With more and more companies transitioning to a telecommuting workforce, it will become increasingly important that those working from home learn effective time management skills in order to be productive. Laundry, house chores, paying bills, working in the yard, even swimming at the pool or playing a round of golf might beckon the one who is unable to focus on the tasks at hand.
To practice more effective time management skills as you embark on your telecommuting journey, try the following ideas:
Set “office hours”. The most important thing you can do in organizing yourself to work from home is to set your office hours. If you plan to work from 7:30am to 5:30pm Monday through Thursday, make sure you develop a schedule that fits within those hours. If you plan to work from 7am-12 noon Monday through Friday, again, schedule your time so that you are in your office, working, during those hours.
Develop a set schedule to accomplish tasks effectively. It is important to do your most important work when you are at the best in your day. For example, if you are a “morning” person, you will want to schedule your calls and most difficult tasks in the morning, because you will be at the top of your performance matrix.
Schedule your administrative and more mundane tasks for the end of the day when you are winding down and preparing for the next day. This is also a good time to designate as your planning time and follow up time. Determine your schedule according to when you are at your best, and set out to work accordingly.
Set goals for what you wish to accomplish. Daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually-put together a simple benchmark that you can follow to accomplish your short and long-term goals. Keep your goals posted close to your desk or on your computer so that you do not lose sight of what you are striving toward.
Focus on completing one thing at a time. If you have 15 different things you need to accomplish, keep 14 of them put away, and keep only one item on your desk at a time. Once you have finished the first item, move on to the next. If your desk is too cluttered with too many things, your brain will naturally shut down and you will feel overwhelmed by all the things you need to do. Focusing on one thing at a time will help you keep from being overwhelmed and not accomplishing all that you need to.
Designate a room in your home as “your office”. It is critical to your success as a telecommuter that you designate a room in your home as your own office. Buy a desk, set up your computer, fax machine, printer, and phone so that they enable you to be productive while you work. Designating a room in your home as the office will help you to leave the rest of your “home” priorities behind and focus on the priorities that will help you generate income. If possible, shut the door to your office so as to close off the rest of the house (thus, closing off your other priorities until later in the evening or at a time that is not designated as work time).
Set work-related priorities. At the end of every week, spend an hour or so preparing for the upcoming week. Schedule priorities according to the tasks you need to accomplish, and keep a list close at hand from which to refer as you go through your week. Every time you accomplish a task, mark it off the list in a way that you will recognize that the task is complete.
Focus on work while working. To avoid losing your train of thought and other possible distractions, keep your mind on your work. Don’t answer your home phone or the door (unless you are expecting a package that is work related). Avoid doing laundry or paying bills while you are working as well-this is just another distraction that can keep you from your work.
Take breaks. Every hour, stand up and take a 5-10 minute break. Go outside and walk around the block, check the news, play with your dog-whatever it takes to clear your mind and keep yourself alert and ready to get back to work. Especially since you work from home, it is really important to get away from your computer or your desk every hour for a few minutes to clear your mind. You will find that you welcome the breaks to enable you to focus more clearly as you get back to work.
Working from home can be quite beneficial for many people. Instituting some of the above mentioned tips will help make the telecommuting experience more productive and less stressful!