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
When you say to yourself, “I need to dedicate time to do this,” it will actually happen, you’ll pay attention to it, and your recall will be much better.
Working from home requires a lot of self-discipline and self-management. You cannot have a client or an employer breathing down your neck all day long, making sure you’re staying on task. That’s up to you. I’ve learned two tricks over the years that help me with this. I like to call them chunking and blocking out time.
Trick #1: Chunking Your Tasks
The first one, I don’t know what it’s called, so I call it chunking. And that’s where I say to myself, “I’m going to work on this particular client project for the next three hours. I’m going to make a chunk of time just for this client.” During that time, I will go through the list of all the things that I’ve let, hopefully not pile up, but that I’ve let add up, and now I can check them off. Check one, two, three, four, and five.
When you have devoted an entire chunk of time to focus on just one client or just one project, there’s an exponential benefit. It’s an economy of scale where you’re “in the zone.” And you’re thinking about this client and the conversation you had last Tuesday, and the due date that they mentioned about next Friday, and you can just kind of let all of those thoughts that you have about this project or this client kind of wash over you.
If you turn off your phone and you don’t check your email, you can power through your lists of things that need to be done, and you can create tremendous progress–so much more than if you do a little task here on Monday, and then another task on Tuesday, and then three on Wednesday, and two on Thursday. What I do as much as I possibly can is save all these various things that I’m working on. And I organize them by client or by project, and I set a chunk of time in my calendar. It could be one hour; it could be three hours, it could be an entire day. And I try to power through all those things that I’m responsible for that client or project. That’s one trick.
Trick #2: Blocking Out Your Time
The second trick I’ve learned is blocking out time in my calendar for things that I may or may not feel an urgent need to take care of, but I know it needs to be done. Especially for entrepreneurs and people who are self-employed, continuing education is a great example of something that can fall by the wayside when everything else feels so much more urgent because there are dollars attached to it. And you know, this is important because it’s sales. This is important because it’s delivering on a project. It’s very easy to become a person who just reacts to everything and never really proactively says to himself or herself, “I should devote time to doing this because it’s good,” if there’s not money attached to it.
So I like to block out time in my calendar for certain things that I do that may or may not have any financial reward at all. I’ll set aside maybe 45 minutes on a Friday afternoon, and I will put it on my calendar. I will block it out, and I will stop work, and I’ll read a blog post. Or listen to a podcast episode or spend some time brainstorming on a whiteboard about my service offerings and the products and services that I sell to my clients.
It’s really important when you’re self-employed or just working from home to make sure that you’re not so busy, just doing tasks, that you actually schedule good things in your work week that don’t have an immediate financial reward. I like to watch YouTube videos, but I’m careful that I will save a list of YouTube videos ahead of time. And then, rather than being distracted and saying, “Oh, this is an interesting YouTube video,” I think I’ll click on it and watch it. And then 18 minutes go by, and then you wonder, “Wow, where did the time go? I don’t even remember how I got on this video in the first place!”
Rather than that, I’ll save those URLs and say, this is really interesting. This can help my business. I think I should watch this on Saturday or whatever day it is. So I’ll save up a list of things that I should do, and when I have that time blocked out, then when that time comes, I will focus on it.
So if I find out that there’s a great freelancer podcast, and there’s an episode that I’ve really been wanting to listen to cause they talk about a particular problem that I struggle with within my business. I could do one of two things: I could either listen to it a little bit at a time while I’m doing other things, or I could put all my attention on it if I have time blocked out for it.
I’ve found that the second approach works better. When you say to yourself, “I need to dedicate the time to do this,” it will actually happen, and you’ll pay attention to it, and your recall will be much better.
Another classic example that freelancers and entrepreneurs, I guarantee, are familiar with is things like working on your own website. If I’m a web designer, and I never work on my own website. That kind of makes me a really bad web designer, right? My website should be a great reflection of who I am, what I do, and how good my work is. But if I’m so busy, always doing work for clients, that I never block out time to work on my own website, that’s a problem.
So typically, if I have a lot of things that I want to do on my website, whether that’s writing blog posts or updating my gallery of recent projects, or whatever it is, I’ll block out time again ahead of time. And I’ll say, “Okay, looking at my weekly schedule, I don’t have time to do that today. But, Wednesday afternoon from two to three is a great time because I’ll have downtime for the following reasons.” And then when that time comes, when that time block comes, I can take care of those things.
It’s a really good habit to get into, especially if you do it regularly. If you say to yourself, every Thursday from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM is the time when I fill in the blank, then that’s a great habit. And, your mind will start to remember that. And then, as things pop up in your week, you’ll say, “Oh, that’s right. Um, I should add that to my list for Thursday.” So making consistent time in your schedule that you block out is a really effective tip that I’ve found that helps me stay on track with my goals.
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.