Running a home business has so many working parts. It can be hard for new entrepreneurs to prioritise every task that needs to be done. In many cases, home business owners spend a lot of time doing things that don’t lead to fast and profitable results.
Leslie Truex, a home business entrepreneur, offers suggestions to help you organise your day and prioritise your time. These tips can be handy for those of you not working from home too!
KNOW YOUR PEAK WORK TIMES
Many productivity books suggest that you don’t put email as your first to-do in the morning. Others recommend putting your hardest tasks first. But true productivity comes when you understand your peak work times and schedule your work accordingly. For some, settling into work-mode takes time, so starting with email is an easy way to start the day. For others, their energy drains after lunch, so it’s better to email in the afternoon, and to focus on more important tasks in the morning while your energy is high.
Some home business owners have several energy peaks and lows during the day. For example, they might be energised to work early in the morning and again late at night. In that case, working during those times, and doing something else during the late morning and early afternoon is the ideal schedule.
PRIORITISE YOUR TASKS
One of the biggest challenges of running a home business is to make sure you are focused on the tasks that make you money. Having a filing system is important, but not more important than doing work for a client or shipping your product. Ideally, you should prioritise your tasks in order of their results:
- Makes Money now: Doing work for or invoicing a client.
- Makes money in the near future: New projects, marketing, customer service.
- Makes money in the near future: Projects that take time to put together, networking
- Makes money in the far future: Projects that take time to put together, networking.
- Business Management: Non-Marketing or customer service email, doing the books, filing, etc.
ORGANISE AND SCHEDULE YOUR DAY
Most home businesses will have the ability to have a set schedule with repeating tasks. For example, a freelance writer can have a set time to write each day. A virtual assistant will have a set time to manage client social media and other tasks. While working from home allows for flexibility, it isn’t bad to have a routine for tasks you do regularly. A schedule relates a routine and habit, so you don’t have to think about what you need to do. It helps you organise and plan the non-regular aspects of your day around your normal activities.
For a schedule to work, you need to stick to it. So if you find you are procrastinating a lot, it’s time to go back to reviewing your peak work times or consider hiring a virtual assistant to do the non-money-making tasks you may be avoiding.
MANAGE UNKNOWNS AND INTERRUPTIONS
The biggest challenge to home based business owners is dealing with distractions and managing the tasks that aren’t scheduled. Too often you’re interrupted by a phone call or an unforeseen issue and your routine goes out the window. Another issue related to managing your tasks has to do with activities related to long-term projects, which often get pushed aside for more pressing tasks. To best manage activities that you haven’t planned for, you want to assess their importance and either do it, schedule it, or delegate it
- Do it: These are pressing issues or crises that must be dealt with. The challenge is in knowing if a task is so important that it automatically goes to the top of the list. Anything that can affect your income should be considered important. So if your website is down, you want to deal with it first. If a customer is complaining, you need to fix it fast.
- Schedule it: For to-dos that pop up that need to be done, but not necessarily ASAP, work them into your schedule later.
- Delegate it: Any time you can take a task off your plate, you’ll have more time to focus on the important money-making tasks. So if an issue pops up, and you have a good virtual assistant, see if he or she can deal with the issue.
When working on a long-term project, the best way to manage those tasks into your schedule is to:
- Break down the project into its to-dos.
- Pick a “Done” date, when you want the project completed.
- Schedule in the to-dos from now until the done date.
USE A SYSTEM
There are many great online and print systems to help you organise and schedule your day. The trick is to find the one that works for you. Digital systems often have webbased and smartphone apps so you can keep organised while away from your home office. Some home business owners prefer a print system and the ability to physically check off to-dos. Some people use a combination of both.
If you’re not sure what’s best for you, test the various options, taking in consideration how you work, and how many cues, triggers or alarms you need to keep you on schedule.
Ideally, you’ll want to schedule for the week, maybe even a month. However, it’s important to review and adjust your daily plan as needed.