV, No music, No surfing the net, if your serious about working from home, achieving the success you desire you have to commit this no excuses. Now this was a tough one for me, because I love me some good music! Don’t get me wrong, I still crank up the music, but not while concentrating on completing a project.
3) Do not answer your phone. If your like me and have children, put the phone on silent and look at it every 15-30 minutes to see if you have missed THEIR call, no one else. Kids love to text- so use that tool to keep in touch. I’m baffled by parents who do not like to text, especially with their children. How on earth can they and you stay on task by engaging in distracting phone conversations throughout the day?
4) Choose a time of day to respond to email. We live in a society of email overload by stuff you’ve signed up to receive and loads of other mystery email that show up in your box. Whatever email account you use, most offer sophisticated tools to help sort and prioritize your emails. Don’t respond randomly throughout the day or you’ll lose precious moments staying focused and on task to complete what you really should be focused on.
5) Block out time in 30 minute increments for projects-then take a stretch. It’s important to know where your time is going and what you’re doing so you can adjust to stay on track. If your like me, your managing several blogs, writing newsletters, coaching clients, board responsibilities, all the while creating new and exciting projects. You cannot overemphasize the importance of time and energy control when you are trying to run your own business or simply be productive. You need to learn the value of time blocking, activity batching, and scripting your day. Stretching sends vital oxygen to your brain and energizes your cells. Try it, it really works!
6) Put your family and friends on notice about your schedule changes. This is a hard one for them to accept. Most people don’t believe you can make money from home, but oh are they dead wrong. By responding to their every request, you’re giving them permission to devalue what you do. What’s even worse is that you’re not getting the results your hoping for, and we all know what that leads to-frustration, fighting and non-productivity.
7) I strongly recommend going to bed early. Even “cool and hip” New York Times best-selling author and celebrity Neil Strauss admitted that an early morning schedule allowed him to get more done. You’ll find that you’ll get “2 hours of afternoon work” done in 30 minutes of morning productivity. Again, I was sure success hinged on the idea of working myself to a pulp. Yep, that’s about what you will become. Pulp!
It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom. ~Aristotle
If working from home to you means relaxing with a laptop and coffee in hand at your local Starbucks or mentally fussing about things that need to get done at home, your aren’t going to create the life you’re hoping for. I’m sorry to tell that’s just not going to happen.
Here’s how to get MORE done. PERIOD.
You need to get serious about simple planning and a time management checklist.
The very last thing you should do each workday is to prepare a schedule/checklist for the next day’s work. Develop a template based on your current projects and literally block time for each task.
In order to “create” this schedule, you’ll need to use a journal to record how you are spending your time right now. Recall my opening story of having to “track my time?” Carry a notebook with you for a couple of days and write down exactly what you are doing every 15 minutes. Do this all day for three straight workdays. You will then identify the things that cause you to waste time, and you can work on eliminating those.
You may notice patterns of falling into the trap of checking emails that then taken you to far away places, like sports sites, fashion newsletters, twitter, etc. You see where this is going and so is your time. See that’s why having your schedule is so important. It will bring you right back to where you need to be.
Lastly identify the time of day when your most productive. What I’ve found is this may interfere with another family task. This is where family and friend support is so important to fill in those spaces of time so you can stat on task. Otherwise, you may find success eludes you for a long time, until you apply these time tested principles.