Time Management for People Who Value Freedom

Time Management for People who Value Freedom

I love working at home and owning my own business for one key reason — freedom, which is another way of saying control. But with that control comes a great need for self-discipline and time management. Here are a few of my secrets for maintaining my sense of freedom through my work routine.

They may or may not work for you. We are all different, and I take every productivity formula with a grain of salt. This is what works for me.

1. I do what I want to do.

Because I typically have multiple projects going on at a time, I can choose what I want to do, avoid what I don’t want to do, and still get a lot done.

If I really don’t want to work on project A today, I don’t. I put it off and work on more appealing project B instead. I am a firm believer in respecting my sense of motivation and flow. I cannot get into flow if I’m working reluctantly.

This is probably why I dislike last minute projects. They give me no allowance for putting them off until I’m in the mood, and I lose that sense of control that I savor.

Sure, there are times when a deadline is coming and I cannot put off a task any more. But for te most part, I naturally reach the point that I want to work on a project before the last minute looms.

I had never heard this strategy articulated or named until I saw this YouTube video and read this article on structured procrastination (also called positive or productive procrastination). My way of working is a real technique, and I’m not the only person who works this way.

If I wake up and realize that I cannot mentally get in the work frame of mind, I don’t work at all. I sew or paint or do yard work. I cook something new or take my daughter shopping. I have taken a mental health day like this even in the face of an insane workload because I trust myself. I know that if I need a break, taking that break is not a waste of time. Instead, a break means that when I return to work, I will be exponentially more productive.

2. I use simple, old-school systems.

My lists are hand written inside spiral bound notebooks that I get dirt cheap at back to school sales each year. I run through dozens of these each year tearing out the pages as the daily lists are complete.

I use many different lists simultaneously, each on a different piece of paper (front only).

  • Long term small biz
  • Small biz project A
  • Blog project B
  • Household
  • Client A event
  • Client B promotion

I use those same notebooks for brainstorming, note taking, and making grocery lists. It’s all jumbled together, but each big idea is on a separate piece of paper. When my notebook has no more paper, I start over.

My calendar is a physical planner with one week per two-page spread. In addition, I have a homemade set of monthly calendars printed out on colored paper, and stapled together. 2013 is orange; 2014 is green. This is where I list all the events for my small biz. By the end of the year, those papers are a dog-eared, coffee stained mess. But they serve me well.

These paper record keeping plans are dependable and fast. They require no wi-fi connection or electricity. I’ve tried other fancy systems, and I always come back to paper because paper is the most efficient and offers me full control without fussy features that distract me.

3. I work in batches with extreme focus.

I really hate being pulled away from a task before it is complete, so I schedule my work in a way that maintains my sense of control, my flow, and my efficiency.

I tackle my projects in chunks, spending several hours on a certain job (a page in that notebook) before I move to another. I find that shifting gears is very inefficient, so I try to avoid it if at all possible. I will gather all my information and even accumulate a long list of tasks before I focus on a project.

My favorite way to work is to devote an entire work day to one role or project and the next day to another. (Of course, real life doesn’t always pan out that way.) Working in batches gives me a sense of power over my tasks. I focus on them until they are complete or until I can do no more without additional input.

For more about how I manage my time especially with social media, watch this dialogue between me and my friend Christin Slade, a homeschool mom and virtual assistant.

For my personality and life situation, these three strategies help me work full-time at home while maintaining a sense of freedom. There is no single, fool-proof, one-size-fits-all approach. But there are techniques that work for individual people.

Photo Credit: Wajahat Mahmood via Compfight cc

  • I love your systems! I use pencil and paper, too. I like being able to flip through my notes and see everything at a glance.

  • Great tips, Jimmie! I also prefer writing things down in cheap notebooks and have a paper planner.

  • Thanks for this Jimmie. Always interesting to learn how other people manage their time. I don’t know how much of this would work for me as a mom of many but I feel better about doing what I want to do. I really believe there is great value in that!

  • Thanks for sharing your tips!

    PS–Paper list makers unite!!! lol

  • Jimmie this is fantastic! xoxo

  • This is almost exactly how I work, too! I own a company than grosses $250,000 per year, plus I homeschool 4 kids. My husband and I also have a ministry. I LOVE freedom and control. 🙂 I love working from home because of this ebb and flow of projects that you describe. 🙂 Thanks for writing it all down.

  • Oh my goodness. I love this so much. I watched every minute of the video, too.

    WE DO WHAT WE WANT!

    🙂 #StructuredProcrastination

  • Jimmie,

    I’m a paper and pen kind of gal too. I find electronic planning clunky and not convenient. I do all my lesson planning on paper, my to do lists are on paper, etc. I like being able to drag it wherever I go and I don’t want to always drag my computer with me. (I don’t have a smartphone and don’t really want one.)

    I work in a similar way. I think that is why I found classroom teaching so difficult. The idea that I would have to lesson plan out every minute of every day a week or two in advance just did not fit my personality style at all. The rigidity and lack of freedom/control drove me nuts! LOL!

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