My Top 5 Time Management Tips for Work-At-Home Women

My-Top-5-Time-Management-Tips-for-Work-at-Home-Women

Those of you who work from home know that it can be a wonderful blessing. But there are also many things that can be hard, too. It’s easier to be distracted at home and harder to stay focused and disciplined.

I’ve been working from home since 2005 and I’ve learned a lot through trial and error. There are times when I’ve really struggled with my time management, but as a result of those struggles, I’ve learned a lot that has helped me to be much more efficient and productive.

Here are five of my top tips for work-at-home women (most of these can be applied even if you don’t work from home):

1. Create a Prioritized List

A few years ago, I set up a time budget for my daily activities. This has been revolutionary for me! 

When I first switched to using a time budget, I adhered to the same daily time budget for my work-at-home hours (45 minutes on this, 10 minutes on this, 15 minutes on this, etc.). However, in recent months, I’ve shifted to writing out a time budget plan for each new day.

I include everything on this plan — from showering to making dinner to homeschooling to work projects. I try to cover all of the bases and leave 2 hours of margin time for those inevitable interruptions.

This might seem like a lot of work, but because each day is different and there are different project deadlines and must-do’s that vary with each day, this helps me to be able to stay organized and manage my time well — all while being flexible.

After creating the time budget plan for each day, I take it a step further and prioritize my work/blogging time. I’ve found that if I don’t have a prioritized plan for what I need to do, I can quickly spend a few hours just putting out fires.

Instead of just saying, “I’m going to spend four hours on computer and blogging work each day,” I write down exactly what I plan to do during that time in prioritized order. If I know I need to do A then B then C then D, it keeps me on task and it guarantees that I actually accomplish the most important priorities.

If you’re interested in hearing more how this works for me, watch my video on How I Do It All — Or Not.

2. Do One Thing At a Time

I know, I know! Multi-tasking can seem like a very efficient way to do many things. However, when it comes to most most work tasks, if you want to get concentrated work done in an efficient manner, you need to shut out all the noise and just focus on one thing at a time.

If it’s your time to email, work on emailing. Go through your emails in order of priority and don’t stop until your time is up. If it’s your time to research something, only work on researching that thing. If you need to make a phone call, just make the phone call.

If you’re used to trying work on your computer while you have a bunch of applications open and with your phone constantly dinging at you, you’ll likely be surprised at just how much work you can get done in a distraction-free 20-30-minute concentrated block of time.

And once you get in the habit of doing one thing at a time, you’ll learn where your fizzle out point is. This is the point when you need to stop and take a break or stop for the day in order to come back to your project refreshed and energized.

Personally, I’ve found that I do best by working in 20-30 minute blocks and then rewarding myself with a short 5-minute break to check email or read something online. If I’m working on an in-depth project that requires a lot of brain power, I’ll often set the timer for 20 minutes and work on it and then set the timer for 15 minutes and work on a cleaning project or play with the kids.

3. Tame the Email Monster

I shoot to have no more than 5 emails in my inbox at all times. This might sound crazy, but it’s one huge way that I stay organized and efficient as a business owner.

When I check my email, I aim to deal with emails immediately. Here’s how:

  • If an email can be deleted, I delete it immediately (I’m pretty ruthless when it comes to using the delete button!)
  • If an email only require a quick response, I respond immediately.
  • If no response is necessary, I archive the email.
  • If an email can be handled by someone else on my team, I forward it onto the appropriate team member.

I’ve found that this system covers the majority of emails. For the emails that require a longer response, I save them in my inbox and try to get to them as soon as I can — preferably that same day. (By the way, if you’re a blogger and you’re going to take the time to answer a question in more than a paragraph or two, consider turning it into a post. Then, you kill two birds with one stone — you answered an email and you wrote a post!)

Want more help with keeping your inbox under control? Read my extensive post on How I Keep My Inbox to Fewer Than 5 Emails.

4. Get Enough Rest

I used to think that burning the midnight oil would make me more productive, but I’ve actually found that I’m much more productive if I get at least seven hours of sleep almost every single night. I usually am most productive in the mornings so I make it my goal to go to bed by 10 p.m. and get up between 5 and 6 a.m.

It’s hard for me to shut things down at night but I’ve found that I’m much more prone to dawdle and waste time at night than I am in the mornings. You might be the other way around. Do what works best for you, but whatever you do, put getting enough rest high up on your priority list.

You’ll feel better and more energetic and I’d wager to guess that you’ll also find an extra hour or two of sleep at night helps you to be more productive than if you spent that time trying to pry your eyeballs open with toothpicks and get more work done.

5. Say “No” Often

As women, we’re often afraid to say no. We fear we might miss out on a big opportunity and we worry about what other people might think of us. I know, because I’m there a lot.

