Do you wish you had more time?
Or do you throw caution to the wind, as Douglas Adams the author of “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” once jokingly remarked: “I do love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go past.”
Work, in particular, can be challenging for those of us who work from home. While it might feel blissfully civilised to be able to commute from your bedroom to the office downstairs, (especially on a cold, wet, rainy day while there’s a tube strike on), the comforting surroundings of your home can also provide a multitude of distractions.
There are only so many hours in the day, and we all have the same amount of it. Yet why is it that some people seem to steam ahead, effortlessly moving mountains, while others are left at the starting line still thinking about it?
Here are three common reasons why.
Fail to prioritise
When you’re faced with the proverbial 101 things to do throughout the day, it’s tempting to go into fire-fighting mode, simply tackling items that are flagged up, or ones that you happen to remember first.
It’s so important to plan ahead so that you can make the most effective use of your time – particularly if you’re a parent with school-aged children. The hours between 9:00am and 3:00pm seem to fly by so quickly.
I have my trusty ‘To Do’ lists – which incidentally are not written down on scraps of paper, but in a small hard bound book (“Mum’s Scribble Pad”) which everyone knows they simply must not touch.
Go through your list when the kids are in bed or when you have some peace and quiet. Make a note of urgent and important tasks (not necessarily the same thing, by the way) and be sure to stick to it wherever possible.
Don’t allow others to railroad your plans with impromptu visits or telephone calls. Obviously there will be the inevitable hiccup, particularly where children are involved, but unless it’s a call from one of your clients, don’t jump to it just because someone else says it’s important.
Too many calls/appointments
Not only will too many calls or appointments exhaust you, you’ll end up with little time left to get on with the business of running the business.
If possible, try to schedule only one or two calls per day, so that you can catch up on other items too.
The temptation to procrastinate is another reason why it’s a good idea to have a To Do list, as you tend to put things off when you haven’t made a clear decision as to what to do and when to do it.
If you don’t have all the information you need to get your task done, at least start it, and then make a note to complete it when you have everything to hand (just be sure you don’t have a number of unfinished tasks lying around though).
Just how much can you realistically achieve during the working day? Why not take a look at that trusty To Do list again and jot down weekly or daily targets as appropriate.
I know that I need to use my 6 hours wisely, so tend to use 12:00pm and 3:00pm as benchmarks throughout the day. If I haven’t completed the bulk of the project by 3:00pm, I know that I’ll have a fair amount of catching up to do later on in the evening, when frankly I’m not at my best.
Similarly, let go of perfect. Yes you need to check, double-check, and then check one final time – just to be on the safe side. But there comes a point when you simply have to draw a line under it and let it go.
Avoid distractions wherever possible. I know that’s easier said than done, especially where social media is concerned. But you’ll be far more productive if you resist the temptation to keep checking your accounts every time you hear that friendly little ‘ping’ of a new update.
My weakness used to be clicking on new email messages each time I saw them silently flash in my taskbar. I now only check my inbox twice a day – once in the morning when I first turn on the PC and then either at lunchtime or later in the evening. Otherwise, Outlook stays firmly closed.
Homeworking does require a degree of discipline and it’s not for everyone. If you find it’s far too isolating on a daily basis, mix it up a bit and join a local work hub or try some of these other homeworking tips to help you make more effective use of your time.