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Do you start out your work day with high hopes and a long to-do list, only to drag yourself away from your work too many hours later, completely frustrated by what you didn’t get done?
It doesn’t have to be that way. You can be more productive and less frustrated with your work. Now, you’ve probably fallen into some bad habits over time. Working at home or in a small or solo office can do that to you. Working at home can be especially dangerous to your productivity. Not only are there distractions lurking around every corner, but it is temptingly easy to get sucked in to occupying your workspace (whether it’s the computer, the craft room, the workshop, the kitchen or somewhere else) from sun up until long past sun down, leaving your scrambling to take care of personal tasks and have a life.
Here are seven ways to break that cycle, be more productive, be less frustrated and have a life again.
7 Ways to Be More Productive
Organize Your Workspace
Set aside a block of time and organize your workspace. Whether this means cleaning the desk—and every other flat surface in your office where you’ve piled stuff—or cleaning up your workbench or kitchen cabinets, an organized workspace is the ultimate shortcut to being more productive, and the fast road away from frustration.
Depending on the mess, you may want to tackle one area at a time. Clean it off, sort through the “stuff,” figure out what to file, what to toss and what you really need at your desk. Imagine how great it’s going to feel when you don’t have to spend 15 minutes hunting through piles every time you need something. Bye-bye frustration.
Create a Schedule
Your day only has 24 hours in it. Your workday should have considerably less. Give yourself a realistic estimate for the number of hours you should be working each day. Remember, you do need to eat, sleep and feed the goldfish. Allow time to take care of yourself and your family. Once you know how many hours you have, look at your to-do list and slot the tasks in accordingly, calculating a realistic time estimate for each job.
Hint: overestimating the time you need to complete a task is much better than underestimating it. Do NOT stuff more things into your work day than you know you can complete. Adding more to your to-do list will not help you be more productive, but it will help you be more frustrated.
This one’s hard because it requires us to admit we are not superhuman, but you can do it really. Once you learn this, you’ll be superhumanly happier.
Allow Time for the Unexpected
Along with creating that schedule, give yourself a little time buffer to take care of the unexpected. This doesn’t necessarily mean drop-everything-emergencies. Those really do call for just tossing the schedule out the window. I’m talking about important urgencies that may come up in your work day. Sometimes it’s just a project that threatens to go south if you don’t give it some extra attention, an urgent request from an associate or client that you feel you can’t put off, or a client call that runs longer than planned.
If you don’t schedule every minute of your work day in advance, unexpected requests won’t torpedo your productivity and your day. Recognizing that life—and work—doesn’t always go according to plan, and having a strategy to deal with it will keep your blood pressure down and your productivity up.
Eliminate Your Distractions
If you spend a good chunk of your day at the computer like I do, distraction is definitely a four-letter word. It’s not just Facebook & LinkedIn that can throw me off; it’s the endless rabbit hole of links and websites. But the computer isn’t the only distraction. For some it might be the television, or knowing there are home chores calling. Is it the telephone? Text messages from friends? Children constantly needing attention? This last one is hard when you work at home.
Other than your children, you can put everything else away. Turn off your internet if you need to or use one of the many blocking apps to make your favorite distracting websites off limits. Don’t think you’re really spending all that much time on line? Check out the free version of RescueTime to see where you’re spending your computer time. You might be surprised. I sure was.
Turn notifications off on your phone, and on your computer. You don’t need to do it all day, but set aside “distraction-free” time blocks for getting jobs done that required your undivided attention.
As for the children, you may need to teach them to entertain themselves during your “quiet time.” Consider play dates, a mother’s helper or even childcare if you can afford it. And just remember, all too soon they’ll be grown and gone (no guilt for whatever you make work for you). Just roll with it.
Delegate Where You Can
Being self-employed or an entrepreneur, does NOT mean you have to do it all yourself. If you can afford it and it will help you, hire it out. I used to hire my kids, even at elementary school age, to help take care of mundane tasks like preparing mailings, assembling orders, etc., to free up my time for other tasks. I have also learned there are a few business tasks I detest and I am much more productive when I pay someone else to take care of those things. Figure out what yours are and see if you can’t find a way to delegate the work and free up your time to make more money.
Designate “Catch-up Time”
Set aside a block of time at the end of your work day to catch-up on the little things that you feel need to be done, but didn’t get done. This could be checking email, scheduling social media, cleaning up from a project. Whatever little leftovers are going to drive you crazy all night long because you didn’t do them, catch-up time will take care of them and give you the peace of mind you need.
Quit Working at the End of the Day
Yeah, I know. This is the kiss of death for the work-from-home crowd. Remember that schedule you made? When you get to the end of your working hours, it’s time to stop. Turn off the computer, leave the office, close the door. And don’t come back until tomorrow.
Yes, it’s tempting just to finish one more little task, or look up just one more website, but one has a way of turning into two and then twelve and, before you know it, you’ve worked until midnight again, and your brain and body are exhausted. Rest, and stepping away from your work, are critical to being a top performer in your field.
There are plenty of other good things to do with your life, even when you love what you do for a living. So, take a break. Rest your brain, recharge your body, spend time with your friends and family. Give the business a rest. It will still be there tomorrow.
Try these seven steps, even if you implement them one at a time and see what a difference they can make in your business. Does the thought of letting go, even for a little bit, fill you with dread? Are you just not sure where to start? I can help you put together a plan and learn how to implement these seven ways to be more productive and less frustrated. Leave me a message in the comments below, or use the Contact link above today to end your frustration and be more productive.