Manage your time working from home

Working from home is always a challenge, as it is so easy to be side-tracked by distractions. That’s where managing your time comes in. Distractions can range from children, pets, housework and washing, to social media, having snacks and general procrastination. We’ve all been there, and since the pandemic has encouraged more and more of us to work from home, managing time has often meant working long hours in order to fit everything in. Sometimes, working late at night after the kids have gone to bed, simply just to be able to fit everything in, alongside the distractions that take us away from our work during the day. Put into the mix, the fact that we are in the throes of a worldwide pandemic, which also brings its own stresses and challenges.

So, how do you manage your time effectively without causing yourself even more stress?

You probably think I’m going to say that you just need to be more organised…and to a certain extent, I guess that’s true, but there are other things you can do.

  • The first thing is not to put too much pressure on yourself and don’t have ridiculously high expectations of what you can achieve in a day. Be kind to yourself!
  • I’ve heard some people say that they’re working from their bed on their laptop. Whilst this might feel good to start with, you’re not actually shifting your mind-set into work mode, and are likely to be less productive. Try and find a small space where you are comfortable that you can dedicate as your work space. It might be just a corner of a room or at the kitchen table, but you’ll feel better if you feel like you’re ‘going to work’.
  • Get ready in the morning as if you are going to work – have a shower, brush your hair, get dressed – you’ll feel more professional and ready to face the day.
  • Surround yourself with things that make you feel ‘work-like’. For me, it’s stationery (!) as I love stationery! I have fresh notebooks, nice pens, a diary and a calendar so I can keep track of what I’m doing.
  • Think about when you are most productive. Are you a morning person or a night person? When you feel awake, it can help boost your productivity. For example, if you love quiet mornings and feel focused in solitude, try working on more challenging tasks as soon as you start your day. Many of us feel tired after we eat lunch and the afternoon hours hit, so consider answering emails or making phone calls at that time. Nothing is set in stone when you work from home, so it’s up to you to decide what works best for you.
  • Create a to do list…NOT a long list as it will feel overwhelming. I make a list of everything I need to do, then do a separate list of things I know are achievable in one day. Split some of the bigger jobs down into more manageable chunks. It feels good to be able to tick off each little task and you feel you are really achieving something.
  • Block out time in your diary. Split your tasks into time slots. Work on the hardest and most time consuming things first…try to keep that to no more than two hours at a time and work hard and deep on that particular task so you get it done in the allotted time.  Then take a break, move around and have a drink. Walk outside and get some fresh air. Then start your next task – that might be one hour, or 20 minutes. If you give every task a set time, you’re more likely to get it done.
  • Have a set time to work on social media…and stick to it! It’s very easy to set sucked into browsing social media and, before you know it, two hours have passed.
  • Set specific times to check emails and make phone calls. This might be a couple of times a day, maybe more, but try and do it in half hour slots. Let customers know that you’re only available on email and phone calls at certain times.
  • When you’re not on social media or email, switch your device off, so you’re not interrupted. If you use a landline, put the answer phone on. This will help you avoid those distractions. This is my worst enemy…if I hear the ‘ping’ of social media, I have to look. If my device is not on, I don’t hear it!
  • Make sure you stop and have lunch – then you won’t get the munchies and want to snack all day.

You might find that you do need to do certain things during the day, if you are at home. You may have to take and collect children from school, prepare snacks for younger children, take your dog out for a walk etc. That’s fine – just incorporate that time into your day. I know it’s easier said than done, but as much as you can.

Planning your to do list

A big part of being effective when you are working from home is planning. I’ve mentioned writing down all the tasks that need doing and then narrowing that down to manageable chunks, or a smaller daily to do list.

Prioritising those tasks is also important. Sort your tasks into one of these categories…

Important and urgent… tasks in this category must be done right away, so focus all your energy on doing these before moving on to others

Important but not urgent…tasks in this category will be those that appear important but on closer inspection, they could be left until a later date if necessary.

Urgent but not important…these are tasks that nag at you, but once done have little or no lasting value to your business. These can be delegated or outsourced.

Not urgent and not important…these are low priority tasks that often give the illusion that you’re really busy. Can be done at a later date, when you’re not so busy.

Add the important and urgent tasks to your ‘to do’ list and tick them off as you do them, then you can move on to the other categories in a more timely way.


If you are a small business and find that you are spending too long on tasks that could easily be done by someone else, then delegate or outsource those tasks.

That leaves you time to focus on the important stuff. For example, you might not be good at keeping up with social media, so hiring someone to do that would really free up more of your time.

Hire someone to either do the mundane stuff that you really don’t have time for, or for the more complicated things that you don’t know how to do, or that you know will take you too long as you’re not experienced in that area.

You can also delegate or outsource tasks you absolutely hate doing. There is nothing wrong in delegating or outsourcing; it simply gives you more time to do the things you enjoy or that need to have your undivided attention.

At the end of the day, it’s important to create a structure of time management that works for you and your family, and for your particular circumstances. The most important thing is to look after yourself and don’t succumb to burnout. Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go according to plan – things often don’t. Just start again the following day. If you’re comfortable and happy with your routine, and have some planning around time management, you’ll feel more in control.

Working from home – the new different!

2020 has been the year of working from home. Are you looking forward to going back to work or is it just another day NOT at the office for you for the foreseeable future?

According to the English newspaper, The Guardian, it has been reported that “only 34% of British white-collar workers had returned to the office, compared to 83% in France and an average of 68% among major European counterparts.” So, if you are working from home, how do you cope? For some, this has been a massive transition.

