If there’s one thing that’s hard about working at home, it’s finding the time to actually work, especially if you set your own schedule. It’s way too easy to get distracted if you aren’t strict with yourself and truly dedicated to the work you’re doing. Even with that dedication, however, it’s sometimes hard to find the time to work at home.
One of the most effective ways to find time to work at home is to recognize the time that you’re wasting during the day. We all do it, and some downtime is certainly necessary. Working at home successfully, however, requires a different balance.
Deal With Time Wasters
If you take a really good look at your daily routine, you may find some serious time wasters have worked their way in. Be honest with yourself and figure out how you’re going to deal with these so that you can have enough time to work at home.
The time you spend watching television is perhaps one of the simplest to limit or give up. It’s not productive, and you may find that there are a number of shows you can give up with minimal regret in order to earn a living from home.
You may not need to cut back on all the time you watch television, but the more you do cut, the more time you can spend on more productive activities.
When you miss your favorite shows, you can always try binge watching from a streaming service when you don’t need to work. Sometimes that’s even more fun than watching them as they come out, because you don’t have to wait for the next episode until you get caught up.
Then again, you have to avoid spoilers, which is difficult if the show is popular.
Online Time Wasters
The internet is another place where many of us waste a lot of time. Checking email, forums, and social sites takes more time than it has to. They’re fun and you can tell yourself that you’re being productive when they relate to the work you’re doing.
The key here is to keep things under control. Don’t check your email or favorite sites for hours on end or over and over again throughout the day. Set times and time limits for these things. They’re tools, and used correctly they won’t suck up excessive amounts of your day, but benefit you the way they should.
Checking your business stats can be another time waster. There are times when it’s perfectly appropriate to check your stats throughout the day, but much of the time you can keep a much lighter eye on things. Stats only need to be frequently checked if there’s something you’re looking for in them, such as how a paid campaign is working out.
I don’t mean ignore your stats, of course. You do need to know how things are working for you. Many times you are just fine looking things over once a week or so.
Online research for new posts or product ides can be a danger as well. It’s very easy to get sucked into reading more than you need on a particular topic or get dragged into something unrelated but fascinating. Pay attention to how much time you’re spending on such things when you’re trying to have productive work hours.
Other people are often huge distractions when you work at home. It takes time to teach people to respect the work hours you need.
Some you can’t help but pay attention to, such as children who need your attention at that instant. You just have to deal with those situations.
Make changes in when your kids can interrupt you age appropriate. If your job doesn’t require quiet, for example, you might set an infant up right next to you. A toddler might have a play area nearby. Then as your kids get older, you can teach them when they can interrupt your work and when to let you be.
People who call you on the phone or drop by for a chat or the spouse who hasn’t learned to respect your work hours may be another matter. You want to be social and pay attention to the important relationships in your life, but you need to have them respect your work hours from home as they would respect your work if you were elsewhere.
Clutter is a time waster in that it slows you down when you can’t find things. Think about how much time you spend looking for something that should be right at hand while you work.
This is why it’s important to have a dedicated home office space. At a minimum, try for a desk that no one else is allowed to touch or put things on. Better is a room with a door, but I know that isn’t possible for everyone.
If necessary, consider a home office that is also a guest room. That’s the compromise I had to make. It works fairly well, as I get the space I need to work most of the time, but we still have a private room when guests sleep over.
Whatever happens, try not to let your home office space be where all the junk goes when you’re cleaning the rest of the house. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing a fast cleaning because company’s almost there. Find a better space to put the stuff that just needs to get out of the way. The treadmill, perhaps.
Whatever your work space may be, keep it organized. The easier it is to find the things you need while you work, the less time you waste on looking for stuff.
How To Get Your Time Under Control
If you’re struggling to come up with productive time for working at home, you must come up with a plan to help you. You have some ideas of what’s causing the problem, now comes the time to fix it.
Set Time Limits
For certain activities, set time limits. This is particularly important for things that get your attention for longer than they should, such as social websites. Set a timer if you need to and stop that activity once it goes off.
Some people like to use the Pomodoro Technique when working. This is where you set a timer for 25 minutes and work on a single task. When the timer goes off, take a short break. After 4 pomodoros, take a longer break, 20-30 minutes. Repeat as necessary.
You can change tasks between segments, of course, or if you finish something before the timer goes off. Just make sure that you focus on a single task at a time. Multi-tasking really doesn’t work.
Have A Schedule
Many people find a written schedule of some sort to be extremely helpful. Know what you need to get accomplished each day and about how long you intend to spend on it.
For example, you may need to write a blog post, create graphics, schedule out your social media, interact on social media, and so forth on a given day. Create a schedule for each day that works with what you need to get done and the best times for you to work on it.
A schedule can also help you figure out when the best times are for things such as running errands, doing housework and so forth. Try to schedule these things when you’re less likely to be productive in your work.
Here’s a sample of how you might set things up:
- 8-8:25 a.m.: Research blog post.
- 8:30-10:55 a.m.: Write blog post.
- 11-11:55 a.m.: Continue writing or move on to create graphics, as necessary.
- Noon-1 p.m.: Lunch
- 1-1:55 p.m.: Schedule social media and use the remaining time to interact with followers.
- 2 p.m.: Family time.
- And so on.
You can further break your schedule up into segments with the Pomodoro Technique or other time management techniques as needed.
The point of creating a schedule is to make it easier to know what you should be doing throughout the day. You don’t have to figure it out in the middle if you’ve planned it out already.
If your schedule is fairly routine, you can make it well in advance and add in changes if necessary. Otherwise, it’s probably most helpful to make it at the end of the day before, when you know what needs to happen next.
Plan With Your Family
Talk to your family about your work needs. Find ways to fit their needs with your own.
The younger the children are, the less they’ll be able to help you with this, but you can still figure out when you can work while they’re young. Naptimes, after bedtime and any time the kids are in school or elsewhere are good times for you to work.
The main thing you need them to understand is what your work schedule looks like. This is especially important if your work at home schedule is determined by an employer and you can get into trouble for starting late, quitting early or stopping anywhere in the middle.
But it’s still important if you’re self employed and simply need to get things done.
If your family is always interrupting you when you’re working, it’s time for a talk. Explain why you need their cooperation.
You can make finding time to work at home easier on your family by also planning when to spend time with them. Plan outings. Game nights. Whatever it is you like to do as a family. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to be fun.
Do your best to stick to the plans you’ve made with your family just as firmly as you stick to your work schedule. This way, your family sees that you’re serious about working when you need to work, and having fun with them when you said you would.
Make The Most Of The Time You Have
Sometimes, the best time you have available to you to work at home won’t fit into any schedule. It’s up to you to take advantage of these times.
The baby falls asleep for an unexpected nap. The kids get an invitation to play at a friends’ house. The kids are so busy with each other that they don’t need you.
Whatever the reason may be, if you have time for a quick bit of work, take advantage of it.
It doesn’t matter if you know you’re going to be interrupted. There are lots of things you may be able to do with just a few minutes available to you.
Of course, if you have a work at home job and a schedule, you may not be able to take advantage of such times to get things done. That’s okay. Maybe you can take it as time for yourself instead. Alternatively, if you’ve been considering starting a home business, it’s time to investigate the ideas you have a little further.
How Have You Found Time To Work At Home?
Now I’ll throw the question out to you. What has worked for you? What hasn’t? How have you found the time to work at home?