I just want to encourage you (and myself!) to guiltlessly say “no”. If an opportunity is going to require time you don’t have or going to oblige you in a way you don’t feel comfortable with or is just not a good fit for you, your family, and/or your business, say “no”.

Before committing to anything, count the costs. What are you going to have to give up in order to do this thing or attend this event or write this post or participate in this project? Is it worth what you’re giving up? If you’re not 100% sure that it is, then say “no”.

Are you a work-at-home woman? If so, what are a few of your best time management tips?

Blogelina.comThis post was underwritten by Blogelina.com. Did you know that it really is possible to earn an income from blogging at home? Even as a busy mom of little ones? In her online class at Blogelina.com, Tanya (a stay-at-home mom of three little ones herself) shares the ins and outs of how to set up and maintain a successful, profitable blog.

Money Saving Mom® readers get to take the popular 4-week Profitable Blogging Class, along with all the bonuses, for just $5! Use the promo code MSMOM at checkout by December 17, 2013. Sign up today!

photo credit

Share This:

How I Keep My Email Inbox to Fewer Than 5 Emails

I’ve always been pretty fanatic about keeping my email inbox cleaned out.As a result, for the past few years, I’ve deleted diligently and filed fastidiously, and this has worked alright.

However, the more email I received, the more I started dumping things into my “To Answer Later” file. This file would soon fill up with 50 to 75 messages that needed to be addressed — some that required a significant amount of time to deal with (a lengthy form that needed to be filled out for something or other, information that needed to be gathered and emailed back, an article I needed to write and submit, etc.)

I made it my goal to deal with my To Answer file on Saturdays. But this stopped working efficiently as the number of emails in the To Answer File grew. Some Saturdays, I wouldn’t have time to answer the emails — which then meant their number was doubled the next week.

As a result of not being able to find a big time block to deal with these emails, I’d often miss important deadlines and opportunities. These unanswered and undealt-with messages hung over my head like a dark cloud, constantly making me feel behind and unorganized.

Clearly, I needed a new system! So, at the beginning of this year, I drew a line in the sand and made some significant changes to my email system.

The result? Not only am I hitting Inbox Zero almost every single day, I’m also much more productive and efficient with my email time. Plus, I’m answering emails much more quickly than I ever used to!

Here’s what has worked for me:

1. Unsubscribe Ruthlessly

I started examining every single email list I was subscribed to. I’d ask myself, “Have I found something from this email list to be valuable in the past few months?” If so, I wouldn’t unsubscribe.

In just about 90% of the cases, I realized I was deleting the emails from each list as they came in every week — or as much as every day. Sure, I’d delete them immediately, so it’s not like it was clogging up my inbox.

But why was I wasting minutes every single day deleting emails that I didn’t care anything about when I could take 5 seconds to unsubscribe and never see an email from that company in my inbox again? Such a revolutionary thought, I know. :)

In all honesty, though, it was something I’d not given a lot of thought to. I’d just delete, delete, delete. However, since taking a week to unsubscribe from 90% of the lists I was signed up to, I’ve realized how much time and inbox space this is freeing up!

For example, it used to be when I’d check my email in the morning, I’d have at least 40-60 new emails, the bulk of which I’d delete. Now, it’s unusual for me to have more than 20 each morning. Most of those 20 are emails that need to be responded to or in some way dealt with. But instead of having to go through my email first thing and delete a bunch of unneeded emails. Now, I can just start responding to emails right off the bat!

I have figured out that just the act of ruthlessly unsubscribing is saving me a good five to 10 minutes of time every single day. That doesn’t seem like too much, until you multiply that out over the course of a week (35 to 70 minutes), a month (150 to 30 minutes), or a year (1,825 to 3,650 minutes). That’s a lot of minutes saved!

Stop the Social Media Insanity!

Please do yourself a favor and unsubscribe from all notifications you possibly can from social media. You can always go look up and see who your new Twitter followers are or who left you a comment on Facebook. You don’t need those notifications interrupting your workflow throughout the day. I promise you will survive just fine without them!

2. Use the Delete Button Liberally

The delete button is your friend. Use it as your secret productivity weapon. If you don’t need an email, just delete it. Right now.

If you think you might need some of the information on it in the future, then just use the handy-dandy feature on GMail and archive. {You are on GMail, right? I am convinced is the best productivity email service on the planet!}

For those of you who currently have 35,000 emails in your inbox, the delete button needs to become your very best friend. Today. To save yourself the extra time and effort, check out Unroll.me. One of my readers recommended it on my Facebook Page this morning and it looks like a fabulous way to deal with a huge load of emails in an efficient manner.

Save Yourself a Little Time With Send & Archive

Have you added the Google Send & Archive option to your email? This saves you the step of having to send an email and then delete it. Just press Send & Archive and your email is sent and archived. Ta-da!

