I 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!
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.