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Whether you are a self-employed freelancer or an entrepreneur building a growing business, if you work from home, you'll have to figure out a work routine that allows you to be the most productive and efficient. Here are some tips to help you manage your time while working from home.
Work from Home More Productively
First, divide your work tasks into two categories: Those that require interaction with others and those that don't. Then, figure out your most productive work hours. If you are a morning person, you might decide your most productive hours are from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. Spend those hours working on the most important tasks that don't require interaction with others.
Save those tasks that require personal interaction (sales calls, Skype interviews, etc.) for normal hours of business, but allow for differences in time zones.
For instance, if you have a series of phone calls you need to make, schedule them all during business hours, but try to arrange them so that you can reach all parties in their respective time zones subject to availability and normal business hours. This might take some creative time management, but your phone call schedule might look something like this:
||11 a.m. EST
||Location: New York
||Eastern time zone
||11:30 a.m. EST
||Central time zone
||12:00 a.m. EST
||Mountain time zone
||12:30 am. EST
||Pacific time zone
At 11:30 a.m EST, the time in Chicago is 10:30 a.m., and at noon EST, the time in Denver is 10:00 a.m. while at 12:30 a.m. EST, the time in Portland is 9:30 am. This schedule should allow you to reach all parties during normal business hours (9 a.m.-5 p.m.) in their respective time zones.
The night before, make a list of those tasks you want to have completed by the end of the next work day. Prioritize them in order of importance. Save the least important tasks for the end of the day. Anything you don't get accomplished can go on the next day's task list. Be sure to schedule 5-10 minute breaks every couple of hours for short walks, water consumption, and exercise. This is especially important if you sit for long periods of time as prolonged sitting can lead to serious health problems
You'll be much more productive if you group like activities together versus jumping from one project to the next throughout the day. For instance, as mentioned above, by scheduling all of your phone calls together in one block of time, you can ensure that you don't forget important calls and that you don't interrupt deep mental processes with short bursts of personal communication.
Cut Down On Distractions
When you work at home you'll be tempted to do everything but your work. You'll have Facebook whispering in your ear, your e-mail screaming for attention, and the coffee pot begging for your love. The best way to cut down on distractions is to pull the plug.
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Turn your computer off if you're not using it. If you are on your computer and you're working on a project, shut down your e-mail and all of your social media websites. Set aside a specific part of your day for checking e-mail and Facebook, but not first thing in the morning. Instead, take care of your most important tasks first. E-mail has a way of demanding more of your attention as soon as you start reading and responding to messages. Save it for mid-morning or right after lunch when you are "gearing up" for the rest of your day.
Another way to manage distractions is to build time into your schedule for handling things that pop up. You'll have emergencies or small management excursions that require your attention. Handle them as quickly as possible and get back to your list of essential tasks.
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Before meetings, spend a few minutes jotting down your talking points. Otherwise, the meeting will take longer and you'll get less accomplished. Know the goal or desired outcome before you meet on the phone, in Skype, by webinar, or wherever, and have a plan for accomplishing that goal before you start the meeting.
The key to getting more done working at home is to plan your work ahead of time and stay organized. Keep these points in mind:
- Make a list of essential tasks at the end of the day before
- Prioritize your tasks and take care of the most important ones first
- Schedule all like activities close together
- Take a break every hour or two
- Shut down Facebook, e-mail, and your computer when you aren't using them
- Plan for meetings before you get into them and know the desired outcome going in
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