How to Stay on Track When You Write Your Own Hours

In many ways, writing your own hours is a blessing. It’s the dream, really. You can adjust your daily schedule to optimize your best personal sleep schedule, and you have the ability to get out and take a walk when you need to stretch your legs without worrying about what the boss will say. You can even work late one day so that you can take the next day off. The world is your oyster. Unfortunately, this can backfire. When you can do a task whenever you want, it’s easy to let procrastination settle in, and before long find yourself drowning under a pile of work you can’t hope to unbury yourself from. So how do you stay on track when you write your own hours? Here are our tips!

Stay Organized

The first trick to staying on track when you write your hours is knowing what needs to get done every day. We recently wrote about some easy ways to organize your schedule when you work from home. Having a work-specific task list or notebook is essential to ensuring you complete all your tasks on time each week.

It’s also important to keep your work space organized. When you can’t find your notes for a meeting with a client or struggle to locate a pen when you need one, it’s impossible to feel like you have everything together. Make a point of tidying your office space every time you finish up for the afternoon, and ensure that tidying up includes cleaning out your email inbox so that you are ready to start fresh the next time you enter your workspace.

Automate as Much as Possible

Another trap that’s easy to fall into when you write your own hours is the trap of spending a lot of time doing small tasks, from checking your email to sending invoices to clients. To prevent yourself from spending an overwhelming amount of time doing these tasks, take a couple hours a month to research ways to automate these processes. For example, if you have Gmail, you can have it automatically filter your emails based on sender or subject. This can allow you to get through your email faster every day, which frees you up time every day.

Putting certain things in your calendar is also key to staying on track. For example, instead of leaving your email open in a back tab on your computer and checking it every time you see an email, consider how quickly your customers should reasonably expect you to get back to them, and check your email that often. Maybe that means setting an alarm on your phone to check your email once an hour, or once every three hours, or at the beginning and end of each day. Whatever makes sense for you, doing this will allow you to focus on whatever task you’re working on without being distracted by continual email alerts that feel like emergencies but can actually wait.

Visualize Priorities

When you decided to become your own boss, chances are good that you had a reason for doing it. Maybe you were looking forward to being able to take a hike every afternoon, or maybe you wanted to spend more time with your family. All too often, these goals fall aside when people actually start working from home. As work hours become occupied by YouTube surfing, you quickly find that the times you meant to set aside to hang with your kids or head to the park are suddenly stuffed with work that you didn’t complete when you meant to complete it.

In order to prevent this from happening to you, make a list of the reasons you want to be able to work from home and set your own hours. Then, either hang that list on the wall behind your desk or, if you’re crafty, create a mood board to hang behind your desk showcasing these priorities. Then, when you’re tempted to slack off, you just have to glance up to remember what it really is that you’re working towards.

Eliminate Distractions

There are a lot of great ways to eliminate distractions in your life, from putting your phone on Do Not Disturb during your work hours to blocking certain websites when you’re supposed to be working. If your procrastination is bad, you might have to find other ways to eliminate your distractions. Take note for a week of what you’re doing when you’re supposed to be working. Maybe you spend a lot of time on YouTube or checking your phone, or maybe you have anxiety about your house being a mess and can’t focus until you clean the whole thing, leaving you with limited time to get your actual work done.

Once you observe your habits, it’s easier to nip them in the bud. Apps like OurHome can help you prioritize your day and stay on task. Use it to help you parse out the everyday tasks that need to get done around your home so that they don’t build up over time. OurHome works a bit like a chore chart when you were kids, allowing you to earn points by getting tasks done and then use those points to buy rewards. So if you do spend a lot of time on YouTube instead of working, eliminate YouTube from your life—and make yourself spend a certain number of points to get a specific amount of Youtube time. This allows you to still have those distractions in your life if they’re important to you without allowing them to become your life.

While it can be hard to stay on track when you work from home, it doesn’t have to be. The key is to learn how to hold yourself accountable for your actions each day and to consciously prioritize your day-to-day activities so that you know what to do with your time and what to let slide until another day. Doing this ensures you get done the things that need to get done each day while living your life to its fullest, happiest extent.