For nearly everyone, time is a scarce commodity. Yet, it is a common fallacy to suppose that when you start a home business you will suddenly have more hours in your day than you did when you worked for someone else. But once you actually get started in your own business it won’t be long before you feel as if there are not only fewer hours in a day, but that those hours seem as if they have fewer minutes in them.
Time management is not an easy skill to teach. Rather, it is a process that has to be learned through constant practice. Many tools are available to help people manage their time, but they have to take the initial step in getting started before they can make better use of the time they have. The development of time management skills will also help you balance the demands of your work and home life. This is commonly referred to as creating a work-life balance and to start you need to be aware of how closely work and home life are related, particularly for the work-at-home entrepreneur.
Do not make the mistake of separating your work and family life into two separate schedules. With the two so closely connected, you should keep all your appointments clearly written on a single calendar so that you can quickly determine whether or not you can fit other appointments into your week. The important thing is not so much the price or quality of the planner you use; the only thing that matters is that you get a planner with a calendar and use it regularly.
Consider your priorities before you fill out the calendar. Fill out the calendar for the whole week and try to allocate time for your long term quality projects as well as the immediate and pressing priorities. Try to reduce the amount of time spent on unimportant and unproductive activities. Constantly review your goals for the week, the month and the year, as well as your longer term goals, and consider how you will move towards each of them, even if only in a small way, each week. That way, you will keep your dreams and your highest aspirations alive and constantly in view. That is one of the most powerful motivators you can have – the constant reaffirmation of the goals that drive you.
However, even the best laid plans stand to be disrupted as new contingencies crop up each day, such as emergencies and unforeseen customer demands. One thing to bear in mind is that when a customer emergency comes up and is in direct conflict with a scheduled event, you will have to decide on where your priorities lie on that specific occasion. If you have an assistant to whom you can delegate the customer issue, that’s a bonus. If not, the customer may have to wait until after you have completed your scheduled task or spent quality time with your family.
When setting daily priorities, you should always begin with a block of time being set aside as contingency time. That is, a period of time set aside specifically to handle unexpected issues, even if it is as little as 15 minutes. If nothing happens, you can feel justified in rewarding yourself with an extra 15 minutes free time at the end of the day. However, if something does occur, you have some slack time in which to attempt to resolve it without throwing a spanner in the rest of the day’s schedule.
One of the best habits you can develop is to better manage your time is to establish a minimum of 10 minutes either last thing every evening or first thing every morning to review what you have to do on the coming day and try to accommodate any tasks on yesterday’s list that were not accomplished. This daily planning session can be the last thing you do at your office, or before retiring to bed, or the first thing you do when you get to your office, or something you do with your first cup of coffee. When you do it depends on the way you prefer to work, but the important thing is that you do do it! Get into the habit of reviewing your daily plans and then stick to the plan throughout the day.