For people who create their own schedules, it can be challenging to figure out how to use your time in the most effective way possible. You may have occasional scheduled meetings or calls, but the majority of your work comes from a running list of projects with distant deadlines and it’s up to you to figure out what gets the highest priority and how much time you must allot to each task. This type of work schedule can be particularly challenging if you’re working from home or alone at a coworking space or somewhere else that can be distracting. Follow these pieces of advice to better manage your time and get more done.
Create a schedule
The first step to take to effectively manage your time is to create a schedule for the hours you’ll be working (or even your entire day, if you’re ambitious). You may already have a schedule or to-do list, but if you feel like it isn’t working well for you, scrap the whole thing and start from scratch. Plan out each hour of your workday and allot enough time for each task so you can clearly see what you need to do when. This schedule helps you stay on task and gauge where you are throughout each day.
Learn your productive times
This step takes some trial and error, but by consciously paying attention to how you work and when you get the most done, you can figure out what times of the day you’re the most productive. Once you learn these times, you can plan to get your most important and urgent tasks done then and push lesser projects to different times.
As you work on your different tasks, start timing how long it takes you to do every item. Knowing you’re being timed can push you to stay focused and avoid distractions. If you do get distracted, you can clearly see how much time was wasted; let it serve as a wake-up call. You might also be underestimating how long it takes you to get something done, so timing yourself allows you to create a realistic schedule.
If you work on the computer, you can easily access an endless number of distractions. With cell phones, we have hours of distractions in our pockets. When you work at home, you might get distracted by what needs to be done around your house. In order to best manage your time, you must eliminate distractions; put your phone in a different room or turn it off, block specific sites on your computer while you’re working, or isolate yourself somewhere that people won’t talk to you and you won’t be distracted by what’s around you.
Craft a workspace
No matter where you’re working, you need to create a workspace for yourself that you find relaxing and helps you focus. At home, create a specific room or area where you work so you can keep your work and home life separate. In your office, personalize your space so you enjoy being there, but also in a way that’s conducive to your productivity. If you work in more public spaces, consider investing in good headphones to ignore outside noise and get materials that best fit your needs and make your job easier.