Whether you are currently in full-time employment, and you are ready to start something for yourself – or you’ve been working from home for a while, things can get messy. Typically if you are at home, and running a business or working for yourself, you will likely be having to manage the house and your work. It’s not always easy. Sometimes it is nice to take stock of your current system and see if it is working or you or if you could improve it.
Or, perhaps you don’t have a system and hope to get one implemented so that you can balance work and life.
Either way, here are some practical tips that can help you create a working schedule that works for you.
You Aren’t A Clown
Very often you will hear quotes about juggling it all. But, you aren’t a clown, and this isn’t a circus.
That said as the most used metaphor – let’s roll with it, you do need to know which of those balls you are juggling with are glass and which ones are rubber.
Knowing what you have to keep up, and what you can drop once in a while will mean that you can make better-informed choices when it comes to getting things done.
It is essential that you understand the balance isn’t an easy won process – or always possible. That’s not to say you can’t find something that works for you. Every day you will be looking to keep those more delicate balls in the air, and the rubber ones? Well, if you drop them, they’ll bounce back up, and you can carry on.
Kids – School runs, meals, time
Work – Clients, projects, new work
Church – Don’t ditch part of who you are
Cleaning – although it will still need to be done, you can skimp on it sometimes
Now you know what the balls are you can drop, and the ones you can’t – make a daily list. Interesting people are more likely to complete what they need to do in a day if it is listed. Priority work can go at the top, and so can the time-consuming stuff.
You should write this list after you’ve dropped the kids off at school, or had your morning shower. When you sit down with coffee or your first ten minutes before you dive into work. Dedicate a time for this list.
If you leave lower priority items to the bottom of the list, and they don’t get done, you should move them to your ‘tidy up work’ list.
A ‘tidy up work’ list is the loose ends from the week. You can do this in an evening or over the weekend if you like. It just means that those less important tasks won’t keep tripping over to the next day. Instead, they will go where they belong. If you find you have the same tasks left over day after day, they might need to have a dedicated time slot each week.
Whatever you do, tick things off as you go – it comes with a sense of achievement.
Family And Business
Unless your family is working in your business – this will be the most significant balancing act. But, it can be pretty simple even with younger children. If you build a routine that give you time before the little ones get up, then when they wake up, you already have less to do. Spend time with them, until its school or nap time, and then head back to work. Rinse repeat until you have a day that has been spent very well.
No, it isn’t always going to go well. Someone might be poorly, or not settling for a nap. On this occasion, you’ll need to make a glass ball call. But if you’ve implemented the checklist and work ahead of yourself when you can, a few hours won’t matter.
It takes a lot of discipline not to grab all of the spare time to relax in. But in a few years, there will be no naps and school drop-offs to take care of, and you’ll be well established by then.
Each week work out what your income has been and write it down. If you are smart, you probably have a spreadsheet, or maybe an accountant to do it for you. If you have offered discounts, then make sure you calculate percent accurately using a percentage calculator so that when you declare the income on your weekly tax sheet, you don’t make a mistake.
Keeping your business income separate will help you in the long run. Regardless of where you use the money, business incoming and business outgoings are better going out from one place. This means that you won’t be getting stressed out when you are looking to get your totals nice and quickly.
There is a serious temptation for people who work at home to work late into the evenings. All the weekend hours they can. If you really want to, there is no harm in it, but you should be aware that it is very easy to burn out when you are using all of your ‘spare’ hours for work.
If you have got too many projects running at the same time, then you might like to consider hiring freelancers to pick up some of the extras.
Where you can, it is wise to implement automated systems whenever you can. Typically, you can have something that handles your social media for you. You will need to dedicate a single day to setting it up once a month (or less if you plan well). Then you can spend a short amount of time per day engaging in conversation and sharing articles of worth.
You can also streamline and automate your email subscribers. By setting up a sequence of a few weeks, and then adding new newsletters when you have new products, and attaching a sign-up pop-up plugin to your site, you can relax a little more.
If you have trouble focusing, or wish to be more productive, you should consider the Pomodoro method. You will either need an egg timer or a Pomodoro app on your computer or phone. After you have written the list of things you need to do, input them into the app and set up working time slots. Typically a Pomodoro will be 15-20 minutes of work, with a 5-minute break. And it will time your tasks all day.
Humans like to work to the amount of time that they have, so if you aren’t setting timers Parkinson’s law will not be your friend.
If you opt for the egg timer, don’t be tempted to just skip a break, or ignore it. This is a disciplined method that works for millions – and if you have a lot to manage, it will work for you too.
If you can, then dedicating a space for working only is ideal. It means that in most cases, you can shut the door and give your work your full attention. It also helps to create a barrier between your family life and your working life. Because you can always close the door on work to be with your family.
Having a dedicated space will create the mindset for you – that once you are in the place, you work. Which is great when you combine it with your daily task list and Pomodoro.
If you want to work from the kitchen table, and you don’t mind a mess, or having your young ones around you then perfect. If you want a tight ship, with schedules and a door that you can close on everything – perfect. Whatever you choose, you have to be dedicated to it. Making sure that you always stick to what you want. Making sure you have clear, achievable goals – and you are marking them off as you achieve them.
Working from home, on projects that you love and have the ability to enjoy is a beautiful thing. But keeping it running on the hard days isn’t always easy, and if you are the primary caregiver too, it can feel like you are stretched too thin. So implementing some of the points listed above will help you remain engaged and enabled to make the most of the time that you have to work.
This is the final point because it might feel like it will break your business glass ball. But it won’t. Once in a while, put your phone in a drawer, close your emails, and stay off social media. You can choose what you do with the time, but try to stay as unplugged as possible. Reading, research, relaxing… It will give your brain a chance to unwind and process the millions of thoughts and other things you have to do each day.
Running a business, no matter how big or small is something you should be proud of and give yourself space and time to make it work.