Six Ways to Gain Control of Your Day Working From Home

12 hours in 90s

12 hours in 90s (Photo credit: Astro Guy)

Working from home is great. Really. But it’s not quite the efficiency fantasy you think it will be, tackling work intermittently from the office and home. You imagine sitting on conference calls wearing your PJs, doing laundry in between conference calls, taking time out from writing reports to water plants, blogging while watching Ellen.

More often, your day looks like this: it’s 5:00 p.m. and you’re still in your pajamas, you haven’t had time to eat all day because you can’t get that email list extracted from the CRM in order to send out that email blast, research took more time than you expected and you’re going to miss your deadline, family members keep calling assuming you can talk–your boss isn’t standing over your shoulder after all–and kids, pets, name-your-distraction pull focus. And I haven’t even addressed Twitter and Facebook.

Your day just ran you, and you feel pretty helpless, lost in the to-dos. And just think: it’s even harder when you have to get 40 billable hours per week in.

How to gain control of your day when you work from home

Establish three priorities for the day. This is probably the most helpful kernel of wisdom I picked up from a previous employer. I tend to get distracted by the details, but setting three goals helps me focus on the big picture. I know that Tuesday, I need to focus on writing website pages about x five services.

In order to write those website pages, though, I need to break down the work in step-by-step pieces. This really helps with billable work. Do I have a five-hour chunk of time to work on a project? Probably not without interruption, but perhaps I’ll take an hour to do a quick interview and type up the notes. I may get ideas about how to structure the page I want to write well ahead of actual drafting, because I’m thinking about the big picture as I tackle each stage.

Schedule your work by the hour using a daily calendar. This helps me understand how much time it really takes to do the work. Eventually you’ll get better at estimating, but for now it’s good to schedule a task, say reporting, from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Do this the day or night before, think about what you plan to accomplish tomorrow–you want to hit the ground running, instead of contemplating how the day will play out at 10:30 a.m.

Schedule the most difficult task first. I’m not a morning person, so I wasn’t sure how that would work for me. Just know: it even works for me. Just trust that even if you need a gallon of coffee in the morning, your brain is capable of more than you think it is. Tackle your most important priority first thing.

Eat protein and eat it for breakfast. I feel best when I eat protein, so I used to eat eggs for breakfast. That’s about 12 grams of protein for two eggs. Not bad, but not as energizing as the 17 grams my protein powder packs, in addition to ground flaxseed and spinach. I couldn’t believe how chipper I was after having my first breakfast smoothie. Trust me, it will help you think more clearly all day.

Give up caffeine. If you need a gallon of coffee in the morning, you will be most liberated once you give it up. I’m a coffee lover too, so I know the pain of loss here. Decaf isn’t the same, nothing is. But caffeine is completely destructive, really hard on your metabolism, blood sugar/insulin and energy levels. You don’t need the sabotage when you have a lot of work to do.

These were just a few of my tricks. What’s working for you?

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