Planning your day when you are working alone and from home can be very difficult! This complete freedom can actually be quite challenging. I get you, I have been there, or I am still there every day. Everybody is different and everybody works best at different times of the day. Some people prefer to work under pressure and some can't handle pressure. Some people prefer to work from home and some prefer to go out to a cafe or somewhere else.
As I only have certain hours a day to work – while my kids are in school – I need to have quite a strict schedule and little distraction in order to get everything done. I have also worked from home for many years now under different circumstances and I have tried many things. So for myself I found out that I am most productive when I am in my office, door closed, I have all my things around me and there is almost no distraction, meaning I don't get the door bell, my phone is on silent and there are no other people around me. Also I like a bit of pressure, but that was the same in my normal office job :-)
However because of my busy afternoons with my kids I do get to talk to other people a lot and I do get a lot of distraction. For some of you that might be different because you work alone all day and that means you need some time to interact with other humans as well, so you might prefer to work in a coffee shop instead.
Everybody is different! And everyones situation is different. However I believe there are still a few essentials that will make life as a freelancer or life as an entrepreneur and working from home a bit easier:
A routine is super important. Getting up at the same time every day and having a certain routine to follow makes people feel more secure and gives some stability.
The routine might be taking a shower and getting dressed, having breakfast and then at a certain time start your computer and your work.
It might be that you bring your kids to school and once you get back you start working - always at the same time.
It might be that you go to the gym and then start work.
But I think it is important that you get up always at the same time and that you shower and dress up (!) and have breakfast before you start working. Don't stay in your pjs all day because nobody will see you. This does not feel like real work and I believe it should.
Getting up with an alarm clock and always at the same time might be hard for you. So make it easier by doing it together with someone. May be your partner? Or you can go to a gym class every morning at the same time? Or meet a friend for a run every morning. Whatever it is, put some pressure on yourself in order to get up.
Make a weekly planner
As for most people every day can not look exactly the same, I can highly recommend to make yourself a weekly planner!
Start by writing down the givens. So for example the school drop off time or the gym class time. If you don't have any of this, then decide what time you want to get up and have breakfast. Set a time for lunch and set a time for the end of your work day.
This might differ per day so you need to write down the plan for each day of the week.
Now you can calculate how many hours you have for work each week and each day. Does that meet your goal? If not you need to make adjustments, may be getting up earlier, going to the gym one hour earlier or you need to set priorities differently. In any way, this will give you a very good overview of how much time you want to spend doing work and doing other things.
Once you have decided and written down how many hours per day you have for work you need to divide those hours for all the tasks you need to do.
So start by writing down all the tasks you have. Then you can fill each day with those tasks. However leave some spare time each day as you always need time for the unexpected so that you don't stress out.
I also encourage you to include fixed time slots for fixed tasks as well as flexible time each day. For people working full time this might be that the hours in the afternoons are flexible hours.
In my case, I have set a time for emails, preparing blog posts, preparing social media images and posts, client work, accounting and training as well as taking my business further (more on that later).
Now I have filled all the work hours I have determined for each day with those tasks. For example on Sunday's I allow myself 30 minutes for emails in the morning, then 30 minutes on bookkeeping, then I finish writing my blog post for Monday and then client work until my kids come home.
I have a time schedule for each day of the week and for me it starts at the same time each day, as I have to get my kids ready for school and drop them. After that each day is a little bit different but they are the same every week and I know what to expect. For example on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday morning I have set an hour for my work out, on other days I have set my work outs for the evening. When my work day finished depends on the school hours of the kids, but I know for each day how many hours I have.
Prepare your week
Once you have done this framework, it is a good idea to start every week by quickly determining what needs to be done this week and write it down. As it always depends on the projects you have going on. Set some goals for every week and write down your achievements during the week as well.
It is also very good to set goals and action plans for yourself so you can measure your work. I have set quarterly goals for myself for example. And I would encourage you to set monetary goals as well as work goals, like finishing a certain project or finishing that piece of art or finishing an online course by a certain date.
Every week, or every other week you should sit down and look at those goals again and see wether you are working towards those goals and if you are making any progress.
Now start timing yourself! Write down each day how many hours you spend on each task. Looking back at the end of the week and at the end of each month gives you a great overview on what you are spending time on. You can cross check this with the weekly planner you have prepared. You might also be able to change your priorities or set them straight. For example you might be spending a lot of time on social media but in reality you don't get any clients through there. So you might need to reconsider and think about how you can use this time better.
To do this you can just write your hours down in an excel spread sheet, or you can use an online tool to do that. I use www.toggl.com for example and I will write a separate post on this as well.
I have attached a draft of a weekly planner and a spreadsheet to write down your business goals for you. You can download it and it might give you a starting point.
It also includes space to write down goals and action plans. My weekly planner starts on a Sunday because our week in Dubai starts on Sunday and I have excluded the weekends because I prefer to keep them free. However this is easily adaptable for a week from Monday to Friday and also including the weekend. This is more to give you an idea.
To summarize you need to:
have a routine
make weekly planner
plan each week on the first day of the week
Last but not least, eliminate those distractions :-) stick to your routine!
Have a great week and I would love to hear how you are getting on with scheduling your week!
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