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How to stay organised when you work from home

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how to stay organised when you work from home

JuggleMum Featured Post ImageI wish that working from home is how your work colleagues think it is going to be when you announce that you are leaving to start a business from home! I remember one colleague saying to me “How lovely, you will be able to answer your emails from your garden!” I actually tried that one summer a few years ago. Did it work? No! The sun reflected off my screen so much I was unable to see what I was doing and the gentle breeze kept on blowing away my notes!

If you are working from home to combine earning with raising a young family, that is a juggling act in itself! You may envisage getting your desk work done while the little one naps and seamlessly moving between the homemaker and businesswoman tasks with grace and ease but you may find the reality involves desperately cramming in all the necessary phone calls whilst the house is quiet and once bambino gets up, you’ll be trying to write emails with one hand whilst feeding bubs some pureed butternut squash with the other!

However it is possible to keep some semblance of organisation when you are working from home, and this is how I do it! Note: It does involve planning and organising like a badass but don’t worry if you are not naturally organised or tidy – these skills can be learned by anyone and I mean anyone!

how to stay organised when you work from home

Set realistic goals
There is a famous quote that reads “Most people overestimate what they can do in one day and underestimate what they can achieve in a lifetime.” I think this is so true, we tend to think that we can do everything on our to do list when the list is 20 items long! If you set a goal to achieve three things each day, this is attainable and after a 5 day week you have completed 15 items from the list! The act of achieving the three goals you set yourself will also boost your motivation.

Batch tasks and plan for your low periods
We all have a natural ebb and flow of energy that works for us. Some of us are night owls and some are morning people. Work out when your peak productivity periods are and plan to do your most challenging work in those times. Save the easier, more ‘brainless’ tasks (like checking and deleting email) for the moments in your day when you are flagging a bit. Batching tasks simply means if there are several tasks that work complimentary to each other – do those at the same time. For example, when I do the afternoon school run, I have a window of about 15 minutes ‘dead time’ spent in my car, waiting at the school gates where I’m not at my desk or preparing the evening meal, and I hate to waste time. I got an iPad a few years ago and now I take it with me on the school run and use that window of time to respond to emails, make phone calls and catch up on any reading I need to do. I have also taken a notepad and pen and written a blog post in my car whilst waiting for school to finish!

Sort your life into folders!
I am managing brand relationships with about five key companies at the moment (these are not just one off product reviews or blog posts, they are ongoing, committed brand ambassador projects that involve a multi-media approach across varying timelines.) I need to know exactly where I am with each project at a moment’s notice so each company has a folder and I have a ‘housekeeping’ sheet in each to show what work I have done so far, what is expected in the future and any other notes. These folders keep my brand work tidy and organised and ensure that I don’t drop the ball on any projects. Plus they let the brands you are working with feel like they are the only brands you are working with as you are always completely up to speed when you speak to them! I like all my clients to feel special. I use the folder system for everything from planning our family holiday to my occasional trips to London. Everything I need for London (such as my Oyster card) is kept in one place so I can always lay my hands on it! I keep a Post-it note of ‘next actions’ on the front of each file so I can easily see when I need to attend to the next item for that company.

Clear the clutter and super-charge your storage!
Keeping a clean desk or workspace is essential to staying organised when you work from home. I do have a desk (this was a post I did about my new home office last summer!) but if you don’t have a dedicated working area and are using the kitchen table, it is still possible to remain on top. Have a filing system such as a portable concertina file or box files for your daily tasks and place all the work you want to achieve on (e.g.) Monday into Monday’s file. This way you are only getting out the work you need to see that day and don’t have to think about Tuesday’s box until that day arrives. If you have a lot of archive files or stock of products to do with your business, use a self storage facility to keep everything safe but out of sight and out of your way.

Get your support team in place
Maybe you are a one person business but that doesn’t stop you having a virtual team to help you when you need it. If you need to present a professional first impression to callers, consider getting a Virtual Receptionist to answer the phone when you can’t. If you need web design support or a virtual assistant to help you with your paperwork, try doing a shout out on Facebook to see if you have one in your circle or if a friend knows anyone good. We are all more connected than we realise and the help you need could be right under your nose, and available at an hourly rate!

Do you have any tips for staying organised whilst working from home? Do share your strategies in the comments!

Disclosure: This post was brought to you in collaboration with Alligator Storage. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make JuggleMum possible.​

Comments to How to stay organised when you work from home

  • I also imagined working from my laptop in the garden during the summer months, only to discover that it wasn’t an option! Instead I work at my desk and take coffee breaks outside when it’s warm – often it’s where I come up with my best ideas of all. Couldn’t agree more that it’s important to set goals and clear the clutter x

    Izzie Anderton 19th February 2016 11:44 am Reply
    • Coffee breaks outside when it’s warm are something I do too – it’s lovely to get out into the summer sun, just not so easy to work out there! Thanks for commenting! x

      Nadine Hill 20th February 2016 11:19 am Reply
  • This is a great post Nadine, working from home has its pros and cons. I’m in desperate need of some de-cluttering and filing. Perhaps a virtual assistant can magically do that for me. Wouldn’t that be nice 🙂

    Charly Dove 19th February 2016 12:45 pm Reply
    • I always feel so much more organised when I’ve had a good declutter and sorted out my files. I hope you get yours sorted too!

