Time is one of our most precious assets when we work in a home office. If we don’t invest our time wisely we can easily get to the end of the day and wonder where the day went! Try some of these tips to help make your time work for you in your home based business.
Book it in. Block-out regular meetings and activities in advance, including work, family and social commitments. Schedule these in your diary as soon as they arise and for as long as they will continue – this way you won’t forget important appointments or double-book yourself. Using colour coding can help you to distinguish between work, family and fun activities at a glance.
Remember travel time. So many people only schedule time for the actual meeting and fail to plan the time needed to travel to and from the venue. Schedule the meeting and the required travel time together, and be sure to allow yourself enough of a buffer in case of bad traffic or other delays. Travel time can be put to good use returning calls, thinking about and planning projects, listening to motivational or educational CDs or even enjoying some relaxing down-time. And, before you do travel, consider whether it is really necessary – why not try a teleconference instead?
Before and after. The other thing most people overlook is the need to schedule time before and after each meeting to prepare and complete follow-up activities. We’re so used to rushing from back-to-back meetings to our desks only to get immediately caught up in returning calls and responding to emails and colleagues that the work and undertakings that come out of meetings doesn’t get done until long after. Scheduling time will allow you to turn up prepared to contribute and to action minutes, follow-up on projects and create the communications required as a result of the meeting while the information is still fresh in your mind.
Make time for the regulars. Schedule time for regular activities such as the first 60- and last 10-minutes of your day for planning, weekly reports, project updates and monthly newsletters. You know these activities will come around, so don’t leave them till the last minute or overbook your time with so many other meetings and activities that you can’t find the time for them – schedule the time and use it to meet your regular commitments.
Make time for a break. Block-out your vacations and short breaks at the beginning of each year. By scheduling and planning for your holidays in advance you’ll not only have something to look forward to but you’ll have a much better chance of avoiding the usual pre-holiday stress which comes with trying to complete everything before you go – and much less chance of neglecting to take those much-needed breaks. Letting your clients know in advance when you’ve scheduled your vacations for also means that everyone proceeds with an awareness that your away-time needs to be factored into plans. It is also good practice to block-out time every day for lunch. Too many people work through the day without even a 15 or 20-minute break away from their desks in the sunshine and fresh air. Human beings are incapable of working at full capacity for such extended periods of time, so schedule a break everyday and take it.
Protect your time. It’s especially important to ensure you block-out time for all of these activities and commitments if other people have access to schedule appointments in your schedule. Only allow access to those people who have a real need to book time with you and give them clear guidelines about the meeting bookings you will accept to prevent them from wasting your time. If you have a personal assistant, ensure that he or she understands which appointments can be made without your approval and which must be referred to you first. This groundwork will ensure that your diary is maintained and that you are only seeing people who have a direct impact on your results.
Keep a back up. If you’ve ever lost your schedule or data you’ll know it can virtually bring you to a stand still – as well as cause embarrassment and hassle when you can’t remember which appointments you had when. Keep a back up of your schedule: if you use a paper schedule, photocopy it weekly, if you use an electronic schedule synchronize it with your computer and back it up weekly.