3. Set Up Filters Fanatically

Maybe you can’t unsubscribe from an email, but you can always filter it — provided you have GMail. I use filters for affiliate notifications that I can’t turn off, junk email that I can’t subscribe from, and more.

I also have filters set up for submissions to my site. So if you submit a deal or a guest post, those go in a separate folder that I check when I’m posting deals or reviewing guest posts. This keeps them in an organized place that I can easily access, without taking up real estate in my inbox.

4. Deal With Email Immediately

I saved this suggestion for last, because this is truly what has revolutionized my inbox. Before my “Inbox Revolution”, I filed things that would take longer than a minute or two to answer.

This truly only just resulted in a bulging To Answer File. Yes, it wasn’t in my inbox, but it was still weighing me down because I knew it was lurking there waiting to be dealt with.

At the beginning of the year, I decided to change my strategy and stop filing any email in my To Answer file for a few weeks. I was amazed at how this forced me to be more efficient!

I stopped asking myself, “Should I file this to answer later or take the time to answer it now?” Instead, I just answer the email right then and there, if at all possible, and then delete it.

Usually, there are a few emails that will require longer answers. In that case, I’ll leave those few in my inbox until I have a longer time-slot to deal with them. But I try to not let anything stay in my inbox for longer than a few days, preferably a few hours.

By adopting this strategy, it’s opened my eyes to how much time I was wasting just moving around virtual files and furniture, rather than just getting the job done.

How I Keep My Email Inbox to Fewer Than 5 Emails

A. Check Email

B. Immediately Delete Any Emails That Don’t Require Opening or Answering (such as someone just responding with a one-sentence confirmation)

C. Unsubscribe From Any Subscription That Has Still Made It Into My Inbox

D. Open and Deal With All Emails

  • Respond to those requiring only a few-sentence response first.
  • File emails that need to be filed (such as a deal that someone submitted via email rather than through my deals submission form).
  • If time, respond to as many emails as possible that require a lengthier response. Oftentimes, I find that it doesn’t take me at all as long as I think it will if I just dive in and start writing!

E. Never Allow There to Be Any More Than Four Emails In My Inbox <— This has been key for me. If there are more than four, it means that I highly prioritize email answering above other computer work.

What tips & tricks do you have for taming your email inbox?

photo credit; photo credit; photo credit

Share This:

How to Find More Time in Your Day

If you’re a mom (especially a young mom) who is feeling like you don’t have enough time in your day, head over to my post on MomLife today for a simple tip that has helped me have more peace and sanity — plus made me feel like I have more time in my day.

You’re free to disagree with me (hey, what works for me might not work for you!), but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. :)

Looking for more time management tips? Be sure to check out my Time Management 101 series.

Share This:

My Top 3 Tips for Getting Stuff Done


Feeling like you’re always behind, stuck going around and around in circles, and never really getting anywhere or finishing anything? Here are three of my top tips for getting stuff done:

1. Keep Your To-Do List Short

You need a plan for your day, otherwise, you’ll most likely just end up running in circles. However, if you try to bite off more than you can chew in a day’s time, you’ll end up overwhelmed from the get-go.

Set yourself up for success by creating a short to do list for each day. I suggest no more than 5-7 items on your list.

It’s better to only plan to do four things and to actually accomplish three of them, then to make a list of 47 to-do items, and a only get a few bits and pieces of some of them done.

2. Make Your Daily Goals Measurable

When you make your to-do list, be realistic. Don’t write down “Clear out clutter in the whole house” or “Clean house” or “Find a new job.”

Break things down into bite-sized, manageable pieces and be specific. For instance, instead of writing down “Clear out the clutter in the whole house.” Set a goal to spend 30 minutes clearing out the clutter in one room. Instead of attempting to clean the whole house, make a goal to vacuum two rooms, do a load of laundry, and clean the toilets.

Not only are specific, measurable goals much more concrete, they are also much more manageable. The thought of cleaning the whole house is overwhelming, but knowing you just have to vacuum two rooms, finish a load of laundry, and clean two toilets is much more achievable. Plus, when you set measurable goals, you know when they are accomplished.

3. Use Your Minutes Wisely

If you want to have more productivity and efficiency in your life, you need to become the master of your minutes. If you find yourself with a short two-minute window of time, don’t just twiddle your thumbs. Do something. I’m always surprised at how much can be accomplished in a few minutes’ of time.

Things You Can Accomplish When You Have 2-3 Minutes’ of Free Time:

::Write a short thank you note or email.

::Clean the sink or toilet in the bathroom.

::Switch a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer.

::Pull out dinner from the freezer.

::Make a healthful snack to munch on instead of grazing on high-calorie, low-nutrition snacks.

::Take your vitamins and drink a glass of water.

::Do 25 sit-ups.

