Working from home? 7 tips for successful time management

Alarm clock

Working from home offers some great benefits for small business owners. Potentially your working hours are flexible  – you can start early or finish late.  Plus, there is the added bonus of not having to build commuting times into your day. In theory, time is on your side and achieving all you need to in a day is a breeze. Or is it?

Stress effects productivity

In reality, and speaking from experience, more often than not most of us working from home feel we rarely achieve all we set out to do; spending more time on a work task than it warrants or distracted by bits around the house that ‘urgently’ need doing. Poor time management can make you feel out of control and stressed, which in turn affects your overall productivity.

Never enough hours in the day

Small business owners often feel that there are never enough hours in the day and have to juggle their precious time wearing multiple hats such as salesman, accountant, customer services, marketer and administrator.

Indeed a study from Mavernlink  found that small business owners:

  •  viewed ‘Time’ as their most valuable business asset – ahead or more tangible assets like a computer.

And when asked, small business owners found:

  • covering multiple jobs and lack of time were the most difficult aspects of managing a small business.

So, in an attempt to better manage my own time working from home I  scoured the internet for the time management tips that I felt were most likely to help keep me motivated and focused on the task in hand.

Seven simple techniques to help you better manage your time

1. Work out clear goals and objectives

It is often hard to see the wood from the trees when you are trying to juggle all sorts of business issues. Therefore, taking time out to create a clear picture of what it is you need to achieve can help you focus and plan effectively. An overall goal will help you implement useful medium and short-term objectives to plan your days around. Try using the SMART acronym when setting  your long, medium and short-term objectives, plan your goals and objectives to they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.

Pile of paperwork2. Get organised

Don’t under-estimate the importance of an organised, clutter free work space. There is nothing more annoying or time-wasting than trying to locate a vital piece of paper buried under a huge pile of unfiled paperwork. Get a good filing system in place, sort out your paperwork into urgent, non-urgent, filing or recycling. A clear work space will also stop you procrastinating and thinking ‘I must tidy up’ rather than getting on with what’s on your to do list…

to do list3. To do list

Okay  an old, familiar one but still a really useful time-management tool if used properly. Creating a daily list of tasks, ranked  in order of priority and deadlines can help keep you focused on the key tasks of the day. It’s all too easy to spend time on the areas you enjoy and put off dealing with something that you find boring or difficult. Keep a single to do list that you can tick off tasks once they are done (which is actually surprisingly satisfying and motivating). Remember though, be realistic – only put down what can be feasibly achieved in a day – don’t put down a week’s worth of work.

3. prioritise

Learn to prioritise. We all find ways to put off tasks we don’t enjoy even if they are the most urgent or important. The NHS suggest that you should group your tasks into four categories with the aim of being able to become better at reducing the number of ‘important’ and ‘urgent’ tasks:

  • Urgent and important
  • not urgent but important
  • urgent but not important
  • neither urgent nor important

This way you will start being able to focus on non urgent important tasks and minimise the chance of them turning urgent.

do not disturb sign4. Do not disturb

I’ve just started not getting up every time my house phone rings. I was finding some days I’d be up and down like a yo-yo – usually for unsolicited and unwanted sales calls.  Now I figure that if it is important people will leave a message or call me on my mobile. It is  far more productive to try to schedule in time to answer non-crucial emails and telephone calls at a point that suits you, rather than continuously interrupting your workflow. If you have a busy household why not try putting up a ‘do not disturb’ when you have to get something important done.

5. Delegate

Where you can , delegate. Have a look at your workload to see if there some areas that really don’t need your input and could be delegated out. For example general correspondence, customer service, administration tasks or basic accounting. If you are a one man band then of course it is going to be difficult to delegate tasks, however if you can find a way to outsource some tasks externally then it can leave you more time tackle the more important and strategic areas you need to build your business.

