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
- 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.