Why you need to stop faffing and get on with it!

I’ve said it before, I love, love, love being able to work from home.  My daily commute is approximately 30 seconds from bed to office space and it gives me flexibility to spend the day getting my work done, but also getting home things done such as the washing (and my God, don’t I have a lot of it – never thought 2 young boys could get through so many clothes!).

However, I have learnt that I need to be so disciplined to ensure that I do get my work done.  I have met and coached so many people in a similar situation to myself (Mum’s working from home) who really struggle with this.  They start the day with good intentions, take the kids to school and believe that when they get home they will get stuck into their work.  When they get back home, they decide that they can’t possibly start the day without having a coffee; oh, and the washing needs doing; and didn’t they need to bake a cake for the school cake sale…and isn’t Home Under The Hammer starting shortly???  Distraction after distraction, meaning that the actual work doesn’t get done.

Now I am not saying that you should leave the washing to pile up: I couldn’t live like that myself (yes, I have control issues – you don’t need to tell me).  But sometimes you need to remind yourself that if you want to have a successful business – that is, one that can earn you some actual money, you need to stay focused.  I always like to remind myself, that if I was employed to do this job, would my employer be happy with my performance?  If the answer is ‘No’, you need to stop faffing, and get on with it!

My way of doing this is to treat my business like a job – because of course, it is!  I set out what my goals and objectives are and then I develop a project plan setting out the actions and milestones that I need to take to get there.  That means that every single month, week and day I know exactly what I need to be doing.

So now when I get up, I take my children to school, put the washing on, make a cup of coffee (it might sound like faffing but I really can’t get going without at least one cup of coffee in the morning), get my project plan out and plan my day (this might be a combination of tasks from my plan and meetings with clients).  This means I am clear about what I need to do at every point of the day and I can get on with the tasks in hand.  There is also nothing more satisfying than crossing off items on my lovely ‘to-do’ list!

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How I stay motivated when working from home

I consider myself very fortunate to work from home.  I love the fact that my daily commute is just 30 seconds from bed to desk, and that I can take the children to school, get the washing done and occasionally go for a run whilst still putting in a days work.

But of course, this is partly why ‘working from home’ gets a bad name.  When people hear that I work from home, they really think that I spend my days watching Homes Under the Hammer and Jeremy Kyle.  And that is of course the reason why many employers still feel unhappy about letting staff have working from home days as they believe that productivity will suffer.  However, in my experience working from home can be extremely beneficial – by staying motivated and being able to put in a full days work (and of course, that doesn’t have to be 9-5pm), it means I have greater work-life balance – particularly given that I am not wasting precious hours of my day travelling.  So here are my top tips for staying motivated and getting the best out of your days when working from home.

Get Dressed

As tempting as it is to spend all day in your pyjamas, just because you can – it really doesn’t help with getting work done and it all goes back to that saying we learned at school, “Dress smart, think smart”.  When we make the effort to shower and get dressed in the morning, then we feel better about ourselves and are in a better frame of mind to get work done.

Set A Routine

Being clear about when you are working and when you are not adds structure and routine to your day.  This really helps you to identify exactly when you should be working and when you can have down time.  If you blur these lines, then it is so easy to take time off when you should be getting your important tasks done.  Of course, the benefit of working from home means that this routine need not be a 9-5.  You can set a routine that works with your home life.  For me I like to spend half an hour before breakfast planning my day.  I then ensure the children are ready for school and ensure the washing is done before sitting down and doing a good 3-4 hours work.  I then take a planned break where I go for a walk or take some exercise and then complete another chunk of work in the afternoon (length depending on what time I have to pick the children up).  If it was a short day I also add an extra hour of work when they go to bed.  For me that works as I manage to get a significant amount of work done, get some household chores done, spend quality time with the children and have some ‘me’ time.  It’s a challenging routine – but it’s a routine that enables me to get things done and have more balance in my life.

Plan Your Day

Planning your day is critical as otherwise you will find yourself fleeting from one thing to another and not getting anything achieved.  If you have a clear plan of what you need to do, broken down into tasks then it is easy to undertake each task in turn and tick off that list.  However, do bear in mind how much time it will actually take to deliver each task – most people underestimate how much time tasks take.  Also build in extra contingency time to ensure that you have time for those task which take longer than you think but also so you can deal with those unexpected things that come along (and often they do!).

Break Down Those Tasks Into Manageable Chunks

We’ve all seen task on our list that makes our heart sink because we just don’t know where to start!  So if you have something big on your list – break it down into much, much smaller tasks.  That way you can spend as little as 15minutes on something that will still contribute to your goal – and if you have enough of those 15minutes you will get there!

Do The Worst Job First

Yes, you heard right.  How many times does that dreaded phone-call slip to the bottom of the list and somehow never manage to get done?  And how many times during the day have you thought about that task with that horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach?  Well that all wastes time.  If you get it done first thing, you can relax and enjoy the rest of the day by doing the tasks you love.

Add A Sense Of Urgency

For some this may be the urgency to get a sell to ensure the mortgage can be paid but when you can a list of tasks that are working towards a big goal it is sometimes difficult to get a sense of urgency about those individual things.   My trick is to set an alarm clock, giving myself 15minutes to get a task done.  That sense of competition gives me the focus that I need to achieve and it’s amazing just how much I can get done in a morning.