6. Tools and Systems that can streamline your time

Implementing systems and processes for everyday tasks can help free up time.  For example if you deal with a large amount of similar customer service queries than think about putting a FAQ page on your website that you can direct typical queries to. Putting together formatted templates for standard emails or letters  will also help save time you time. Consider implementing customer relationship management software to help you manage  customer data and information more efficiently. Essentially, take a look at your business and see where systems and processes could be implemented to help free up your time and organise your business better.

coffee cup7. Take a break

Take regular  breaks from your workspace – it really does help productivity. When you have a lot on it is always tempting to stay at your desk and work through lunch. Although this can actually be counter productive. Taking a lunch break, perhaps getting 30 minutes fresh air will re-energise you ready for the next part of the day. According to the NHS:

“As a general rule, taking at least 30 minutes away from your desk will help you be more effective in the afternoon…go for a walk outdoors, or better still do some exercise, you’ll come back to your desk re-energised, with a new set of eyes and renewed focus”.

There is no magic wand for small business owners working from home that will give you the hours you feel you need in a day but hopefully implementing at least a few of these time management tips will help keep the stress at bay and give you back a little control.

We’d really love to hear your thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment.

Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net: Alarm clock: Keattikorn, Old Documents: Nuttakit, To Do list: Stuart Miles, Do not disturb: Smarnad, Cuppa: Michelle Meiklejohn

Sun Tzu and “The Art of Small Business”

0548d8fGuest Author: Bryan Clayton

Bryan Clayton is a serial Entrepreneur and Co-founder of GreenPal

He helps consumers source lawncare providers via an online marketplace.

 

 

“So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

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On the battlefield 2500 years ago Sun Tzu could not have ever known that his philosophies and teachings on warfare strategy would be immortal doctrines implemented into business strategy today.  His ancient text, The Art of War, has been highly regarded as a source of insightful strategic thinking for the Business world. But what do military generals and entrepreneurs have in common?  Are there parallels that can be drawn from military strategy and entrepreneurialism? Anyone who has ran a business knows the feeling that sometimes its outright war. Businesses by nature are competitive with each another. Sun Tzu’s thesis is to “win all without fighting,” or to win market share without heading into a bloody battle against your competitors.

Sizing up the competition

Sun Tzu says, If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

Sun Tzu advises us to intensely observe our competitors to identify what areas in the market place they are underserving, mainly with the intention to avoid a head on conflict, and a possible financial bloodbath.  By utilizing innovative technologies and consumer trends, he advises us to “know our competition’s weakness as well as our own, and more importantly, our strengths.” Ultimately, the discipline is to attack the opportunities in the marketplace underserved by competition, while not confronting your competition directly on their strengths.  

New Product Development

Sun Tzu says, “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

Sun Tzu’s teachings educate entrepreneurs as to the practicality of lean product development methodology. In its essence lean product development is creating a minimal version of the product with basic, core features. Starting by test launching that product to gain early user feedback while improving it little by little throughout the user feedback cycle process. This conserves resources and aligns the team’s attention on the actual product itself. Once the product is improved time and time again to a version with features influenced by user feedback, then it will be perfected for a full scale launch.  This is a “win” before going to war.  Sun Tzu says, “Defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

Team Building

Sun Tzu Says, “Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death”

Without happy loyal team members, your startup or company will probably not achieve greatness.  Sun Tzu teaches us, as the leader of your team you must focus on growing yourself by serving your people; leadership is servitude.  If you care about them, they will care about the organization’s success.  A unified culture will be instrumental in success of your team’s success and will add real purpose to your company’s mission, and why it even exists.   While your competitors will be dealing with redundant issues such as employee turnover and quality control, effective and authentic leadership will enable you to focus on the strategic direction and the growth of your company. Sun Tzu’s teachings are practical, focused principles that can guide entrepreneurs and business leaders have clarity of their vision, their mission, and their commitment to the success of their teams’ goals and objectives. While it might seem farfetched for entrepreneurs to relate themselves to warfare generals, Sun Tzu’s philosophies are relevant, and are implemented by successful business owners of today and ignored by the unsuccessful. SunTzu_smallBusiness