Work From Home and Time Management

Whether you are a displaced worker who decided to start a home-based business, or you telecommute from your home office while working for an employer, you may find it difficult to get motivated and organized. Hours can easily slip by before you figure out what day it is, and your to-do list may not seem to be getting any shorter. You want to be productive and efficient, but you begin to realize that there’s a lot more to effective time management and consistent productivity than making to-do lists and crossing off the completed items.

WHY: Understand the “Big Picture”

The first question you need to be able to answer as you start working on a project is:

Why is it important?

Comprehending the value of the project and, consequently, of your contribution can increase your motivation, improve your focus, and even give you an energy boost.

First, think about how the completion of the overall project will improve the world or the lives of other people. Then ponder the time, effort, talent and knowledge that you are going to contribute to it and imagine the sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and pride you will enjoy when done. 

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WHEN: Set Goals

With the big picture in mind, you need a plan of action to get there. Decide what your goals are and when you want or need to meet them. Consider any deadlines, the involvement of other people (your team members, vendors or suppliers, etc.) and their schedules, as well as any tools or other resources you are going to utilize, and their availability.

For projects that are going to take a long time to complete, set three types of goals:

  1. Immediate (daily) goals
  2. Intermediate (weekly or monthly) goals
  3. The ultimate goal (completion)

WHAT: Make a Task List

Each day, think of the goals you want or need to meet that day and how great you will feel when you meet them. Decide what you need to do in order to accomplish each of those goals. Prioritize the tasks according to their importance and, if possible, start working on the most important ones first, leaving the least important ones for last. This way, if life interferes and you’re unable to complete all of your tasks on a given day, the negative impact on your overall goal for that day will be minimal.

Granted, this will not always be possible as sometimes the completion of a less important task may be a prerequisite for another, more important task. Adjust your prioritized to-do list to accommodate such situations.

HOW: Secure Your Resources

As you set your goals and prepare your to-do lists, consider also how you will go about completing each task. Will you be able to perform it all by yourself or will you need someone’s cooperation? If the latter, will you have to be at the same location or can each of you telecommute from your respective home offices? If you are going to need any special tool, is it readily available or will you need to schedule the use of it, as well? Make appropriate arrangements, but also have a plan B for unforeseen circumstances, such as an unplanned power outage, inclement weather, or another crisis.

* * *

Having clear answers to all of the hows, whats, whens and, especially, whys will help you overcome the biggest foe of effective time management: your tendency to procrastinate. With this big obstacle out of the way, you can start looking forward to consistent success, a sense of accomplishment, and your employer’s, clients’ and associates’ recognition of your efforts and results.