How Planning Ahead Helps me to Be More Productive

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Working from home can be very distracting if you don’t have a plan.

I drop the kids at school rush home and put the laptop on, put a load of washing in the machine and then check my emails and make a cup of tea.  Just as I’m settling down to start one of my tasks, the washing machine beeps. Off I go to sort out the washing machine and my concentration is now broken. I go back to my desk and check my emails again. By the time I get half of my first task done it is gone 11.0’clock. I still have to squeeze in my shopping trip before I pick up the children as they hate going shopping after school.

This is an example of one of my non-productive days of working at home. My concentration is interrupted and I lack focus, start jobs and don’t finish them.

If working from home is going to work for me things had to change.

So I sat down and wrote everything that had to be done during my day:
  • Freelance work for each client
  • Housework tasks
  • Weekly shopping
  • School related meetings/clubs

Now I can now see everything on one page and come up with ways to become more productive and focused.

By looking at each task and asking what can I delegate, what can I change? I had some more productive solutions.

I even set up a trial account with Harvester and timed myself doing these tasks – this was  a real eye opener. Certain tasks I thought took an hour were much quicker when I was focussed. The distractions of the house took much longer than I thought.

The plan going forward:

  • Freelance work – I pick 3 things that I need to complete that day and I start with the hardest. You know, the one task that you want to put off until tomorrow! The idea is that I want to feel satisfied that I have had a productive day. These 3 things could only take an hour each but having them in the ‘done’ pile is a weight off my mind. I still use harvester as the action of starting a timer really makes me focus – it doesn’t have to be an online app you could use a stopwatch on your phone.
  • Emails – I now only check them once I have finished the first and most important task on my to do list.
  • Mobile Phone – I now put it on airplane mode or leave it in another room until I have finished my tasks.
  • Shopping – I order a weekly shop online for a Monday delivery at lunchtime. It’s just the basics that we use each week so I don’t have to put much thought into the list. I still need to go shopping mid-week but it is more leisurely and I take the time to catch up with a friend for a coffee at the same time.
  • Washing – I now put a load on before I start work and try and get my 1st task finished before the machine beeps. A little competition with the washing machine is completely lame I know but it works for me.
  • Dinner – If dinner needs any prepping I do this around the same time I sort out lunch. This has been a tricky one as I struggle to plan meals ahead of time. I have put more effort in here but still find weeks with no interest in cooking. With this in mind I have been trying the meals in a box service you can get; such as Hello Fresh or Gousto. I have mixed feelings about this as I see it as an expense but then it is a relief not to have to plan a nutritionally balanced meals for us.

Although this takes a lot more effort to plan things and may seem extreme, having this routine works for me and I am more productive as a result.

This extra focus has enabled me to do more than my 3 tasks on some days or to go ahead and use any remaining time in the day to do something else. Since starting this new routine I have managed to get around to finish reading that book sitting on my bedside table and I keep in touch with family and friends more often.

With a little planning I can achieve more for myself not just my freelance work but time on myself. I’m not perfect and some days I still feel unproductive; but these days are normally because I haven’t taken time to plan beforehand. I must admit I still struggle with doing the worst task first – even though I know I’ll feel better afterwards.

So with a little forward planning and delegation you can have a more productive day working from home too.

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