::Do a quick clean up of a room.

::Read a short story to a child.

::Text your husband to tell him you love him and appreciate him.

::Read 2 pages of the book you’re currently reading.

::Make a quick phone call.

I’m sure you all could come up with a thousand other ideas for how to wisely use the little cracks up time that pop up throughout the day. Don’t let those little time slots slip by unproductively–it’s amazing how much they can add up in your favor!

Want more productivity tips? I highly recommend reading Amy’s ebook, Tell Your Time.

The principles in Tell Your Time have revolutionized my life and time management–and how I view time in general. And when I consistently apply the principles in it, it is amazing the difference it makes.

You might also want to get a copy of my ebook, 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life.

Share This:

Good Reads: Getting Things Done by David Allen

Getting Things Done was on my booklist to read in 2011, and, considering the name, I figured I actually better finish reading it this year. :)

I was expecting to be overwhelmed with guilt by the book–feeling like I had to set up all these new processes and procedures in order to get my life in order. However, I was really encouraged to realize that I’ve unintentionally set up processes and procedures for many areas of my life that are working quite well.

Everything in my office has a place and everything in it serves a specific purpose. I have a process for mail, a process for email, and a process for dealing with paper clutter and stuff clutter.

So I was excited to realize that there’s no need to overhaul something that’s already working well most of the time. Instead, I just need to work on tweaking and refining these processes so that they serve me even better.

That said, reading this book helped me to realize very clearly that my paper planner system is no longer working well for me and that’s likely one of the reasons my head has been spinning so much recently. My home management binder has been great for a daily to-do list and overview, but, with the increased business responsibilities on my plate in the last few months, I need to be able to have a running to-do list of business projects and I also need to be able to schedule out projects, to-do’s, and reminders days, weeks, and months ahead of time.

Since my husband manages a busy law firm and has to schedule out and keep on top of all sorts of client stuff and court appearances, he’s been helping me think through what would work best for me. I think I’m going to try a paperless system using a combination of Google Calendars and the Reminders app and To-Do app.

I’ve resisted the paperless approach for so long, as I’m such a visual, write-it-down-on-paper gal, but I think perhaps the time has come to break out of my rut and go paperless. I’m at least going to try and will let you know how it ends up going!

Two Key Points I Picked Up From the Book:

Write Everything Down

I think one of the biggest reasons I’ve felt like my brain is overloaded recently is because I’ve not been dumping enough information out of it. I’ll think of something I need to remember and, instead of writing it down on my to-do list, I’ll tell myself, “Don’t forget that.”

Getting Things Done strongly encourages you to get stuff out of your brain and onto paper or your computer or handheld device. If you capture and store the information in a trusted system, it not only guarantees that you won’t forget it, but it also frees up brain space! Plus, instead of having to remind yourself ten times about something you need to remember, you can just write it down once and forget about it until you need to deal with it.

Follow the 2-Minute Rule

As I’ve confessed before, I tend to be a procrastinator. Getting Things Done encourages you to immediately do any project that can be done in less than two minutes.

Instead of thinking repeatedly about how you need to make that appointment, just pick up the phone and make the appointment. Rather than leaving an email in your inbox and looking at it multiple times, just answer it as soon as it comes in.

I know that following this rule would help me keep on top of all those little jobs much more efficiently and effectively. Instead of continuously putting off little jobs or writing them down onto my to-do list, I should just do the job and get it done.

I thought some parts of Getting Things Done felt overly complicated and some parts I felt like the pace of the book was dragging along too slowly. In addition, since my copy was the 2001 version, the technology referred to was outdated (anyone remember Palm Pilots?), but overall I felt this book is well worth reading if you are struggling with feeling overwhelmed with life–especially if you are a professional or own your own business.

Also read this week: Benjamin Rush by David Barton and Personal Investing: The Missing Manual.

And I’m excited because I ended up finishing my entire 2011 booklist and reading a total of 60 books in 2011, plus reading through the Chronological Bible Plan. Now onto my 2012 booklist!

Have you read any good books recently?

(Note: The Amazon.com links in this post are affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy here.)

Share This:

Time Management Without a Schedule

My friend, Jessica, over at LifeasMOM, shares how she’s learning to manage her time without a schedule:

Remember the love-hate relationship I have with schedules? Well, a few months ago I gave it a go. I really did. I wrote up a schedule and I ran it through the paces.

And ya know what? It really didn’t support what the players on my team were doing. It wasn’t good for morale. It really rankled the coach. So, I cut it from the team.

Yes, yes, I did.

But, am I throwing all caution to the wind? Have I thrown in the proverbial towel? Have I given up in the last quarter of the game? No, no, I haven’t. But, I’ve found a way to manage my time without an hour-by-hour schedule.

And it. is. amazing.

Read the full post.

photo credit

Share This: