I work from home. It’s a blessing and a curse. No, really! Unlike my 9-5 counterparts, I don’t ever really get to “leave” the “office.” Between my mommy job and my virtual assistant job, it’s critically important that I manage my time well. This goes beyond just making lists (which I love), to organizing my day and making sure that I have time for all of the important things.
As a Virtual Assistant, time management is my job. Really! Clients wouldn’t hire me if I didn’t know at a glance how many available hours I had, or if I had to spend time calculating while on a potential business call, I’d be sunk. That’s not a good business practice, and truthfully, it just plain sucks.
Use Your Planner. All The Time.
I’m not talking about a cute wall calendar. You need a good, solid, workable planner. One with time slots, preferably. I am in LOVE with Start Planner, currently. The layout and goal-setting speak to me.
Another great option for a planner (especially if your the more creative type, or you just like pretty things) is the Erin Condren Life Planner. It offers a lot of options, and her planners are very customizable for whatever your needs are.
Before I stumbled upon Start Planner, I used the Mom Does It All Weekly Planner, and really enjoyed it.
Be prepared, a GOOD planner will take up space. It will allow you lots of room for notes, thoughts, reminders, and changes. A good PLANNER will only write in their planner in pencil (I still need to remember this one most of the time!).
For me, it’s important that I schedule my day down to the approximate hour. Yes, that may sound nuts (it is), but with my current workload, it’s the only way I don’t feel guilty not working and playing with my kids. Yes, I said that. I feel guilty when I’m not working on my business. I don’t like feeling like that. So I plan my day.
Pencil in time for job searches, client projects, household chores, time with your kids, schooling, drop offs, pick ups, extracurriculars, even your weekends. The more you use it, the more natural it will become. If you’re crazy like me, get yourself a good set of highlighters and color code your days so you know at a glance what happens when.
Have a major project you’re working on that is going to take you a few days or weeks? Or even something that needs to be done by this evening? Give yourself a time limit for each of your tasks. So if you schedule “chores” in the morning, make sure that you schedule a time for those chores to be DONE.
This may seem like bad advice, but I’ve found that it seriously limits my procrastination. I only have 30 minutes to tackle my chore list? I’m laser focused in accomplishing the necessary tasks before time runs out.
It’s okay to say no to things. Jobs, activities, playdates, appointments. Learn to use that little word when you need it. Once you have work, you do not have to accept every single job you are offered or interview for. It’s okay to limit your children’s playdates if you’re overwhelmed by the sheer amount of driving time you have in a week.
This goes for your “office” hours, too! It took me a long time to learn that I needed to write down when I was working…and when I wasn’t. It has helped me tremendously to enjoy the time I have with my family, knowing that I have office hours pre-planned, and there is nothing that I need to get done right now.
Lower Your Expectations
Things happen. You get sick. Your kids get sick. Your dog eats your computer (I hope not!). You have an earthquake, a hurricane, or a flood. That’s life. You need to roll with it. Plan that your day may not always go as planned. I try to schedule a few “free” hours each week that I can use to catch up with, well, life. So I didn’t get the chores finished? Do them during my “free” time. I’m still not done with a project? I take that time to tackle it and finish it.
Sure, there are weeks where I don’t need to use my “free” time, but there are weeks when I do. Because I plan ahead, I know that I won’t be stuck with too little time and too much to do (been there, done that. NOT FUN.).
Yup. I said it. This year, I made a resolution to stop checking my phone every 5 minutes (okay, it was every 3 minutes. Ridiculous.), and it’s been incredibly freeing. My phone used to ding every time someone posted, messaged, emailed, texted, or I forgot to sync my FitBit activity for more than 2 hours. I was a slave to my phone.
Sure, there are some great time management apps, but it’s just so darned tempting to “just.” So I just say no. I schedule times to check email, voicemail, even Facebook. You should, too.
Track Your Time
When you sit down to work, make sure that you are keeping accurate track of the time you spend while you spend it. It takes far more time trying to remember the hours and the projects after the fact. Trust me. I really like Freshbooks for timekeeping. It’s simple, quick, and they have an app that I can use to log phone calls if I’m away from my computer.
What is your favorite time management tip?