How to Manage Your Homebased Time
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Q:I know working from home will mean I'll have many different tasks to accomplish each day. What are they?
A: When you're on your own at home, there are many hats to wear, and if you don't want to wear them all, you have to enlist someone else to wear them for you. You are all of the following:
- Boss--the decision-maker
- CFO and bookkeeper
- Communications department, handling e-mail, phone calls and faxes
- IT director
- Director of administration and provider of support services
- Internet researcher and marketer
- Marketing department
- Cleaning crew
- Pricing expert
- PR liaison
- Sales force
Oh, yes, and then there's the actual work you do in your business--whether it's being an animal detective, a webmaster, a coach or a building contractor.
Even if you're not as adept as Tom Sawyer at getting others to do your chores, you may be able to get help from family members. Spouses often take on specific functions to help out in their mate's business, such as bookkeeping, computer maintenance, delivery and even sales. Or you may want to hire help like a virtual assistant or someone to come into your home office. You can also team up with other small-business owners in one or more of a number of ways, such as joint marketing projects like sharing a booth at a trade show or sending out a direct mailing.
There are also tasks that require special skills or training for which most people enlist professional help, such as tax planning and preparation, web design, computer consulting, insurance and professional organizing.
Even when you get help, there's still a lot to fit into your day. Here are some rules we have found helpful for keeping your hat on straight:
- Put first things first. Separate what's merely pressing from the truly important tasks that will advance you toward your goals. For us, such tasks would be serving our clients and marketing to keep business coming in.
- Clear your mind with an "everything" list. Whether it's on paper or by using "Tasks" in Microsoft Outlook or some other software program, list everything you need to do. You can then prioritize the list and pull off the top priorities for your daily to-do list. Then as you do them, cross off or delete items as you complete them. There's something emotionally satisfying about seeing a list of items crossed off at the end of a day. This way, each day is manageable with nothing important lost in the process.
- Throw away everything you don't need. We don't have paperless offices, and home offices have a tendency to develop clutter piles, which end up eating away at your time when you can't find what you need.
Despite the many things you become responsible for when you're on your own, remember, you're in charge--which means you decide what you do when, and if you don't like the results, you can change your priorities.