Remove Distractions

It’s so easy to get distracted – particularly if you are completed a mundane task.  So make sure any likely distractions are removed.  Keep your workspace clear and when you are focusing on a task in hand, switch off email and don’t give into the temptation to open up your internet browser.  From experience I can tell you that Facebook, twitter, BBC News online and google rarely help you to get your job done!

Reward Yourself

Having a reward lined up is a great motivator to achieve.  Personally I have a daily reward – if I get all my planned tasks completed in a morning then I’ll go for a run (not a reward to everyone, granted).  I also have bigger rewards – such as going out to dinner for when I get a much bigger goal completed.  So launching my new website was a big goal for me and when times were getting tough, knowing I could enjoy a night out when it was all finished gave me something to look forward to and got me through those times.

Take Breaks

Sometimes people feel that if they are seen outside on a work from home day, they will be seen as skiving.  Actually going outside and getting some fresh air at some point will help you.  Take a break, get some fresh air and when you get back to your workload you will actually be more focused.

 

 

 

Multi-Tasking: good use of time, or a waste of time?

Ok, so what are you doing right now apart from reading this article?  Having a cup of coffee?  Skimming your emails to check for anything important?  Thinking about how you are going to tackle a customer or employee issue?  Wondering what to cook for dinner this evening?

The chances are you are doing more than one thing right now so is this good use of your time or is this actually ineffective use of your time?

Whilst many of us were brought up to believe that multi-tasking was a good thing and something that women are much better at than men; growing research is actually telling us that multi-tasking on the whole is not a good thing. In fact, multi-tasking can reduce productivity by up to 40% according to some researchers.

People tend to multi-task in two ways: either by completing more than one task at one time (for example, having a telephone conversation whilst sending an email) or by switching between lots of different tasks.  However, studies which have looked at people both switching between tasks and completing a number of tasks in quick succession, have demonstrated that more time is lost by doing so (Rogers and Monsell).  This decrease in productivity is lost further when completing complex tasks (Rubenstein, Evans and Meyer).

So if you are a multi-tasker and want to increase your productivity take one task at a time and focus on them until they are complete.  Also analyse what interrupts your working day most e.g., emails or staff asking to see you; and develop ways that ensure that these can be incorporated into the day without distracting you from the task on hand.

7 Tips for being super productive!

Top Tip 1: Vision

In order for you to be efficient with your time, you need to know what your vision is. What do you want from your business in 1 year, 3 years or 5 years?  What does success look like to you?  Then create a vision board so that every day you know exactly what you are striving towards.

Top Tip 2: Bite Sized Chunks

Now that you have your vision, you need to make it manageable.  Make a ‘To-Do’ list of what needs to be done to get where you are going – and then make those tasks smaller.  If you approach the day with a task to ‘develop the website’ it will make your brain scream.  If you break that task down into small components such a ‘register domain name’, ‘decide on type of software’ (and with a timeline attached) it will not only feel more manageable but is much more likely to get done.

Top Tip 3: Stop Multi-Tasking

There I’ve said it, “Stop multi-tasking!” Trying to do 3 tasks at once means getting 3 tasks done badly!  Equally if you are switching between tasks you lose productivity as your brain has to re-focus on the new task in hand.  Stick to one task only and until it’s complete!

Top Tip 4: Work in Short Intervals

There is nothing like a deadline to focus the mind, so a great technique for getting work done is by setting your own mini deadlines.  My favourite is setting my alarm for every 30 minutes and giving myself a task to do for every interval for example, writing an article or developing a proposal for a client (think ‘manageable bite-sized chunks’).  It’s surprising what can be achieved this way.  If the task is likely to take more than 30 minutes I will often be so involved in the task the first time the alarm goes off, that I set it again – and guess what?  One whole hour of focused attention on the task in hand!  Additionally, take short breaks or switch tasks every 1 – 1 ½ hours.  Your brain will need this to re-energise – so either take a quick walk or find something completely different to do (personally I like to schedule my phonecalls after writing a business case as this requires a different skill set and refreshes me).

Top Tip 5: Eliminate Distractions

We cannot work in a productive way if we are continually distracted.  What is the biggest distraction in the workplace?  Emails!  We are in the middle of a task and ‘ping’ up pops an email and then we find ourselves opening it up and dealing with what is now in front of us, abandoning the task which was important 5 minutes ago.  Find ways of eliminating your distractions in a way which works for you.  I find that for emails, it helps to have points in the day where I open and prioritise them: once in the morning, after lunch and late afternoon.  This means I am always on top of my communications but I am not allowing them to get in the way of my tasks.

Top Tip 6: Use the Phone

We seem to have an over-reliance on using email for communication and then when we are looking for a prompt reply we find ourselves staring at the screen waiting for the reply email to pop up, and getting frustrated.  Actually this is one of the times, it’s better to pick up the phone as you will either get an instant reply, or an indication of when our query can be dealt with.  Equally, if you think your query will take more than one email to get sorted (how many times do you find yourself having an email conversation with someone), then it’s actually more productive to pick up the phone.

Top Tip 7: Work Smarter – Not Harder

Ok, we’ve all heard this phrase, but how many of us actually work as SMART as we can?  When you’re presented with your list of tasks, think to yourself:  What can I delegate?  What can I outsource?  If there is someone else who can do the job better or quicker than you then these are very real options.  There is no point in juggling your main job along with the finances, the marketing and the admin, it will just lead to some of the tasks being completed badly and to you working extremely long hours and for not much money.  If you outsource the admin that takes you 4 hours a day, the likelihood is that an experienced administrator can complete the task in a lot less time, leaving you time to focus on your real job!