I’ve been working from my home for over a year now and I wanted to share the few “systems” of productivity that work well for me as a freelance writer.
To most people, working from home sounds like the ultimate dream. However, I had to learn to manage my time, my lack of social interaction and my farm life interruptions.
1. No Email before 10 AM.
I learned this rule at an entrepreneurship conference from Scott Hanselman. The idea is that once you start sending emails, people will start replying. Then, you reply back. Then, it is noon and the content you planned to work on has gone no where & all you have to show for the day is emails. Scott said sternly, “Remember, email is not work. Email is communication about work. Work is work. Email isn’t work.”
So, that’s why I’m writing a blog post now, and responding to emails a little bit later.
2. The Pomodoro Technique.
I love this concept, you can read about it here. It helps manage distractions like Facebook and email, too. I also struggle with sitting for long periods of time & my eyes get tired. So, the idea of taking breaks is really simple – but a good one.
3. Laundry on Mondays – only Mondays.
Housework can be a killer distraction. I found out very quickly that if I was working on a difficult project, I’d avoid it by doing house work. Or, I feel neglectful when the house is a mess & I am trying to work. So, I set up a little schedule to force myself to focus. The best part of my “system” is that I never, ever feel obligated to do laundry on Saturdays or Sundays. That’s working from home at its finest!
4. Post office & bank on Wednesdays.
I also feel neglectful running errands when I should be working, so I just made these two necessary items part of my regular work week. By Wednesday, I’m usually ready for an excuse to get out of the house anyway.
5. Track your time.
This has been very interesting. It helps me measure my productivity, meet goals and cut myself some slack – all at the same time. I use the Harvest program for this task.
(PS: If you decide to use Harvest, let me know. I’ll send you a referral email and we both get $10 off the next month’s bill.)
6. Eliminate the ugliest.
I read this in a book, Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success. The author is a freelance writer and she schedules her entire work week and each day around this concept. The idea is that she does the most dreaded, difficult tasks first rather than putting them off until the end. I think she is brilliant. This has worked so well for me!
That’s why on Monday of this week, I made up my mind to enter my bookkeeping for last month. (I had been putting it off very well for most of the year, until I remembered this rule.)
7. Meetings & appointments in the afternoon.
I also try to schedule my appointments, interviews and meetings in the afternoon. Meeting with people – real people – is a special occasion for me. So, that’s easy-peasy. Cranking out content…not so easy. So, I do all that hard writing stuff in the morning when I am most focused and then try to schedule everything else in the afternoon.
This has been helpful now that I have to go to the doctor so often with baby appointments. Since our hospital is an hour away, each appointment gobbles up about four hours of work time. By the time I get home from an afternoon appointment, I usually just consider the work day over and move on to the rest of life.
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What works well for you managing your work day?