I’m lucky enough to always work from home, but I also live in rural France, where it is very quiet. I’m not sure how I’d fare in a city with noisy neighbours or sounds of traffic. The only problem I encounter on a regular basis is the inefficiency of my internet provider – being in a rural area means the signal is not always great. But I’m learning to manage that. But I guess that, so long as you don’t have neighbours who suddenly decide that DIY with noisy machinery is what they want to do all day, it works well…and the Covid pandemic means that more and more workers have had the chance to experience what it’s like. But of course, there are other factors to think about. Here are some handy hints and tips for working from home.

Start the day promptly    

It’s very easy when you work from home to procrastinate and ‘just do’ a few things before you get started. So, try and think of it as a normal working day. When you go to the office, you get up, shower and get to work. Try and do the same at home. Try and stick to your normal routine. Get up, shower, have a coffee and breakfast and set yourself a time to start work.

Structure your day

Get a normal structure going, as you would if you were at work. Have a ‘to do’ list and break your day into segments. For example, you might trawl through your emails first thing to see if anything urgent needs doing. Then get on with the tasks you’d normally do in the morning. You can stop for a coffee break/comfort break, as you would at work and of course, have a break away from your screen and desk at lunchtime. But don’t be lulled into the false sense of security of allowing yourself an extra half an hour to scroll social media or watch a daytime TV programme. This can seriously impact your efficiency. I know as I’ve been there and done that!

Have a dedicated work space

Rather than sitting on the sofa with your feet up and laptop on your lap, try and create a dedicated work space, with an office ‘desk’. This could be your kitchen or dining room table, but having this space encourages you to focus more and feels more like you are ‘going to work’.

Eliminate distraction

For me, the biggest distraction is social media and email. If I have them switched on when I’m working, I can’t help but respond to every ‘ping’ I hear. This is counter-productive and a huge distraction, causing lots of wasted time. I schedule a time to look at my social media pages, answer questions or comments on posts, and answer DMs etc. I also schedule time to post to my own business social media pages. Other than that, I switch it all off, so I don’t hear those enticing pings!

Know your most productive times

We all work differently, and working from home is a different experience for everyone. What is the best time of day for you to get the harder tasks done? For me, it’s in the morning. I write better in the morning and have more concentration. So, I schedule the most important, urgent or difficult tasks for the morning, and leave the things I find easier to cope with for the afternoon.

From research I’ve done on the subject of working from home, most articles advise that you save all your calls until the afternoon. However, I find that checking emails, responding to requests or phone calls are better done in the morning, before I start writing. If I think the calls are going to take me a long time, I might do them straight after lunch, but I think better in the morning, so it’s better for me to do them then. You may feel completely different – it’s about doing things in the order that best suits you.

Have some planning time

As an ‘at-home’ worker, I tend to do my planning for the next day late afternoon, or even in the evening. Whatever suits you best, ensure that you do have time in your diary to plan your next project, or plan the tasks that need to be done the following day. There will always be times when all your plans go out of the window and something happens that needs your immediate attention – that can’t be helped, but having a plan means that you’re ready to get up and go each day, knowing exactly what you need to do first.

It can be lonely

I think that the pandemic has probably taught a lot of us that isolation can be a big problem in working from home. Before lockdown, you could always relocate for a morning at the local coffee shop, so you are around other people, but lockdown means that bars and cafes are closed, so you are stuck completely at home. This is where technology comes in – you can keep in touch with other work colleagues or friends using messenger, Zoom or FaceTime calls. You can also join virtual meetings in the same way, so you don’t feel quite so alone. And it is good to check in with your work colleagues to chat about a particular project or ask advice. Sometimes just to chat through your day.

I know quite a few people who work from home in rural France. I know that a lot of them have a music playlist in the background to help them concentrate. Having some kind of noise in the background may work well for you. I even read somewhere that one lady has The History Channel on quietly in the background as that helped her concentrate. Again, it’s what best suits your situation and how you work.   

Manage the family

This is where I am lucky, as I live with just my partner. Our children live in the UK, so chats with them, and with each other, tend to be in the evenings. If you have your partner also working from home, or maybe retired, and children at home, then they have to be considered and their expectations managed. Just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean you’re home, so they need to learn to respect your work time and not constantly disturb you. Having set hours that you work does help with this and they will also know what time you will be finishing, for lunch for example, so can chat and interact with you then. Obviously this is not always going to happen if you have young children at home, but it’s about trying to manage whatever situation you’re in as best you can.

Take breaks and have a finishing time

Finally, make sure that you do take regular breaks. I usually start work around 9.30 – 10am and don’t take a break until around 1pm. I’ll have a snack lunch, and sometimes have a wander around the garden. I might put washing on the line or do a bit of tidying up, or maybe half an hour weeding the flower beds, but I keep my lunch break to about an hour, so that I get back to work at a reasonable time.

I sometimes have another short break around 4pm and always switch off my PC between 6 – 6.30pm.

Above all, be kind to yourself and if you have the odd day where every plan goes out the window and you’re just not feeling it….don’t! And don’t feel guilty about it. If you’re not in the right frame of mind, you won’t get anything done and will find yourself procrastinating. Get some fresh air and focus on something else for a while and you might find you at least gain back some of your day. If you don’t, don’t punish yourself, you’re only human and sometimes there will be days when it’s just not happening.

For most, I’m sure that 2021 will see some sort of return to work. Some of you may be lucky enough (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it), to carry on working from home. It’s about what works best for you and only you can really know that. The tips in this article are meant to help with a bit of organisation, but you may find other ideas that work much better. It’s important to look after yourself and I wish you all the luck in the world to do what works best for you and your situation.

I’d love to hear from other home workers and how they’ve found the transition from busy office to working remotely. Let me know in the comments below, or feel free to email me.