Time Management When Working From Home
In 2020 many of us were thrown in to working from home. For many this came as a complete shock. If you have been used to a structured day which was determined by someone else then the change is stark. Perhaps time management is now more important in your life.
Some people have totally given up working for someone else and either through choice or necessity, have decided to become self employed. This means that you may be having to prioritize and structure your work day for the first time.
How To Get More Done
Time management is something that many of us are striving to improve in our lives. But really, if you think about it, it can't be done. You can't manage time, it is going to keep on rolling along whether you make best use of it or not.
Time is a great leveler. We each have 24 hours every day, and seven days each week. So it's not time management you need; it is YOU management.
We don’t manage time, we manage activities within time.”
That quote, from the author Bernard Clive, is the truth. So although you may hear people talking about time management bear in mind that it can't be done.
So having said that, what we need to do is make the best use of any time we have available.
In order to to get the most out of the time that you have available you need to be as productive as possible.
Do you fool yourself that you are busy getting things done when really you are busy doing nothing. Sometimes we look back at the end of a busy day and realize that not much has been accomplished.
So rather than being “busy doing nothing” we need to get rid of any unnecessary time wasters and focus on actual productive work. This way you’ll not only get more work done, but you’ll find yourself with more free time too.
How To Overcome The Top Time Wasters
Let's take a look at how we can improve our time management and productivity by defeating 11 of the most common time wasters. These are easy to overlook and may creep up on you without you even realizing it.
Eliminate them and your life will not only become much simpler and more focused but you will be surprised how much more you get done.
1. Don't Make A To Do List
What? I know, I hear you, every one tells you to make a to do list. But here is the problem.
Having a single to do list that you keep adding things to is not helpful. If you must make a list then it needs to be finite.
Once you have made a list of things to do, complete them first. If any new things come in, put them on a new list. Unless a task is extremely important, do NOT add it on your current list.
Then make sure you clear one to-do list first before moving on to the next one.
If you do a little from one list and a little from another, before you know it, you’ll have 5 lists with incomplete tasks on each one… or one list with so many things to do that just looking at it intimidates you.
The other issue with a to do list is that it often gets buried under a pile of papers. A digital, online can be even worse as you actually have to remember to open it.
A much better solution is a Kanban board. Lets see how that helps.
2. Start A Kanban Board
A Kanban board is based on the system that originated in Japan at the Toyota manufacturing plant. Start using this in your life and see how much more you get done.
One of the major advantages of using a board is that you put it somewhere that you see every day. The process begins by deciding on the tasks of a single project that you need to complete in the coming week.
The Kanban board has different columns allocated to the different stages:
- A list of all the tasks you need to complete for your current project.
- One current task you are working on
- The tasks that are waiting for resources / input from others etc
- A list of completed tasks
As you work on each task, you move the card or post-it-note across the board.
Having the completed tasks column can be incredibly motivating. You have a visual reminder of how much you have achieved during the week.
The success of the system relies on deciding what to do first. Deciding on priorities is vital.
3. Be Decisive
You need to decide in advance what the most important task is that you want to accomplish. Make a plan and stick to it. Once you’ve made the decision to work on something don't start thinking about other projects.
Finish what you have started. By being focused, not only will you save mental energy, but your work will be better, easier and be finished sooner.
4. Prioritize By Importance
Another problem that occurs if you use a simple to do list is that you may be tempted to keep doing the smaller tasks. This can make you feel better because the list is getting smaller. You may get a feel good factor from crossing items off but are they moving you towards your goals?
It's a problem if it means that the bigger and more important ones are continually put off. This can mean that you end up rushing the jobs that deserve more time and not giving them the attention they need.
You need to prioritize and finish the most important tasks first even though they will take more time. The less important work can be done later.
The Kanban board solves this as you decide in advance on the priorities of the jobs.
5. Don't Multitask
As we've already said you should only work on one thing at a time. That means no multitasking.
This goes beyond flitting from one project to another. It includes things like checking your social media and even stopping to make a coffee. Concentrate for the time you have allocated to each job.
These focused time periods should be around 40 or 50 minutes. Then you should stop for a 5 or 10-minute break. This is the time to get up, move around and take a rest.
These short breaks are important. They will give your mind a brief rest and you can work for longer periods without getting exhausted.
6. Be Prepared To Say No
Don't let others dump extra work on you. This can be a problem in the workplace or at home. They may tell you it’s only a small, quick job and expect you to agree. Their reasoning is that it’s easy and you’re so helpful, it shouldn’t be a problem.
If it happens occasionally, it may not be an issue. But if you find that people start taking advantage of your kindness it can become a problem. All those little tasks soon add up and you will not get your own work done.
You should complete your own tasks first and then decide if you have time to do the odd favor or two. If you can’t, then you need to be assertive and tell your colleagues or family that you just don’t have the time.
7. Avoid Interruptions
Even if you have allocated time to focus on your most important task you may find that other people will cause interruptions to your best laid plans. Make sure that your colleagues or family members know that you are working and don't want to be interrupted.
Phone calls, text messages, colleagues popping in to make small talk, etc. are all interruptions. Minimize them and you’ll get more work done.
If you are working at home then ideally have a work area that is in a separate room.
8. Forget Perfectionism
Once a job is complete move on to the next task. I know how difficult this can be as I have a tendency towards perfectionism. With many things “good enough is good enough”. It's easy to always find something to improve but one of my favorite mantras is
Sometimes our desire to keep trying to improve something is because we don't actually want to put it out in the world. If it's a creative work then you need to accept that really there is no such thing as perfection.
If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well….but, not at the expense of getting going.
9. Don't Reinvent the Wheel
If something has been done one way for ages then don't change it just for the sake of change. Maybe there is a reason that it has always been done that way. In some business environments there seems to be a tendency for committees to want to change things every so often. maybe it gives them a reason for being.
Now obviously there is nothing wrong with looking for more effective ways to do things but changing things can cause it's own problems.
Apart from peoples' natural resistance to change, getting used to a new system may well cause delays. It takes time to adjust to new ways of working especially if they have been ingrained for years.
10. Keep It Simple
Having one project with a plan of action should suffice. All you need to do is work the plan. Do not have plans on your calendar, plans on your laptop, plans on your refrigerator, etc.
Over-planning leads to confusion and too many points of reference. One plan – work it. That’s all you need.
If you have taken the Kanban system onboard, this won't be a problem
11. Emails Can Wait
Set aside blocks of time dedicated to specific tasks. Instead of clearing emails throughout the day as and when they come in, set an hour aside to clear all emails. After that, get back to the other tasks.
It's a good idea to leave your email session to later in the day. Start on your most important task first thing in the morning. This will avoid you getting distracted by side issues that come up in emails.
Leaving emails until late morning will mean you have already accomplished important work. This should give you a boost of confidence and inspiration.
Time Management To Be More Productive
Working from home has many advantages but also brings with it some challenges.
Give these 11 points a try and eliminate these time wasters from your working day.
These time management tips should help you streamline your working day until you’re at your most efficient.
If you are looking for more advanced strategies for becoming more productive, I highly recommend checking out what Jason has to say. He guarantees that you can double your productivity in 48 hours.