24 Dec Juggling responsibilities when working from home
Taking on too many responsibilities
I have been told that the most stressful things you can do in life are moving house, get married and change jobs – well try doing all three at once!
The transition from being employed to self-employed has been ok, but trying to move to Norfolk at the same time has been difficult. Meg and I decided to bring the move to Norfolk forward as there was no point us being in London if I wasn’t working, but this meant us packing everything and moving in just two weeks.
Sitting in our new home in Norfolk as I write this, I am glad to say that we moved last Friday and it went well. We don’t have a fridge, dishwasher or washing machine as of yet, and we are now surprisingly the owners of ducks that are living on the allotment we are taking on.
With this in mind, I thought it would be good to talk about the difficulties of trying to set up a business and juggling all your other responsibilities at the same time. This is a relatively new area to me, but it seems that some key actions can keep you on track.
Write a list of tasks every day
Every night before I go to bed, I write a list of the tasks I want to get done the next day. I even go as far as to itemise my day hour by hour so that I can measure where I am in relation to what I want to achieve. It sounds tedious, but it means that I wake up knowing exactly what I have to do; it stops me from procrastinating and makes me realise how little time I have in the day to do those tasks.
I write my list on my phone. Each task has its own time slot, and I include my free time tasks such as watching a TV programme, playing the guitar or getting a haircut. I only do this from 6.00am until 6.00pm, as being so anal about evening time doesn’t work so well when you want to have fun. But in the working week, I think it works well to reduce the stress of time and task management. It’s also a good way of managing tasks such as cleaning the house as it helps you focus on the task at hand, however boring that task might be.
Set priorities in order of annoyance, effort and ease.
On that list will be a set of tasks that either take time, are unenjoyable or don’t complete easily. These are the tasks that you should do first. You run at your best in the morning as you are most awake and should be at your most motivated. Use this time to get the nagging stuff completed – it will stop you from constantly putting these tasks off as you go through your list.
Your next priority should be the tasks that require the most amount of brain work. Doing tasks in this order means you can give the strongest and longest time to the most demanding job. These are the tasks that I often gauge my progress long term against. Once I get into the flow, I often find this the best part of my day.
Lastly, finish on the smaller, easier tasks: for example, I need to move our home insurance over to our new address today. While these tasks are important, they do not require a huge amount of effort, so you can get lots of them done before you finish the day.
Manage your list expectations
I hardly ever actually complete the list that I set out the night before because the timings that I set suggest the perfect situation, which rarely happens. Today I had a delivery of logs to the house for our log fire – turns out the delivery was ten times larger than I expected, which threw me miles off where I wanted to be. And to make matters worse it then snowed, making the task even harder.
There is nothing wrong with not completing your list; only reorder for the next day. You can never predict what is going to happen tomorrow, so there is no point worrying about it. If you feel you need to reprioritise, then do it! The point is to list work best to what you want to achieve, so make sure it does that.
You do need to have a minimum set of tasks that you have to complete. Don’t just make a list without having minimum requirements. I usually put stars before the most important items I want to achieve, which helps to stop me diverting onto the more enjoyable tasks.
By following this process over time, you will find that you get more done. There is no way I could have managed a move and still manage to work on my own business without such a list.
If I don’t write a list and try to stick to that list, I simply get less done. Working from home and trying to start a business often means you can afford to be more flexible, but I find that flexibility develops from being inflexible at the beginning and then adapting to the circumstances. To not have a plan is to rely on luck, which will get you nowhere.