In the fall of 2016, I walked away from my 9-5 job to start working for myself. It was exciting, to say the least — but partly because I believed I would have all this extra time to work on my business and balance life.
I had been working 60 hour weeks between my full-time job and building my business on the side. I was excited to see what I’d be able to accomplish and even started dreaming about all the things I’d start doing with my newfound time.
Well, my rude awakening followed shortly after when I found myself not only working full days but also working every single day during the first month that I became self-employed – including weekends! Like most newly self-employed people, I needed a strategy, and plan to manage time better. If you’re ready to start working from home or just made the leap into self-employment, here are some best time-management practices you should consider trying.
Track Your Time
To plan a schedule that’s realistic and productive, you have to give yourself a good idea of how you spend your time. Plus, you’ll want to know how much time it takes you to complete specific tasks. For example, if you give yourself 15 minutes per day to check email and pitch for new clients, but it takes you an hour to do this, you’re not setting yourself up for success.
You can start by tracking your time in 15 to 30-minute increments. Set up alarms on your phone and quickly jot down what you did or what you’re currently doing each time the alarm goes off. I know this may seem a little tedious, but it can really motivate you to value the time you have and be productive.
When you are working on individual tasks during the day online, use a site like Clockify to track the time you spend on specific projects. Again, the idea is to get a realistic picture of how efficient you can work.
Plan a Realistic Schedule In Advance
Once you know how much time you spend on specific tasks, start planning out a daily schedule. I honestly don’t know how some people don’t have a daily routine and manage to get by. You may get through the day, but you probably won’t be managing your time well. Scheduling out your days is one of the best time management practices for anyone who’s new to working from home along with anyone who just wants to be more productive in general. You need to have a plan, so you don’t waste time doing stuff that isn’t important.
The best thing is that it doesn’t take long to plan out your schedule. Modern calendar tools help make the process easy, so you maximize the time you have without overbooking yourself. You can also just take a few minutes each night to write down the things you plan to do and the results you want to accomplish.
Be realistic and schedule in time for breaks, lunch, household chores, and exercise. Realize that if you don’t schedule a time to do specific tasks, they’ll never get done. You don’t find the time; you make the time by planning in advance.
Plan Around Your Energy Levels
You know yourself better than anyone. Knowing yourself means that you know which times of the day you feel most energetic and motivated. This is important because no one is fully productive and managing time well throughout the full 24 hours in a day. When you work from home, it’s best to know when you’re feeling most motivated to be productive and get things done.
For example, self-employed people who work remotely don’t like waking up early in the morning and would rather sleep in and just work a later day. If this is your preference, you might sleep until ten and work from 11 am – 7 pm with some breaks scheduled in between. You’d schedule your meetings in the afternoon rather than the morning, but this also means you may want to stat up later at night.
Personally, I’m more of a morning person, so I like to get up early to knock out a little work, then go to the gym in the morning. Afterward, I usually work until 3 or 4 pm and go to bed earlier. Find out what works for you so you can feel motivated to manage your time better throughout the day.
Avoid Irrelevant Meetings
Avoid tasks like irrelevant that may seem productive but can waste your time. If you’re going to have a meeting, make sure you have a clear idea of what will be covered and the desired results of the meetings. You should be able to walk away with a plan along with action steps that you can follow up on at a later date.
Some meetings can actually be replaced with an email to save everyone’s time. Set expectations with your clients that you may not be able to do a ton of meetings throughout the month. Meeting time is time that you could spend working on accomplishing another goal. You can still keep open lines of communication through email and encourage others to communicate efficiently so you can cut down on meeting times.
Create Gaps in Your Calendar
You don’t have to be busy from sun up to sun down to manage your time well. Odds are you will either burn out of waste a ton of time doing pointless busywork.
Instead, know that things will pop up, and you will need to take strategic breaks or shift gears throughout the day. Schedule gaps in your calendar to accommodate anything that might pop up or just to give yourself a much-needed break.
Creating gaps in your calendar may make you feel like you’re working less, but it can be the opposite. Practice the 80/20 rule to see that you may not need as much time as you think you’re spending on specific tasks. You may be able even to get 8 hours of work done in a 5-6 hour workday if you give yourself a chance.
Starting to work from home can be exciting and stressful all at the same time. You don’t have to commute to the office anymore, but you also won’t have the supervisor nearby to help hold you accountable for how you manage your time.
Start implementing these best time management practices so you can manage your time wisely while growing your business.