Daily Routines for Productivity
Choosing to be a remote worker means being responsible for your own schedules and having no one to tell you what you need to accomplish and how. But, that also means you are left on your own to figure out all the scheduling, deadlines and due dates of any project you take on. What are you supposed to be doing and for how long? Who determines when you’ve done enough and what if you are doing the wrong things? Additionally, there is often so much distraction at home, cleaning to be done, children to attend to, bills and repairs, it’s all unsettling trying to get anything done. So, what does a productive schedule look like and how do you get started?
As a writer, I tend to enjoy a slow start in which I can capture the lingerings of ideas and observations from the day before. So I need not be rushed. While my routine has grown out of years of trial and error and terrorizing myself through self-sabotaging thoughts and practices. I would not trade the experiences because they brought me to this point.
My current daily routine is a mismatch of what a few successful entrepreneurs that I admire practice and experience growth from. These practices have helped me develop behaviors which resonate with my future goals and dreams.
Here’s my routine in a simplified nutshell.
Production in a day is getting one major task, in each category of my to-do list completed. A significantly productive day is when I get past the “must dos” and into the “fluff”, the things I’d like to get done. So for example, on the list below, I currently have 5 areas I must hit for peak production: Homeschool (HS) Business(BIZ), Writing(WRT), Learning/Job(JOB) and finally Life(LIFE). All tasks are listed in priority sequence, followed by action steps and fluff. So, my to do or GSD daily lists often look something like the one below, written in my journal and in a Google Doc:
Planning and Daily Execution
Life, business, families, school, and work all require space in our busy schedules. When you work from home, you run the risk of getting caught up in activities that, while they may make your home more comfortable or your family happier, will not increase your income.
Here are my non-expert, learned-from-experience steps that I take to put my work from home plans into action.
Guard your time.
To ensure you are being efficient while working from a home office, you must value your time by following through with your plans. I have found, through experience over the years, that you must vehemently protect your time from moochers like your friends on their days off and your parents who don’t understand how you could be employed and sitting home all day in pajamas.
After years of unannounced visits and requests for favors that start with the dreaded and most annoying words: “are you busy” or what are you doing?” I have learned to turn off my phone during office hours and restrict people’s access to me, especially those who don’t understand the value of my time.
Keep a strict office schedule.
Due to the nature of remote work, adult conversations and friendships tend to be sparse, and loneliness can often set in. When I first started working from home, I’d schedule my office hours around my outings. If I had somewhere to be I’d work twice as long the day before or through the weekend to stay on top of things. Now, I do the reverse, I keep strict office hours that are uninterrupted as if I had left the house for work. I instruct my boys that when my office door is closed, I am either making videos, writing and needing to concentrate or on a call. I make no exceptions, not even for unannounced out of town visitors or friends and family members I have not seen in a while. The truth is, after years of exceptions, I have found that the only way I can remain focused and clear on my journey is just to be a bit bullheaded, disciplined and unapologetic. This is my livelihood after all.
Plan your overall goal, then break it into specific steps.
I plan many aspects of my life, it soothes me when I feel overwhelmed and gives me a sense of control. However, I sometimes have an issue with seeing the big picture or keeping it in focus long enough to hold on to what steps I need to take next. Therefore, I put a lot of thought into the endeavors I attempt and projects I initiate and I make notes to track and organize my thoughts. In order to do that, I use a six-step process to break each goal down into actionable steps and then work towards each objective, milestone, and goal that way.
- Clearly define your goal.
- Create a milestone timeline.
- Make a task/objective list including due dates
- List people, tools, resources needed to accomplish each task
- Create a to do or get sh*t done list
- Do, check and update the list with relevant notes and reminders
What does the schedule of an online entrepreneur look like?
Finally, let’s talk about consistent practices that become routine. How do you take your coffee? Do you have cream and sugar? Milk and sugar? Or straight black? I take mine double-double, the Tim Hortons term for two servings of cream and sugar each. Up until I was 18, I didn’t even drink coffee. Now, I have one within 2 hours of waking each day. I do that because it’s routine. A routine, in its simplest form, is a practice repeated until it becomes part of your daily activities. When I don’t have coffee I am slower, unfocused and crabby. With caffeine, things feel right again. That’s the way routines work.
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
While I cannot speak for other work at home entrepreneurs and employees, I can say that having a schedule helps me to structure and organize my life and accomplish my goals. No schedule and routine should be so set in stone that any adjustment cripples your progress, but it is wise to honor your scheduled time so others will learn to take your time more seriously, or at least, learn to stay away when you work because you are a terror if not.
When I am super productive and I have no outside meetings or extracurricular, my daily schedule is some version of the image below. Of course, the only things that are consistent each year are my categories, but as my goals change, so do my routines. When my kids were much younger and needed more adult supervision for their educational career, my objectives were more based on homeschool activities. As I am currently in the process of creating an online business, the majority of my learning and office hours go into working on my business and learning to master entrepreneurship and writing. And to be honest, I have not voluntarily stopped working after 11pm unless I have to 😉
Resources for scheduling:
I trust this post will help you put together your ideal and customized schedule. Yes, work at home can give you the freedom to work when you want and for how long. But it can also cause you to become afraid and paranoid about your lack of productivity and send you into an overwork, burnout, regret cycle that I know all too well.
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Wishing you success,