When you work a standard 9-5 office job, your own ideas about time management are rarely considered as you work away on someone else’s clock, under someone else’s priorities (which of course, become your own). But for those of us that have succeeded at breaking away from that cycle (or come home after a day at the office and then go to work on your own business), you’re working on your OWN clock, at your OWN goals, and this freedom can be overwhelming. Knowing that each second now matters and is directly linked to your own potential income, versus getting paid a flat rate no matter what you accomplish, is incredibly daunting. When you work for yourself, time literally is money, and you want to make sure you’re spending it in the best possible way.
So how do you stay focused? Here are 10 techniques to keep yourself on-task, when there’s no one around to keep you there.
1. Don’t work first thing in the morning. Take some time, ease yourself into the day. Do some yoga, take the dog on a long walk, enjoy your coffee with the news. Don’t get out of bed and sit down at the computer. You’ll find it more difficult to stay on task if you jump right in. (READ “Seven Minutes in Heaven” for ways to relax when your time is limited.)
2. Set a schedule, and stick to it. When you work (or worked) a regular job, you ideally showed up every day at the same time. This is important for entrepreneurs as well. Doesn’t mean you can’t work in your pajamas, but that you should keep to a regimen.
3. Take breaks. It’s easy to get caught up in what you’re doing, and without a set “lunch hour” or break, you’ll feel guilty stepping away. But remember that keeping yourself refreshed and motivated makes your working time more productive, so don’t be afraid to take a (reasonable) meal or relaxation break. You’ve earned it!
4. Talk to family/partners/spouses/children about your new schedule and help them understand: just because you are home doesn’t mean you aren’t working. Make it clear whether or not you want to be bothered, and how. Create an understanding between you and your partner as to what household chores you are willing/able to do during the hours you are working, and make sure that everyone’s expectations are clear.
5. Make lists. A great list to have is “Things I don’t need to worry about right now.” These are the little distractions that creep up when we’re trying to be productive. Tasks like bill paying, phone calls, grocery shopping, checking the dog for ticks, beating the carpets, etc. can go on this list. Once it’s on the paper, it’s out of your mind, and you will get to it when you are done working.
6. Stay organized. A messy work area is a great excuse not to get work done. At the end of your “work day” or right before you take a break, straighten up so that when you sit down and start to work, your area is always clear.
7. Work in an area where you feel relaxed, creative, and charged with entrepreneurial spirit! This could be your laptop on your porch with a mug of herbal tea, or in an office you’ve painted and decorated to feel like a beach cottage. It could be at a café or in the library, or at the kitchen table. Wherever you feel your most creative and energized is where you should set up shop.
8. Set goals. Daily, weekly, monthly, etc. Make sure that there is always a task or project to be working toward completing, even abstract things, so you are always using your time purposefully.
9. Set time limits. Example: If your goal is “write a blog post to promote my business,” you should set a reasonable time limit for that goal, like “one hour.” This helps you avoid wasting time pretending to work. If it’s not done, move on, and come back to it later.
10. ENJOY YOURSELF! Remember: You are your own boss! You’re working for YOU now! This is what you wanted, and you’ve achieved it. Don’t lose sight of why you wanted to work for yourself. Chances are, it was to make more time for your family or other priorities, so make sure that you are doing just that!
Do you have any additional time management tips to add to this list?