When I worked for a large company in the UK, I was mega organised. When I first moved to rural France and started as a freelancer, I become the opposite. There always seemed to be so much to do, it was difficult to focus on one thing at a time. I soon realised that if I was going to be more successful and work well from home, I needed to be more organised. I always have a list of things going around in my head, and my partner says I constantly ‘narrate my life’, saying out loud what I need to do next. I think that this is because I have so much to remember that I try and organise myself out loud!
So, after putting on my thinking cap, it seemed the obvious way forward was to go back to what worked well for me in a company environment – not all would work, but these are the areas I came up with that would work for me….I hope it helps you too!
To do list
When I worked for a large company in the UK, I always worked from a ‘to do’ list. It is what it says on the tin. Make a list of all the jobs you need to do, either on a weekly or daily basis. Don’t write it on a scrap of paper – get an exercise book, put the date at the top and write your list, ticking off each one as you do it. It’s a great feeling of achievement to put a tick against an activity that’s been done.
Set a deadline
For each task you have to do, set a deadline. Look at your to do list and give each item a realistic deadline – the key here is about being realistic. Try not to be too optimistic as you want to be sure that what you estimate is achievable.
Prioritise your work
Once you have your to do list and have deadlines set against each task, the next thing to look at is what is most important or urgent. Prioritise your list so you keep on top of things.
One step at a time
Do you have a big project with a looming deadline? Sometimes, this can feel overwhelming. If this is you, try chopping the project into bite sized chunks. This makes everything seem more manageable and you feel much more in control.
Set your hours
Working from home, it’s a good idea to set the number of hours you want to work every day. If you don’t do this, you will constantly be distracted by ‘Oh, I’ll just put the washing on’, or you’ll go to get a coffee and think, ‘whilst I’m here I’ll just wash up’. All these ‘I’ll just…..’ stop you from getting on with your work.
Decide on the number of hours you will work every day and try to stick to it. The number of hours and how you decide when to start and stop will depend on what you do for a living. I know that I have to feed and sort out the chickens and the cat, wash up breakfast things and have a quick tidy up before I can start work. I also like to shower and get dressed – I just can’t work in my PJs! So I rarely start work before 9.30am – 10am…and that’s OK as that’s what I need to do. Everyone is different, so do what is best for you and your situation.
If you start a number of jobs, you’ll probably find you don’t get any of them done. Prioritising tasks will help with this, as will having a list. Try and complete a job before going onto something else. As I write for a living, I will write one piece from start to finish, including the research. Then I’ll save it and come back to review it the following day. It’s easy to look at that to do list and do all the quick and easy stuff and leave the more involved stuff for another time. This works for some – for me, I’ll try and mix it up a bit. I know that I’m more focussed in the morning, so I tend to do the more complicated things then. Later on, I will do some of the easier things and will often revisit something I’ve written the day before.
Interruptions and distractions
It doesn’t matter how organised you are, you are always going to get interruptions, especially if you work from home. The phone might ring or a friend might turn up unexpectedly. If you need to get a particular piece of work done urgently, put your answer machine on and if you don’t have one, ignore the phone ringing. If I have something urgent to do, I let my friends know, so they don’t disturb me. However, the things I find most distracting are Facebook and email. If my Facebook is switched on in the background, it continuously pings and alerts me to messages or notifications …. I just can’t leave it – I HAVE to look! So, when working to a deadline or on something that needs all of my concentration, I log out, then the distraction is taken away. The same applies to emails. If I know I have new emails, I just HAVE to look!
So, I work for a couple of hours, then have a cuppa and check emails and Facebook, or ring back anyone who might need me on the phone. Then it’s back to work again and everything is switched off once again.
Review your work
No matter what kind of work you do and how busy you are, you need to book a meeting with yourself to review how things are going! How often you do this will depend on what you do, but make sure you set aside a half day, at least once a month, to look at your to do list. What have you achieved? What went well and what didn’t go so well? What still needs to be done? Is there something you keep putting to the bottom of the pile? It could be something you are not confident with, something you are struggling to start or just that you don’t want to do it. If this is the case, it might be worth looking to outsource this…let someone else take the strain, someone who is more of an expert than you are.
By reviewing your work you will learn what kind of work you find easier and what needs more concentration, so in future you can prioritise more effectively.
Managing your workload will alleviate some of the anxiety and you’ll know exactly where you are and what you’re doing. I hope this blog has given you some ideas and pointers to being more organised. If you work from home, I’d be very interested to know how you organise your day.
Images courtesy of 1 – 3) Stuart Miles 4) iosphere 5) Danilo Rizzuti 6) Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net