How to be effective & still have a life outside of work.
As an entrepreneur working from home, time management is extremely important to me and my success, just like it was when I was an 8:30 to 5:30 corporate salesperson. I think the unifying thing across all jobs and all industries is being able to effectively manage your time and all of your priorities and tasks.
When you work from home or are an entrepreneur in general, time management and work-life balance is extremely important, and may be the single most impactful thing in my business.
It’s hard to turn off being an entrepreneur, and I have long tended to be available days, nights, weekends, anytime. I answered emails, I jumped on calls, I said yes to all “hey, can you edit this super quick?” questions that came my way. I had to learn to turn it off, disconnect, and spend time with my family and a good book.
I don’t need to be constantly available. I am providing a service and high value to my clients, I am finally figuring out that I don’t need to sacrifice all of my time to my work and my clients. Yes, my clients’ needs are incredibly important to me. But so is my health and happiness and my family and home life. Finding that balance has been a difficult but necessary road.
Since I am not available at 10pm on Saturdays anymore, I need to be as productive as possible during my business hours and manage my time wisely, in order to get everything done! Managing time effectively does not mean just staying busy for the day, it means being productive and getting done the things that need to be done, not just clicking around and checking email!
Here are some tips for time management that can help you really have a productive day that allows you to get offline and enjoy life after work!
- Daily/Weekly To-Do Lists
This is something that has helped me immensely! I tried to get into bullet journaling, but I am not a Pinterest-worthy bullet journaler and it didn’t stick. The thing that has stuck is the daily listing of to dos. Every day, I write a list of all the things I want to accomplish either today specifically or this week in general.
I don’t know about you, but checking things off of a list is super satisfying for me! I move to dos up from the day before if needed, and I star the things that MUST be done today. Deadlines are written next to the task if there are specific due dates.
By rewriting the list daily, I am cementing my tasks in my head and able to really prioritize what needs to be done first.
2. Schedule in Some Down Time
At the office, people get lunch breaks, smoke breaks, walk around breaks, etc. You can’t expect yourself to focus for 8 hours nonstop every day, it just doesn’t happen and isn’t realistic. Instead of giving yourself unrealistic expectations and then being disappointed when you don’t meet them, make sure to give yourself some down time.
I start every day with coffee and checking Facebook. I check my email and my social media marketing as well, but I START with coffee, petting my cat, and Facebook before jumping into work.
Next, I write my daily to do list, and check my email. At lunch time, I generally log off the computer and eat while I read a book or have a one-sided conversation with my cat. In the afternoon, I might go take a walk, or go to the gym, or just get up and stretch.
Have priorities and tasks for each day, but allow yourself to walk around and read the news, and text your friend, too.
3. When Working, Block Out Distractions
Like the down time, schedule work time. Use a calendar or an alert or whatever gets you ready to work, to let you know it’s time to do this task or that activity or call that person. When it’s time to get down to business, do the task. Close out your social media tabs, and focus on the specific activity you need to complete.
In my case, I have several clients that I do weekly blogging for. That means on Mondays and Tuesdays, I have to block out time to work on specific client blogs. I will do something like “10 am: Research and write blog for X client on topic Y.” When that time comes around, I turn off Facebook, put my phone face down, and write the blog for my client, edit it, and turn it in for review. If it take 45 minutes, great. If it takes an hour and a half, great. As long as it gets done. And work gets done faster when uninterrupted and when I’m not allowing my mind to wander to Instagram or texting my mom.
I also find that when work gets done faster, I feel better about it than when it takes hours or days because I just can’t focus on it. My clients are happy, I’m happy, it’s awesome.
4. Stay Organized
This fits right into my to do lists. Staying organized saves me time and energy, and most importantly, keeps my client information and needs at the forefront. As a solo practitioner, if I lose track of a client or forget to do something for them, I risk losing some of my income! Keeping contracts, invoices, tasks, priorities, client needs, and my work organized is one of the biggest parts of my success.
For me, I use my calendar to track my client calls, my to do lists for daily tasks and priorities, Google Drive for all of my documents and spreadsheet, such as my list of clients, invoicing, and expenses, and a physical filing cabinet for copies of my contracts and business receipts. Find what works for you.
5. Learn to Say No
This has been one of the hardest things for me to learn and is something I still struggle with and work on. I want to be indispensable to my clients, and also prove my value over and over, so I tend to say yes to anything they ask of me.
This can lead me to being overwhelmed with work if I didn’t really have the time for whatever I said yes to. I could miss deadlines or be overworked, or be working until late at night, like I did when I was working two jobs.
I love writing and editing and being an entrepreneur, but I can’t be everything to everyone. I am still working on saying no when I don’t have time for something or if it is not part of the scope of my work or what I’m paid to do.
Side Tip: Don’t Ever Work For Free
Especially say no to doing work for free! Even a trial article for a new client is paid work, though often at a discounted rate. Do not give away your work for free. You are a professional, and your time and skills are valuable. Obviously an exception to this rule is when you are purposely doing something as a volunteer!
In the end, I have to protect my time and keep my work from completely overrunning my home life. In order to be a good wife, daughter, friend, and individual, these time management skills have been important in my personal and professional development and evolution.
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Originally published at medium.com