Time Management Skills to Keep You on Target!

Efficiency is key in your work life. Being rested, healthy and happy can impact how much you earn more than you might think!


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Working by yourself doesn't mean you have no boss; it means you are the boss. To keep yourself productive, you have to act like one and set up systems to enhance your efficiency and keep you on track. Effective time management without the structure of an office environment with a supervisor on the spot is harder than it sounds, and it requires some skills. You'll have to build your habits and structures yourself, and that can take a little trial and error. Don't get discouraged if you have trouble being as productive as you'd like in the beginning. Try different things and keep an eye on what's effective and what isn't. No one formula is right for everyone, but there are a few key principles that will help you create an effective management plan.

Get Enough Sleep

First things first: you will never be efficient if you're tired. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because you don't have to face a morning commute, it's ok to stay up late to catch a favorite TV show or catch up with friends. No matter where you work, getting enough sleep is the first key to building productivity. Know what you need, and make sure you get it.

Stay Healthy and Happy

Feeling good helps you to live better and be more efficient. In a traditional job, you may be able to muscle through your load on coffee and snacks, but that becomes much harder when it's possible to put things off until later. You don't have to become a health nut, but getting enough sleep, having decent meals, and getting a little exercise will help enormously in the fight against the procrastination monster.

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The same thing goes for your mental state. Keeping yourself honest about sticking to your schedule is a pretty tall task when you're in a bad mood. You may be able to get things done in an office even when you're burnt out, haven't done anything fun in a long time, and miss your kids, but staying focused all on your own when you feel bad is a whole different struggle.

Working from home links your overall wellbeing and your productivity more than ever. Time management is all about keeping yourself in the right frame of mind, and you'll be more efficient and productive when you keep yourself mentally and physically fit.

Set Office Hours

When you control your working hours, habit is everything, so get in the habit of spending fixed hours in your office every working day. Whatever your designated work time is, when it rolls around, make sure you are in that office, in your chair, with all the social media and other distractions off. Building that habit can take time and effort, but once it's ingrained, your productivity will soar.

Know Your Rhythm, and Plan Around It

Each of us has a different way to approach our day. Some of us want to tackle their hardest tasks first thing in the morning when they are fresh and rested. Others may prefer to ease into the day with some easier work and get to the big project in the afternoon. After lunch might be peak hours for one, nap time for another. It's up to you to know your personal work rhythm and build your schedule around it.

Plan Breaks

The flip side of planning your hours is not to plan them too ambitiously. Even the most productive person in the world isn't productive for eight solid consecutive hours each day. You will need breaks, and you'll find it easiest to fit them in if you accept that fact and plan for them.

Different people have different attention spans, so examine your habits and your daily rhythm to find your personal burn-out point, whether that's 90 minutes of focused attention or 30. Plan short breaks, and take them, even if you don't feel like you need it. It will help keep you alert and productive and make it easier to track your unproductive periods. Better to take a 15-minute break you've planned than getting tired and wasting 30 minutes. What you do on your breaks depends on what you find relaxing, but if you use a computer a lot, doing something away from it might be the fastest way to recover some energy. Try exercising, running errands, going for a walk, or playing with your kids.

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If you have any cooking coming up, doing a bit of preparation at the kitchen during your break will get you away from the screen and make your life easier later in the day.

Single Task

Multitasking in a traditional job is often necessary, but when the tasks you have available include everything, focusing on one thing at a time becomes especially important. Just like scheduling breaks, there's no one right way to prioritize your tasks and keep yourself on top of them. Almost everyone will do best with a daily to-do list that places the most important tasks first. Many people find that using timers can help them stay on point and keep particular jobs from stretching out over the whole day, whether that means giving yourself a deadline to finish or just setting aside a short space to focus only on the task at hand. Integrate your task management system into your office hours and breaks, and you'll find yourself getting more done faster.

Don't Overcommit

So you've got your office. You sit down at the same time every day, strategically organize your day into breaks and blocks of focused work, and keep yourself in good shape to do the job. You can do everything now, right?

Not quite. Be realistic about your hours and what you can accomplish in them. It's hard to say no, but part of setting up your best time management practices is learning how much you can realistically do. Don't be too ambitious, particularly in the start, and be honest with clients and supervisors about what's possible for you.

Working from home can revolutionize your lifestyle, but it takes a little time and effort to set up the routines that are most effective for you. Be ready for some trial and error, and don't get down on yourself if you aren't as productive as you want to be right away. With a little perfecting and practice, you'll soon build skills that let you get more done in less time, and get your work and life rhythms in a balance that helps you get the most out of both.