Some people love leaving their homes each morning, hitting the traffic and rubbing up cube-to-cube against an office full of people. Then there’s everyone else.
The fantasy of laying around in your pajamas is a powerful one, without a social reason to shower or even brush your teeth. No pretenses; just get the work done and watch the money flow in. However, many people find that working from home can be difficult due to the distractions. There’s that Netflix show you’ve been meaning to binge on. What are people fighting about on social media? Or maybe you’ll take a nap. Or do the laundry. Without good task management, the day’s gone before you know it, and you’ve accomplished next to nothing.
So how do you stay on task when you don’t have a supervisor roaming the hallways? Well, I’ve been successfully working from home for years and I love it. As content director for ProjectManager.com, I’m responsible for the blog and video posts on our site, as well as captaining our social campaigns, and I do it all from home.
My wife, on the other hand, is a registered nurse who works the night shift. We have three kids, and while my wife is sleeping during the day, I’m packing their lunches, shuffling them to and from school and putting them to bed at night.
How do I stay on task when I’m being pulled in so many directions at once? Because although I have the freedom to work from home, I do so with discipline, and a few planning and scheduling tricks, in order to meet expectations both professionally and domestically. Here are my secrets to success as a remote worker.
Keep Your Own Calendar
I’m plugged into work through my computer. I have company email and Slack, and we schedule meetings and stay in contact throughout the day. But I also keep a personal calendar with both my work and home schedule.
Every month I block out times for home and work tasks. For instance, I block out the morning, and I wake up early before anyone else in the house. I use that quiet time to check emails, clean up the blogs and social sites, and just get a head start on what’s coming up in my work day. Then I start the process of waking the kids, making breakfast and packing their lunch. When I return from dropping them off at school, I now have a solid six or seven hours to devote to work.
Of course, there are other temptations and distractions over the course of the day, making it sometimes hard to stay on task. Therefore, I’d recommend that you give yourself scheduled breaks for lunch and other treats, so you have something to look forward to and have scheduled moments for those temptations. Think of it as a coffee break, only, if you want, you could run a load of laundry.
Plan Your Week
No matter who you are, weeks can get pretty hectic. For me I have to consider all sorts of questions concerning my family. What time do the kids need to get dropped off and picked up at school? Are there any extra-curricular activities? Is my wife working or will she be available to help with the domestic duties? You can see that it can get complicated. It’s easy to just try and wing it, but that’s like multitasking – jumping from one task to another – which science has shown is not an effective way to work.
My personal calendar that collects both my work and my home schedule is the bedrock on which I plan my week. Planning is essential for staying on task. Therefore, I plan to do the heavy lifting when the kids are at school and I’ll have a minimal number of distractions and be my most productive. That’s the beauty of working from home, you set the schedule. You can plan to work on the more intense stuff when you’re at your sharpest.
Of course, there will be adjustments. Sometimes you’re expected to keep on the same work schedule as the people in the office. Sometimes you have home responsibilities, like kids, which set the hours you’ll be able to work best. All these factors must be managed, which is why planning your week is crucial.
Make a Daily To-Do List
First, I have my calendar to map out the my home and work tasks for the month. Then I plan when to perform those during the week. Now comes the daily execution of those tasks.
Because I work on a publishing schedule, my assigned tasks have deadlines that are often weeks or months ahead. Therefore, I create my own micro-deadlines: when the research must be completed, the first draft, and when to add it to the production pipeline. At that point, another editor works back and worth with me to make the copy as clean and accurate as possible.
While the in-house editorial crew and I work off a calendar that schedules all the posts to the site, I need to break those deadlines down into daily ones to keep me on task. If I don’t, I can easily find myself overwhelmed by an avalanche of writing and not enough time to do it.
A daily to-do list helps me stay focused. I can jot this down on a notepad or use ProjectManager.com, which has a task list. That’s one of the benefits of working for a project management software company, a free license! The software can be automated to notify me when deadlines are looming, so I’m never caught off-guard and blocking the process of my office-bound coworkers.
Not everyone is privy to the big guns of ProjectManager.com, but anyone who is a successful freelancer or contractor working from home knows how important it is to schedule yourself. Think of it like a funnel, with the calendar a wide mouth on top, narrowing down to the weekly planner and finally your daily task list. That’s how you control workflow, stay on task and still have time to maybe catch up on that Netflix series everyone on your Facebook is crowing about.
ProjectManager.com is a great tool for remote workers like myself. It keeps you connected to the team, with a cloud-based set of features that deliver real-time data for task management, and a platform that is designed to enhance collaboration. But don’t take my word for it, take a free 30-day trial and see for yourself.