As my freelance writing business has grown over the last few months, I've struggled with time management. With more and more piling up on my to-do list, I find myself getting more and more distracted. For a while, I didn't even realize it was happening. Then one week, I found myself in a pickle that required me to write 28 blog posts in a week.
Turns out there had been some major miscommunication between my client and her client. To make matters worse, these 28 blog posts were due on top of my regular workload for the week. Instant freakout mode, right? RIGHT.
So, you would think I got to work and started knocking them out, right? Wrong…sort of. I got three or four done the first day, then a few more the following day. By Wednesday, I'd barely made a dent in my workload even though I felt like I was working all day long. When I really examined how I was spending my day, I noticed I wasted a lot of time on unimportant tasks. From getting sucked into social media to checking blog comments, I had been procrastinating.
By recognizing what I was doing, I was able to work to correct the issue. When I noticed myself starting to get distracted, I was able to nip it in the bud before I wasted too much time. It was a long week (and weekend) of work, but I got through it. By the time Monday morning rolled around, I had checked off every task and was ready to start fresh.
That's not to say I don't get distracted anymore. I'm just better at recognizing it. When I feel it happening, I can be totally honest with myself and work to overcome it.
Since you're here, I'm assuming you fall into one (or more) of these categories:
- You feel like there's never enough time in the day to get everything done
- You get easily distracted
- You're trying to be more efficient than you are right now
- You have a tendency to procrastinate (also known as avoidance)
The good news? There are some simple ways to have a productive day working from home. With these four tips, you'll be able to stay organized, on task, and motivated!
Break the Task Down
The first thing that you need to do is break the task down into smaller pieces. Think about it, why do you procrastinate? There are probably a huge number of reasons for this, but one of the main ones is because the tasks on your to-do list seem far too daunting. Breaking the task down into smaller pieces can make it more manageable.
Let's say you need to write a blog post or an article for a client. Break the task up by step. Here are the typical steps you'd encounter during the writing process:
- Brainstorm topics
- Research keywords
- Research the topic
- Create an Outline
- Write a draft
- Edit the draft
- Proofread and submit
When you do this, it is much easier for you to visualize yourself getting the job done. It can also help you to concentrate properly at every stage of the process. I love using Trello for this. It's a great way to stay organized and set due dates for projects. Plus, it's always a great feeling to mark a task as completed!
Take Regular Breaks
If you can focus for eight+ hours without getting distracted, I envy you. (Also, you may be a robot?) Truthfully, staying focused for long periods of time is something many find hard to do. But guess what? That's okay!
Studies have shown taking breaks is pretty important and can actually help you be more productive working from home. Short breaks give you a chance to recharge and regroup and can help you come up with brand new ideas.
The caveat here is your breaks need to have structure. Don't take them randomly. Instead, schedule breaks into your workday and use them wisely. It's also important to not let yourself get distracted. If you find yourself on social media during a short ten-minute break and suddenly it's been 45-minutes and you don't know what happened, that's a problem. You can solve this issue in one of two ways.
- Set an alarm so you know when your break is over
- Avoid social media and other distracting things until the end of the day when you've completed your work
Regardless, keep breaks around 10 to 15 minutes and schedule them for every hour or two. Similar to the Pomodoro Technique, this will help you work more efficiently and help you push yourself a little harder.
Finding ways to use shortcuts is one of the best ways to help you stay productive working from home. As long as the shortcut works effectively and saves you time, go for it! If you write a lot of cold emails, for example, use a customizable template to make the process faster.
Templates also work for:
- Social media graphics
- Blog images
- Email newsletters
They do require you to invest quite a bit of time upfront but they're a total lifesaver! Check out this great resource on templates: https://www.templafy.com/blog/how-many-of-these-outbound-sales-email-fundamentals-do-you-use/.
I'm a big fan of the adage, “work smarter, not harder.” One way to do that is to automate as many tasks as possible. This is especially helpful for those time-sucking administrative tasks like invoicing. To help my business run more efficiently, the free invoicing software I use sends invoices and reminders to my clients to ensure I get paid on time, every time. It saves me from having to track down clients about late payments. An added bonus? Payments made through the invoice are deposited directly into my bank account.
There are plenty of other ways to automate your business, too. Use an appointment scheduler to let your clients schedule their appointments around your availability or use Tailwind or MeetEdgar to automate social media, for example. With these tasks off your plate, you have more time to focus on more important parts of your business. While not everything can be automated, you can find solutions for your business. Trust me, they'll help you stay productive working from home!
For more productivity tips check out my other blog post → 10 Ways To Be More Productive While Working From Home.