This is a video from a Udemy course I created a few years ago to help people maximize their efficiency while working from remotely or from home. Instead of selling it as a paid course, I’m sharing the content here, for free. I hope you find it helpful. -Ron Stauffer
I’ve talked about creating a morning routine where you can use a little bit of time before the workday to prepare yourself for that workday. That is a tremendous benefit, if you can add that to your routine and make that a part of your daily habit. But in addition to that, it also helps to create a weekly schedule.
At some point during your week, you should be able to look ahead on a sort of a week-at-a-glance calendar, whether that’s digital or on paper and look at if today is Monday, what’s going to happen on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Especially when you’re working from home, it can sometimes feel like you’re flying by the seat of your pants and the due dates are up in the air and you’re not exactly sure when you’re supposed to deliver this. So something that I like to do frequently is throughout my day, I’ll not just look at the day that I have in front of me, but the week. I’ll start to get in my mind: “Okay, it’s Tuesday at 3:00 PM. I have a really hard due date for this project at 10:00 AM on Friday,” let’s say. And just check and make sure on your calendar: are the things that you’re doing right now leading to that due date? And if they’re not, reevaluate.
Especially if you’re working from home and you’re home alone, it’s really easy to forget to take lunch. I’ve noticed that I have this terrible tendency to do one of two things. Either I forget to eat lunch all day long and then 4:00 rolls around and I’m irritatedly hungry, and then my wife will ask: “Did you eat lunch?” And I say: “Oh, I forgot.” Or, I’ll go to the kitchen and I’ll get a bowl of soup or something and bring it back into the office, and I’ll keep working while eating lunch. These are both bad.
When you’re trying to create a sustainable, regular, weekly schedule, where you can do your best work and remain efficient and professional, I think it’s really important that you make time for lunch. Make it a real lunch break. This is important, whether you’re self-employed or working for an employer, for a couple reasons.
If you’re self employed, you need to refresh your mind… stop thinking about work. You need a change of scenery…it’s good to think about other things. Also, if you’re employed and you have a boss or a company that pays you a regular salary, they’re legally required to allow you to have a lunch break. They’re not paying you to work through lunch, so don’t!
We have this tendency sometimes to sit in front of our computer with the door closed, and eight hours go by… nine hours… ten hours… and we don’t even realize it! That’s a terrible habit. One of the best ways I know how to break up that monotony is to have a lunch break and do something productive.
I like to take lunch outside, for example. It’s a total change of scenery: it’s a change of the sound, and it puts me in a different frame of mind because the context is so different. So I really like to leave my phone and my laptop in the house and I’ll take my lunch out on my back porch and I’ll listen to the birds… I’ll watch the trees swaying in the wind. I’ll think of some things related to business, but it relaxes me and it gives me a chance to hit that reset button.
At the end of your lunch break, it’s helpful not to just sit back and go back to exactly what you were doing, but take a few minutes and pause and reflect and make sure… if your morning starts here, and your day ends here, and your lunch break is right in the middle, that’s a good time to reevaluate. How am I doing? Am I going to be able to complete by the end of the day, the things that I have on my daily schedule? Use that time to make sure you’re staying on track.
Also, at the end of the day, I highly recommend, if you can, spend 15, 20, maybe even 30 minutes, your very last half hour of the day, let’s say, and prepare for tomorrow; prepare for the rest of the week.
Sometimes schedules can change really fast. If you have clients who cancel meetings tomorrow, and then another client who says: “I know we were supposed to talk three weeks from now, but something came up and we need to talk sooner,” you’re kind of like juggling your schedule and it can shift really quickly.
Let me tell you, my weekly schedule looks very different on Friday than it did on Monday. That doesn’t mean it’s not helpful to plan it out. It is, but it also means that it changes. So at the last half hour of the day, I like to not just review what I did for today and make sure I’m still on task, but also think of things like: “What’s due tomorrow?” The last half hour of the day is a really good time to do that.
As you get toward the end of your week, that fuse starts to burn down and you have less time to make sure that you get your projects finished. And you’re probably thinking more like: “What are the things that are not going to be able to get done this week that I need to push off to next week?”
I had a former employer who taught me something really brilliant. He said, make sure that the second half of Friday is “admin time only.” And what he meant by that was: clear out my schedule for the second half of Friday and make it a rule that I can’t meet with clients then, I can’t go to events, and I can’t call people. I have to block out that time to review how the week went and start to preplan the next week.
That experience of being able to know that you finished the week and you can close the books and you’re relatively prepared for next week is a great feeling. It’s much better than working a half hour late and feeling like: “Well, I got done all that I could, I need to go home and I have all these notes spread out, and I’m not really sure where I’m going to start on Monday morning.”
If you can, come up with some sort of a schedule like that, where you dedicate time at the end of your day, like I mentioned with that last half hour, but also the end of your week, especially if you have anything that happens on a weekend. If you work in a company where you might have to offer support, or where a website goes live, or something like that happens on the weekend or after hours: use that last part of your week, which is essentially the second half of your Friday. And make sure that you’re prepared for the weekend and the next week, as much as you can before the week starts.
What that does, obviously, is by the time Monday rolls around, you’ll feel really prepared. You’ll feel like: “Oh, that’s right. Here in my notes, it says that the things that I have to do this week are A, B and C,” rather than waking up in a panic on Monday morning thinking: “Uhh, I don’t remember… uhh, I left the office in such haste and I had baseball with my kids on Saturday, and it’s been so long since I’ve thought about things related to business.”
If you can have something that already pre-plans your week, as much as possible, you’ll be very prepared and you’ll be very peaceful as you start your week.
Ron Stauffer is a solopreneur and freelancer with over 14 years of experience running a small company. He’s extremely familiar with the loneliness, frustration, and challenges unique to freelance work and running a business of one. He started Free Soloing to help other people just like him.