Ever since becoming someone who works from home, one of the things I’ve struggled with is keeping my focus on what I’m doing, and not being distracted by incoming work. I often find myself checking my email, receiving an email from a client who needs something fixed, checked, or investigated, and immediately dropping what I was currently working on to take care of this new demand. There’s certainly something to be said for clearing the decks and getting things out of the way as quick as possible, but it can also be very disruptive, and worse, inefficient.
I recently came across a podcast aimed at people who work from home, aptly named Home Work. I’ve really been enjoying going back over all the old episodes, and there’s some great discussion in there on all aspects of working from home. If you’re a home worker, I really recommend giving it a try, starting at the first episode.
One of the best tips I’ve picked up from Home Work so far is to consciously schedule your work day. The idea is to not only plan out what things you are going to work on that day, but also to put times against them. I’ve been giving this a try for the past few days, and by way of example, this is what my schedule looks like for today:
- 9am – 10am: write blog post
- 10am – 12.30pm: work on promotional material for an app I’m launching soon
- 12.30pm – 1pm: lunch
- 1pm – 3pm: work on bug fixes for a client app
- 3pm – 5pm: continue developing my new app idea
Once 5pm rolls around, I’ll take a look over all my current projects, decide what I’m going to work on tomorrow, and write up a schedule for myself for the next day. This only takes a few minutes, but so far it’s working out wonderfully. I don’t waste time in the morning trying to figure out my plans for that day, and I feel much more relaxed in the evening after finishing work, knowing that everything is on track, and anything that needs to be progressed has been scheduled in. I think the biggest benefit is that one particular project cannot take priority over another. So if I haven’t finished writing my blog post by 10am, I need to shelve it for the next day – 10am is the time to move on to the next project. This way everything moves along, rather than getting left behind.
At some point I think I’ll start scheduling in half an hour or so each day to take care of “stuff”, such as unexpected phone calls, emails, and so on, but so far I haven’t needed it.
And with that, it’s 10am, and time to move on to my next project. If this idea appeals to you, give it a try for a week – it’s made a big difference in my happiness and productivity.