With the holidays in full swing, it can feel very stressful trying to get things done.
Some of you are working on projects and feel like your running in quicksand. I know the feeling.
These projects don’t have to be big undertakings. Maybe your unfinished project is simply buying Christmas presents or getting a tree up, (if you’re like me).
Jobs, family, friends, activities, and all the day-to-day have-to’s drain you and your time.
I get it. We are all short on time these days. No matter how hard you work or how many hours you put in, that to-do list is never quite finished.
Today, I wanted to share my top seven tips for finishing what you start. Let’s get those accomplishments rolling in!
1. Make a Schedule
Many people consider a flexible schedule to be one of the best parts of working from home. And it is! But you still have to actually have a schedule. It’s sometimes harder to complete tasks at home because there’s no accountability. To keep yourself on track and prioritize your tasks requires you to have a designated work time each day you plan to work. When you work from home, you are your own supervisor – so act like it. Each Sunday, sit down and determine your schedule for the week.
Outline all your commitments for the week, from taking kids to school or practice to doing any required housework or errands. Be honest with yourself – don’t plan on an 8-hour workday when you have a ton of errands to run as well. Look at the tasks necessary to complete your work from home, and create your work schedule.
Put it on a calendar or have a daily timer set on your phone. I hand write my daily schedule the night before but I have certain tasks that I do on certain days which does not change.
My writing time is 11:00 AM till 3 PM. My phone is off during this time, no social media, all my early morning errands or jobs are done and I can completely focus on writing.
2. Set Deadlines
There’s no better incentive than having a deadline. Most jobs outside the home live by deadlines. When I worked as a newspaper journalist, I had a deadline to get my work into my editor but I also set a deadline for myself, three days before the editor wanted it.
When your home-based work involves clients, you’ll have to set deadlines as part of your work relationship with them. However, having one deadline for a big project (or even a medium-sized one) isn’t good enough – you need several deadlines spaced throughout to ensure you’re hitting milestones and are on track to finish the full project on time.
If you need someone to hold you accountable to your deadlines, ask a friend and do the same for them. My early work as a journalist has helped me maintain a habit of keeping deadlines.
Once you start, it won’t take you long to make it a habit either.
3. Set Mini – Goals
Whether you’re wanting to start a blog, write a series of articles for a client, or save a certain amount of money by the end of 2018, any project you work on can be broken down into individual tasks or goals.
Mini-goals are much more manageable than large projects. Create a flowchart. List the main goal at the top then break down the process by creating a second, third and even fourth tier of mini-goals.
Next, make a list of the steps required for each goal in order from smallest to largest. Creating this list of tasks both ensures you won’t leave any step out and it will give you a clear and detailed path to follow as you work.
A few examples of this might be:
- Buy a domain and hosting by January 1. Install a theme and plugins by January 8. Outline the first five posts by January 15. Write and publish the first five posts by January 30.
- Outline client articles by January 1. Write and edit article one by January 8. Write and edit article two by January 12…
- Determine a budget needed for 2019 and divide by 52. This is your weekly income goal for 2019. If you want to earn $100 per week, that’s $20 to earn each weekday. How many hours do you need to put in each weekday at your online gig? How many clients do you need to pick up? How many articles do you need to submit? How many books do you need to produce?
- Write it down on the calendar. Get a plan. Make it detailed.
This detailed plan also helps you set deadlines for your projects. You can organize the work into phases, assign milestone points within each project, and set your deadlines accordingly. As you complete tasks and mark them off, you have a visual showing you how far you’ve come. Celebrate your progress and allow it to keep you energized and motivated to complete the rest of your goals.
4. Take on the Most Difficult Job First
I hate exercise. But I know I have to, to be healthy. So I do it first thing in the morning. I set a timer on my phone to 45 minutes. For those 45 minutes, I don’t think about anything else, I concentrate and finish my workout routine. It’s the same with the parts of my work that aren’t my favorite. I set a timer at the same time each day and get those done.
If you wait to tackle the major task on any given day, it can cause anxiety or frustration and even depression the rest of your workday. Maybe you’re dragging your feet because you don’t want to start – it’s so difficult! – or you feel overwhelmed by your scheduled tasks.
Write the hardest tasks at the top of your next day’s to-do list every night and get it done and over!
There’s a serious benefit to getting the big task out of the way. You can relax a bit, feel as though you have accomplished something and boost your energy to push on toward the next tasks. Subsequent tasks seem much easier when you’ve got the big one down.
5. Save the Most Enjoyable Jobs for Last.
As much as I hate exercise, I love getting on Instagram. But if I do that before all my big tasks are done, I’ll find that hours have passed and now my workload is pressing down and time slipping away. Leave that for the evenings after everything else is done and take all the time you need to enjoy it.
6. Work in Blocks
My work of being a social media manager, a freelance writer, and when I was a virtual assistant – often included more than one client. Usually, I try to keep no more than 5 to 6 clients in order to pursue my own writing.
Depending on how successful you are or what services you offer, you could have 5, 10, 15, or even more! And each one of them has their own projects and blocks of tasks that you need to accomplish for them. It can seem overwhelming when you look at all the work together, and you might feel like you can’t focus on what you need to do.
One way to ensure you’re getting all your tasks done for your clients – and to restore your fragmented focus – is to work in blocks.
What works for me is setting apart specific days to accomplish specific tasks. Also, setting the second and fourth Sunday afternoon gives me extra time if I need it.
Maybe on Monday and Wednesday mornings, you dedicate your time to Social Media Management or a specific group of clients or job tasks. The afternoons those days are dedicated to a different client or group of tasks. Then on Tuesdays and Thursday, you tackle freelance writing and other clients. Fridays can be your special time to spend on your own personal projects. For me, I paint and make jewelry on Fridays. It keeps me sane and increases my creativity.
Setting aside blocks of time will help you to focus on each individual client and give them excellent work. Working in blocks of time means you can actually finish tasks for them instead of making a tiny bit of progress on 4 different projects on each day. This usually ends up with lots of excuses for your clients and not your best work. A very Bad practice!
Being able to complete tasks each day will not only build your confidence but the confidence of those depending on you to get a job done right.
7. Use What Works for You
Getting organized can seem overwhelming and undoable. But when you find a system that works well for you, being organized will allow you to make the progress you desire. Time is wasted when there’s no direction. You spend most of the time trying to decide what to work on and how. Make a decision and stick with it.
My husband has several computer programs that help him to keep on top of the millions of tasks his job requires. He’s responsible for hundreds if not thousands of people and their safety as well as each plant’s safety records. I can’t imagine how I would deal with that every day. But he’s fantastic at it because he’s found a way that helps him manage it all.
For me, I use a spiral planner that has pages you can interchange easily. It has a monthly calendar, a yearly calendar and a daily worksheet by times. It also has a sidebar for weekly and monthly goals where I can break these down into daily tasks.
I also use my phone and a timer as I mentioned earlier. I set my timer for 45 minutes each morning to exercise. Once I’m done, I set it for another 45 minutes for cleaning, then another for answering emails, and so on.
It may take you a while to find the method that works best for you but it will be worth the investment. I am so curious as to how many of you manage. If you don’t mind, please share how you organize your work in the comments below.
Thanks for sharing!
If you have any questions, please use the Contact Form. I will be happy to try my best to help you.