They say time is money, and if that's true, then every minute you spend on your business should be time well-spent. Working from home has a lot of benefits, but it also brings its share of distractions. Here are 10 ways to take control of your activities and make the most of every minute:
1. Manage your time around objectives rather than activities. "People get caught up doing tasks when they really need to ask themselves why they're doing those tasks," explains Bill Brooks, founder and CEO of The Brooks Group, a sales training and business growth company in Greensboro, North Carolina. "Ask yourself what your long-term goals are, what your short-term goals are and what your strategy is to accomplish those things. Those then become the specific tasks that you work on."
2. Understand the power of lists. Time management expert Tony Jeary, author of A Good Sense Guide to Happiness in Your Business and Personal Life, suggests making personal "to-do" lists that overlap properly with business lists. Be sure you prioritize the most important items on each list.
3. Learn how to build a file. Ideas and issues that relate to a certain project can rob you of your ability to think straight and accomplish other projects. "Put them together in a file so that you can keep your mind free to keep going," suggests Jeary.
4. Master the telephone. Phone calls are one of the most common interruptions. Measure each call's importance, and get off the phone the moment you realize the call isn't relevant to your business.
5. Understand your peak times. If you're a morning person, get up at the crack of dawn and get things done. Recognize your most productive times, and schedule your most important tasks within those times.
6. Remember, clutter breeds confusion. "A cluttered work space does nothing but raise stress," warns Brooks. "Clutter causes you to be so focused on what you're doing that you lose sight of your purpose. Don't get stuck in that activity trap."
7. Develop a family strategy. Sit down with your family and discuss good ways to respect your time when you're working. Discuss when it's OK to interrupt and when it's not.
8. Master your listening skills. Don't make yourself have to do double the work because you weren't listening in the first place. Get it right the first time.
9. Hire an assistant. "People don't realize the power of having a part-time assistant," says Jeary. For one thing, having an assistant forces you to delegate-but it also forces you to prioritize tasks and organize them so that someone else can take care of some of your work, thus freeing you up to grow your business.
10. Know how to manage yourself. "Time management is really self-management first," says Brooks. "The biggest cause of failure for people is a lack of self-discipline. How well are you disciplining yourself to accomplish things?"