It’s a New Year! Get Organized with Your Work Time

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Is your new year off to a good start? My writing time today comes after a rough night of being up with the baby, in the midst of a day of grouchiness for my whole family, and right during what I’d planned to be a mid-day video gaming break (yeah, we got Fallout 4 for PC for Christmas).

When you work at home, as many sole proprietors do, how can you make the most of your time and meet your business goals in spite of the chaos and distractions?

Tip #1 – Don’t Neglect the Planning Time

I just want to encourage you – especially those of you who struggle with organization – not to forgo time spent on planning in favor of more time to “work.” Planning time is important, so schedule it into your week and honor that appointment! I’d recommend setting aside time for a few different planning sessions.

plan-707359_1280Session 1

First, list out a few (2-4) big goals for your year. These may be things like: write a 75,000 word novel, find 10 new clients, increase net income to $3k/month, or even lose 50 lbs. Remember to make your goals measurable. Otherwise, how will you know you’ve met them? Also be sure to set deadlines that you want to hit. Are you working on all goals concurrently, or are you doing each one successively?

Then, break down those big goals into actionable Steps, and set deadlines for each Step. You want to end up with just a few actionable steps to focus on each month.

Check in on yourself and your big goals quarterly. The first time, it may take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on your personality. From then on, it should only take a few minutes to check in and make sure you’re on track or decide if you need to make adjustments.

Session 2

Look at the month ahead and figure out what you need to accomplish each week in order to accomplish the Steps you’re currently focusing on. Break your Steps down into Items that you can accomplish in a week or, even better, in a single day, and put those Items on your calendar.

Repeat this planning session monthly. Set aside at least 30 minutes to complete it the first time, and gauge from there how long it will take in the future.

Session 3

At the start of your week, look over your calendar to remind yourself what Items need to be accomplished, and remind yourself what the Big Goals are that you’re working toward. (This is your WHY – your motivation) Make any changes that you need to, depending on how your schedule is looking that week. You should be able to have a rough plan of what you’re doing each day and approximately how long it will take.

Take about 15 minutes to do this each week.


Tip #2 – Limit Interruptions and Chaos

board-728530_1920As much as possible, you want to protect your work time from anything that will derail you. For some, this means closing the door and putting up a “do not disturb” sign. For others, this may mean turning off your cellphone. Here are some other ideas to limit interruptions:

  • Move your desk/computer to a room that is separate from the family chaos.
  • Get some noise-canceling headphones.
  • Listen to music that inspires and motivates you while you work.
  • Keep your calendar and/or to do list handy so you can stay on track and quickly write down new thoughts that pop up while you’re working.
  • Organize your work space so that you can easily find what you need and so that your vision is uncluttered.
  • Change your view. Work where you can see out a window, hang a painting, use an inspiring background, or adjust your mood lighting.
  • Work during quiet times. Maybe you need to work earlier or later in the day or during a child’s nap time.

Take care of the little details before you get started so you can really focus. Make sure you’re well-rested and caffienated, make sure you’re fully dressed (if that’s what helps you focus), eat a satisfying meal, take your meds, brush your teeth, do a chore… you know what the little things are that help you focus. I know that I can be tempted to jump right into trying to get stuff done without taking care of those little things first, but I am much more focused and at ease if take care of them first.

Tip #3 – Take Breaks

This is something you’ve probably heard again and again. Break-taking improves your productivity! You need a chance to clear your head now and then. Don’t work until YOU break, but rather work some breaks into your schedule so you can stand up, stretch, get some fresh air, and think about something other than your work. Check out this article on NY Times and this one from The Atlantic, or do a Google search for many, many other supporting articles.

Tip #4 – Get Help

But, Michelle, you’re a Virtual Assistant. You have to say that!

Well, that’s sort of true, but I also practice what I preach (well, usually)! I have to recognize when I’m out of my depth and when I’m wasting time doing something I’m either not passionate about or not good at. I delegate regularly, and I encourage you to do the same. Ask me how I can help you or check out this article about finding and vetting a VA for yourself.

Michelle Martinez
Michelle Martinez partners with entrepreneurs and busy professionals as a virtual assistant to maximize their time and efficiency and keep them organized.
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