Managing Your Time When Working at Home

One of the biggest challenges with working from home is time management: How do we keep on task and get good quality work done without being distracted by the mess in the kitchen, the pets under our feet, or the home telephone ringing with personal calls? On the other hand, it can also be very hard to put our work down at the end of the day and separate our work day from our personal life in the evening! Whether you’re the kind of person who gets distracted easily or tends more towards the never-ending work day, here are some tips that might help keep you on track!

1. Remove all distractions. Sounds simple, but it is hard to do. Start by giving yourself a clean work environment, free of anything that will make your mind wander to your personal chores. Remove stacks of household mail, piles of unwritten thank you notes, and miscellaneous to-do lists. Take your home phone off the ringer (if you have a separate work/cell phone) and put up the doggie gate to keep your puppy from beckoning your attention. And last of all, each time your mind wanders to the millions of things you need to do around your house, will yourself to get your focus back onto the task at hand!

2. Schedule Breaks and Personal Time. If you schedule time to do your personal chores at designated points during your day, you may find it easier to focus when you need to work. Allow yourself a mid-morning break to do whatever has been distracting you throughout the morning… just put a time limit on the diversion. Take your lunch at the table in your kitchen or dining room instead of in front of the computer, and make a couple personal phone calls while you’re at it. When you hit your 4pm slump (because we all have that low-energy moment), take a quick walk around the block while chatting up friends on your cell phone. By giving yourself scheduled personal time, you can keep your mind on work during your work day.

3. Set a finite end to your work day. Keep your work in your office or designated workspace instead of littering paperwork around the couch where you spend your evenings. Turn off your cell phone ringer to prevent co-workers from calling in, and power off the computer. If spending extra 15 minutes on work before bedtime allows you to clear your head and go to sleep without those antsy work thoughts keeping you up, then do it – just don’t get sucked into doing more than just a couple minutes!

4. Keep a time sheet. Print out a simple calendar and keep track of how many hours you truly work each day. By keeping a close eye on how much time you put into your job, you may begin to see areas where you are being unproductive and you will get a more accurate picture of how many true work hours you are keeping. Make a goal of how many hours you want to work each day and use this calendar to keep yourself accountable. See if you meet your goal at the end of each day, and the end of each week – if you’re not happy with the results, make changes to your routine to help you meet your goals.

Although these are the points that have helped me with my own work experience, what suggestions do you have that have allowed you to concentrate throughout the day and let go when the workday is over?

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About Meredith

Meredith Hilton is a work-at-home and stay-at-home mom, raising three kids and running her own business. In addition to owning her own part-time law practice, she is a stylist for Stella & Dot. Meredith blogs at A Blessed and Blissful Life and at her family site, Chase and More. Read more about her here.

Comments

  1. Thanks for these great tips! I need all the help I can get. Only thing is my distractions are 3 little crazzy girls who I swear were monkeys in their past life. =) Can’t remove those. lol.

  2. This is all great advice…that I really need to start following. I actually work a full time job and spend my nights and weekends working on my business so my time is very limited. I think I’ll try the time keeping for a while to see how I can better manage the short amount of time I actually have to work on my business.

    Thanks! :-)

  3. One of the most helpful things that I’ve found is using something called The Pomodoro Technique (http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/). In short, it’s a method where you work for 25 minutes, then take 5 off. Do this 4 times, but on the forth time take a longer break (10-15 minutes). I’ve found that on days that I’m having trouble focusing on tasks, telling myself that I’m only going to work for 25 minutes and then take a break keeps me motivated without getting overwhelmed, and also having to take a 5 minute break means I get up off the computer and move around a little bit.

    And the beauty of it is you can do it with a kitchen timer and a piece of paper (although there are a ton of computer apps and phone apps for the method too.)

    Hmm… I should really write a blog post about this. :)