1. Start with a time audit.
I learned this tip from the Work of Art classes offered by Springboard for the Arts. It is an eyeopener!
- Write down everything you do in a 24-hour cycle. Do this for a full week if you can.
- Make categories for client work, business administration tasks, and personal business (includes laundry and sleep). Add other categories that are appropriate for you.
- Consider the results when you begin to build a daily work schedule.
2. Create a daily work schedule.
- Every Sunday I review my calendar for the week ahead and build an hourly-by-day work schedule (in a Word doc) with a callout section for appointments or other opportunities, their days, and times.
- My daily schedule runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. which leaves plenty of time in the afternoon to catch up on work or accommodate new appointments.
3. Use a calendar.
- Google or other online calendars for all appointments
- Paper calendar by month, pinned to a corkboard above my desk, shows meetings that repeat regularly
- Word document created for week-specific appointments/meetings
4. Don’t over schedule
- Under promise and over deliver to yourself and your clients. If you’re not frustrated because you’ve fallen behind, you’ll make fewer mistakes and feel happier in your workday.
5. Take enough breaks.
- Lose the stress on your body by getting out of your chair and moving around at least every 2 hours.
- Plan an extended mid-day break to get non-work-related tasks done. You’ll be less distracted if you know you’ve made time for other essential lifestyle activities.
6. Take planned breaks.
- Set alarms for your scheduled breaks.
- Use break times to refresh yourself. Take a short walk or stretch. Put down the coffee and pick up the water! Let the dog out. Water plants. Do something that is not job-related.
- Carefully estimate time to complete work tasks.
- Customer care is important, absolutely, but YOU are important too!
7. Limit interruptions.
- Whenever possible, keep your workspace at home separate from other household noise and distractions. Close a door. Use noise-canceling headphones. Let the household know in advance what your schedule is for the day.
- Turn off your phone! Take calls during breaks or during scheduled client service times. Personal calls can wait.
- Make sure your workstation is ergonomically friendly, that you have good lighting, and other environmental factors (heat, a/c, airflow) are set to keep your workspace comfortable.
8. Plan for the unexpected.
- Leave 2- 3 hours open toward the end of your day. This gives you flexibility to respond to new client follow-ups or family mini-crises or even a low energy day.
- Set a realistic start time for you. If you aren’t an early riser, don’t force yourself to start before you’re ready to work.
- Take a long lunch break. It’s better to give yourself a 1-1/2 hour break at mid-day than to be distracted by all the things you have to do after work.
These tips can be amended to suit your onsite work environment as well. Before applying these tips be sure to understand what your overall goals are in your work life. Your goals will drive your work behavior. Remember, good intentions are not the same as productive actions!