      Nadine Hill 20th February 2016 11:20 am Reply
  • Oooh I am pretty good at the folders but I def need to do some desk decluttering 🙂

    Stephs Two Girls 19th February 2016 9:32 pm Reply
    • I don’t know where I’d be without my folders!

      Nadine Hill 20th February 2016 11:20 am Reply
  • My main problem is that everything seems to take longer than I thought it would for one reason or another. I need another 24 hours in the day!

    Ness 19th February 2016 11:53 pm Reply
    • I agree, I have this too when work takes much longer than expected. These days I try to factor that in when I’m making my daily to do list so that I know which the longer tasks are.

      Nadine Hill 20th February 2016 11:21 am Reply
  • I am terrible at organising myself when I work from home, I have started diarising things now which helps

    Kara 20th February 2016 7:18 am Reply
    • Diarising is a great step to take. It moves you from the ‘fire fighting’ state into the ‘doing and planning’ state which is always more productive!

      Nadine Hill 20th February 2016 11:22 am Reply
  • Great tips, I found setting myself work hours where I couldn’t be disturbed worked really well at getting stuff done .

    Kizzy 20th February 2016 10:21 am Reply
    • Yes, non-negotiable hours when you cannot be disturbed are fab for blasting off loads of ‘to-dos’!

      Nadine Hill 20th February 2016 11:23 am Reply
  • Some fantastic tips, I always have a notebook and pen in my bag as well, ideas and reminders often come to me when I least expect it x

    Rachel 20th February 2016 2:12 pm Reply
    • Yes, get those ideas down before they float off!

      Nadine Hill 22nd February 2016 4:11 pm Reply
  • I need a virtual life organiser Nadine, don’t suppose you fancy it? 😀 Great tips, thank you! 🙂

    Emma 20th February 2016 5:54 pm Reply
    • haha I was a Virtual PA in the past! Thanks for commenting:-)

      Nadine Hill 22nd February 2016 4:11 pm Reply
  • It can be a real struggle working from home at times, there are so many distractions around us it’s a wonder anything gets done x

    Sonia 20th February 2016 8:42 pm Reply
    • I’m a big believer in ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t get distracted by it’ so I tend to close the door to the room where I am so I cannot see the washing up in the kitchen!!

      Nadine Hill 22nd February 2016 4:10 pm Reply
  • I always struggle with time because I’m so easily distracted when I’m at home x x

    Cass@frugalfamily 21st February 2016 2:35 pm Reply
  • I’m so easily distracted – but I wouldn’t swap working for myself and from home for anything! Love the control I have over my life!

    Alice Project: Wanderlust 22nd February 2016 8:08 am Reply
    • It’s definitely a bonus when you realise it’s the time you’d usually be stuck in traffic on the commute and you only have to walk from one room to the other to ‘leave work’!

      Nadine Hill 22nd February 2016 4:09 pm Reply
  • Working from home has so many advantages but keeping down the clutter and sticking to deadlines are both things I’m not good at. I’m easily distracted and rarely sit at my desk for long periods of time (though that’s good right?) I need someone to come and sort me out! I reckon you’ve got it sorted though.

    Phoebe @ Lou Messugo 23rd February 2016 1:43 pm Reply
  • One thing i need to do is to sort out my inbox. I have emails from 5 years ago still and i want to make time to go through the last years and delete the ones i don’t need and use folders for different work/blog/photography work so if i need to quickly find an email whilst on the school run or whilst doing dinner, i can find it easily x

    Keri-Anne 23rd February 2016 6:42 pm Reply
  • Great tips. Being organised is key. Xx

    Susan Mann 4th March 2016 11:46 pm Reply
  • I try to break up tasks into bite sized pieces to make them more managable and stops me from stressing if I have to sort out one of the kids, and I use travelling time for emails, making my to-do list and reading 🙂

    Lisa 13th March 2016 8:25 pm Reply
    • Great point! I love to use travel time to catch up on my to do list and reading! Thanks for sharing!

      Nadine Hill 14th March 2016 10:59 am Reply
  • I’m practically glued to my laptop for 10-12 hours per day so I have pop-up reminders for all kinds of things. Daily tasks, doctor or dentist appointments, invoicing,paying bills.

    As soon as I know I have a task to do, I set the reminder. Frees my brain up for other stuff! 🙂

    H is for Home, Adelle 15th February 2017 9:18 pm Reply
    • Yes I love this – I set reminders on my phone for things I may forget! Thanks for commenting.

      Nadine Hill 16th February 2017 9:44 am Reply
  • Time management is my biggie… I have my day structured as though I’m working in an office – breaks, lunch breaks, trips to the post office, etc. This ensures that I don’t drift into family or me times and my family know when I’m available too.

    Nickie 4th April 2017 10:01 pm Reply
    • It’s good to feel in control like that. I used to do exactly the same – work was work and home was home. I do keep to a schedule these days more or less but I also have learned to enjoy the benefits of being flexible – like a 9.15am spinning class or lunch with a friend! I never used to do this much, but now I do. I decided I need to enjoy having the freedom I have, otherwise what is the point! I still juggle like a mutha though! Thanks for commenting.

      Nadine Hill 6th April 2017 3:57 pm Reply
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