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?
I am a list maker, if lot is going on I do a Weekly list – Sun thru Sat. And keep my calendar updated.
But, getting to be a procrastinator on less enjoyable tasks.
Great post. Love the idea of laundry and errand days. I work remotely a few days a week and I sometimes block time on my outlook calendar for the tasks I need to accomplish. Ex: 8-10 a.m. finish ads for sponsored events, (Allow myself 15 minutes to play with the dog.) 10:15-noon write strategic marketing plan for new product, etc.
Thanks Dawn! I try to block out sections of time, too. And, I’m also mentally preparing NOT to block out any sections of time for anything except the baby…at least until the new year 😉 All this stuff will go out the window during those first 8 weeks! 🙂
This information is so helpful! I work from home and have since February 2013. I love it, but you definitely have to come up with ways to get everything done, especially when work requires you to travel. I really like the laundry on Mondays thought and will have to start using that.
I also make sure I follow some sort of routine, and I never work in my pajamas. Plus, I try to get my workout done first thing.
Have a great week!
Hi Ginger – I NEVER work in my PJs either. I don’t know anyone who works from home that does. It’s a myth 🙂
I enjoyed this post. I have heard of most of this before in various forms, they can be hard to implement but glad to see that you are. On the second one I tried it for a short time and even bought a cheap Chinese kitchen timer. Of course it broke before I made it a true habit and then I couldn’t find another cheap timer for anything anywhere…. thanks to you I downloaded the Pomodoro timer for my computer AND my cell phone.. thanks… and BTW I heard number six from Brian Tracy as eating your frog… if you have to eat a ugly live frog you can bet that that is the worst thing you’ll have to do and you just as well get it over with first thing in the morning and every thing after that will be EASY.
Hi Uncle Jon, I didn’t know that they had an app for the Pomodoro timer. I have to admit, I’m not rigid in my 25/5 minute sessions…but I do find that taking a 25 minute break is very, very helpful after two or so hours. Computer work is so much different than farm work. Your eyes and body need more of a rest from sitting & working on the computer than building fence or moving cattle – don’t you think? The pomodoro idea also helps me not feel guilty when I take small five minute breaks. I usually do set a timer for those, so that I don’t waste too much time.