From an economic standpoint, this pandemic has wreaked havoc on businesses, workers, and families. Millions lost their jobs and many business owners had to make the heartbreaking decision to drastically downsize or close altogether.
It’s important for me to acknowledge this, because I know I am speaking from a place of immense privilege in writing this article, due to the security of my job. Not everyone has the ability to work from home and work for themselves, and it’s these two factors that have kept me blessedly shielded from much of the economic devastation.
But as I keep my finger on the pulse of the stories around me – people pivoting their careers, businesses shifting their priorities, and working parents trying to teach their kids at home – one common thread is the constant struggle to manage time.
Today, I’m going to break down my six best time management strategies for work-from-home entrepreneurs. I’ve absorbed all of these ideas from various podcasts, blogs, and mentors, but the one common thread is that they all work for me and have led to success in my work.
- Eat the Frog
Start your day by tackling the one item from your to-do list that you really don’t want to do. If you walk away from this blog with one memorable piece of advice, this is it.
- Utilize Block Scheduling
This concept has crossed my desk many times throughout the years, but only recently have I started to take it seriously. Here’s a blank block schedule you can download and fill-in.
The basic concept is to set aside blocks of time for personal time, business tasks, productive work time, and meetings. Block scheduling helps me stay focused and avoid jumping from task to task or reacting to every email that pops up.
Speaking of email…
- Batch Your Emails
Emails are the bane to productivity. I remember working in the corporate world, where every email needed an immediate response and I felt chained to it all day long. So early on in my business, I decided that I wouldn’t be a slave to my inbox.
Check your email throughout the day, keeping an eye out for urgent items, but pick just a few time slots to handle emails all at once.
- Plan Breaks and Personal Time
Working from home can be a blessing and a curse. The temptation to open the laptop or check emails late into the night or on weekends is very real. And it’s also very easy to run an errand or throw in a load of laundry while you’re home.
Work those breaks into your schedule. If you know you tend to taper off after lunch, use that time for your daily workout, running errands, or doing chores. Make sure you have blocked off breaks and personal time. When you’re “off,” be off. Turn off the laptop and set your phone aside. Your sanity (and your business) will thank you.
- Keep a To-Do List
Time management experts disagree on this one, but I’ve always found a running to-do list extremely helpful. Some of my to-do items are undated, but the majority of my tasks are written on the day they need to be accomplished. If they need to be moved to another day, I do so. On Sunday nights, I plot out seven days’ worth of tasks.
In addition to eating the frog (tip #1), star the three items on your daily to-do list that must get done that day. Try to do those first, if possible.
- Put Everything in One Place
This takes a little more explanation, and gives you a peek into my not-so-secret obsession: Planners. I have a future blog planned that’s all about this topic, but suffice it to say that a good planner is my secret weapon to productivity. My current planner, the Simplified Planner, includes an hour-by-hour daily calendar side-by-side with a daily to-do list. It was a bit of a splurge, but has been an excellent investment in my business and in my life.
Anyway, this is what I mean by “put everything in one place”: Enough with the half-filled out digital calendar… the random sticky notes… the whiteboard that’s sporadically used… and the legal pads with scribbled to-do lists. Get a system, either physical or digital, and put everything in one place. It could be a fancy planner like mine or a binder of printed pages or a digital productivity tool like Asana.
These six tips are the tried-and-true time management strategies that allow me to successfully run a business from home. What works for you? I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment so I can learn from you!