5 Tips for Staying Focused on What Matters When You Work From Home
Time management becomes even more important when you're surrounded with at-home distractions.
Many companies are allowing employees to work from home. In fact, 43 percent of American workers said they worked from home at least some of the time in the last year. And there's an entire group of workers -- among them entrepreneurs and those running startups -- who operate exclusively from home.
Employees typically love working from home because it saves commuting time and is more convenient and comfortable. But it has its downsides as well. With so many distractions at home, remote workers and entrepreneurs may find it difficult to stay productive throughout the day.
It's impossible to do it all even if you've completely mastered the art of time management. But these five tips should make you feel more productive and in control of your workload.
1. Create a list of 'in-between' tasks.
Make a list of small tasks that will take less than 15 minutes to complete and keep this by your side throughout the day. Try to squeeze these tasks in whenever you have a few minutes to spare. If you have a conference call in 10 minutes, don't just sit around waiting for the time to pass. Tackle one of the tasks on this list. It's a great way to make the most out of every minute of your day.
2. Determine your most productive hours.
Some people believe they're at their best in the morning while others feel more energized and awake at night. Get more done every day by identifying your most productive hours. These are the hours you should take on your MITs (most important tasks). Implementing this strategy will ensure you focus your best energy on the tasks that simply must be completed.
3. Make to-do lists in advance.
The vast majority of people who work from home start their days by jotting down a to-do list. Even though this quick exercise should help you feel more prepared for the day ahead, it sometimes can have the opposite effect. Seeing all those items in one place can make you feel overwhelmed and stressed, which is not a good way to start the day. These feelings can linger around for a while, too.
Instead, try writing your to-do list at night. Wait until you're ready to call it a day, and then spend a few moments putting together a list for the next morning. If you write your to-do lists in the evening, you will avoid stressful surprises in the morning. Planning your day in advance allows you to get right to work in the morning. You'll face the new day organized, with no need to panic about that to-do list.
4. Make accurate estimates.
Accurately estimating the time it takes to complete your work is the key to mastering time management. Why? Let's say you tell a client you can complete Task A and Task B within 24 hours. You estimate Task A will take five hours and Task B will take one hour. But Task A actually will take seven hours to complete. Now, you'll have to work longer hours to meet your deadline -- all because you did a poor job of estimating the effort required.
The takeaway: Always give yourself a little bit of extra time.
5. Use time-management apps.
Take advantage of the many time-management apps available for smartphones and tablets. Do you have a procrastination problem? Factor in this "procrastination time" so you have a more accurate estimate of when the task will be done. If Facebook is a problem, disable any alerts or block the website altogether so you're forced to ignore temptation.
Timely, for example, organizes your work week by estimating how long the projects on deck will take to finish. As you move through the week, it tracks how long it actually took you to complete each task. This information helps you make more accurate predictions in the future.