One of many things that attract people to working at home is the thoughts of freedom it evokes. There’s no time clock, no time sheets, and nobody to account to for the way you spend your time. Sure, it’s a sexy proposition, however like so many enticing propositions there’s a heavy draw back — I can pretty much guarantee you’re wasting a lot of time.

That time you waste, it becomes a prison of time. You’ll always be either jogging to catch up, or feeling bad that you’re not doing what you know you need to be doing. We said NO to this in 2018 remember? No time wasting?!

I have a bit of a reputation for being ‘organised’. I can’t help it. I have a Virgo Ascendent and a Capricorn Moon, and I’m obsessed with my agendas, goals, to do lists, planners, journals and such. For years, I’d make my clients journey with me through one kind of organisational tool or another, just to keep track of tasks and milestones. I’ve been searching for the Holy Grail of GTD since my first editor’s gig at 25. It seems like an extra layer of things, but for me, building it into my business’s DNA has saved my ass more than once.

That said, in my search for work organisational zen, and the more my own consultancy and personal projects take off, I’ve had to double down on not just work scheduling, but my own personal scheduling as well.

This is the only way I can keep track of any given day’s tasks. Clients and colleagues I have worked with, tease me about the need for my schedules and to-do lists, but without my system, there would be no way to maximise the hours in every day, or to deliver high quality results and customer service to my clients.

I have for a number of years,  used web-based project management tools to manage my client’s progress. This functions in a very real way as my ‘work-to-dos’. However, as a consultant working with a team in six different time zones, and numerous clients, it’s not just my to-do-list, it’s a robust system for accountability between myself, my team and our clients. Just in case you’re wondering, I’ve been working at home, pretty much this entire time.

If you don’t think you need to be organised and come up with a schedule for your home business then think again — and read on.

I have improved my productivity and reduced my stress immeasurably. I still have days when stuff on my to-do list doesn’t get done, but closing down lists of things and making new one’s has turned into one of my life’s simple pleasures. It’s not until month’s and weeks go by, that I can get a real sense of the measured changes and growth that I make. I wouldn’t have that if I didn’t plan, set goals, make lists and stick to my schedule as much as I humanly could.
Why should you implement a system for scheduling and getting things done? Here are five reasons to embrace your schedule:

  1. It’s too easy to waste time doing non-priority issues
  2. It’s too easy to get sidetracked or distracted from your present activity
  3. Unscheduled work time usually overlaps into your free time until you have no free time in any respect
  4. Your free time can overlap into your work time until you fall behind with necessary tasks
  5. Concentrating your effort and time on highest priority tasks means more will get accomplished

Of course, there are many people out there, who will wing stuff in their small work at home business… but in my experience, staying on top of the details (God is in them) makes the difference between your professionalism, and your inability to deliver on things you promise in a time frame that makes you look good and your client happy. When you’re a work-at-home business person, it’s easy for people to not take you seriously. Having a schedule, setting goals, making plans and executing flawlessly makes it harder to ignore you, dismiss you or to undervalue your work.

Beyond this, being vigilant with your schedule and to-do list, while sounding very restrictive, actually ultimately frees you in unexpected ways. You find yourself working smarter, not harder, so you can easily schedule three hour lunches, a whole afternoon or day off when it suits you.

My best advice: Get a planner. Something hard copy to go along with your Google Calendar, Wunderlist, ToDoist or other project management tool. I know it’s tempting to get caught up in the instant nature of online tools, and I have a list of recommendations I’m working on. However, the digital tools have a way of keeping us out of the here and now. It’s so easy for a battery to fail, a notification to be missed, or Internet to be inaccessible for these things to lose their immediacy.

I stick by what I say: Get a planner with pages, and either write down and/or print out your top three to five goals daily. If your small business has a website (if you don’t have one, talk to me, I can help), use your planner to plan your content, your social media, your business goals. Writing things down, has a way of triggering action in the brain. Having your planner open next to you while you work, so you can easily look at it, track your next actions and keep track of all the fine details, actually accentuates your digital calendar and to-do lists. Also, there’s a rumour that 75% of what you write down comes to pass, so it’s worth the effort to discipline yourself to write down your schedule and plan your days and weeks.

If you’re girly-girly like me, check out the The Happy Planner system and accessories. They’re super cute and incredibly customisable. They provide pretty, creative ways of keeping track of your goals. There is a less feminine version with the same kind of customisable flexibility available at Staples, called the ARC. Both are disc bound systems, so you can add and remove pages, and create a useful tool for you. You have both monthly date views, weekly views as well as additional note and project inserts available.
If you find it difficult setting up your schedule and priorities for the day and week there are dozens of communities online, that can help you with setting up something that works for you.

However you start out, if you work at home don’t short change yourself and your days by failing to plan your time and manage it well.

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