I’ve been doing the work-at-home thing for almost six-years now. Here are some little tricks I picked up along the way.
In the home-office:
- Scan, shred and recycle EVERYTHING. With everything stored digitally (not to mention searchable), you’ll spend less time looking for it. But don’t forget to name the files so that you can FIND what you need.
- The next tip is along the same line… don’t print anything unless you have to. I print my Google Calendar (a huge timesaver!), but almost nothing else. I “print” invoices directly to PDF using PrimoPDF (free) and email them to clients. (There are also online invoicing services.)
- Don’t leave Facebook, Twitter or other social networking sites open on your computer unless you’re actively using them for your work. And if you keep an IM program open all the time, make sure your contacts know you’re working.
- While waiting for a program to install, a client to get back to you or a backup/upload to complete; take the time to clean up your desk, make to-do lists, write out ideas for marketing… or anything you can find OTHER than waste that time.
- It’s hard to do, especially when you’re busy, but don’t get behind on computer maintenance! If you take the time to run regular virus scans and defrags, uninstall programs you don’t use and clear out your temporary files, you’ll be surprised at how much faster your computer will run. And if something on your computer is not working right, don’t just sit and grumble about it, get it fixed. Chances are you’re wasting more time trying to “save” money on computer repairs.
- When you’re “between projects” work on marketing. Write articles and *ahem* blog posts to use later when you’re busy, order materials, research new marketing ideas and/or professionals. Just don’t ignore these things when you’re busy. Inconsistent marketing is a huge mistake that many small businesses make.
- Make a schedule and STICK TO IT. The days I don’t get anything done are invariably the days I don’t stick to the schedule. I end up dinking around with something that’s not what I really need, and want, to be doing. But make sure your schedule is reasonable!
In the Kitchen
- I don’t always have time to cook meals that take more than half an hour. But when I do, I’ll often make double what I need and freeze the rest without cooking (or store in some other way). Then I can make those nicer meals in much less time. This is especially good with casseroles and cookie dough.
- Prewash veggies. Five minutes to wash them when you get them home from the grocery store will save you a little time here and there that may not save a huge amount of time, but just makes life easier.
- Get a breadmaker, rice cooker, slow cooker or any of those appliances that fit your lifestyle. I just got a breadmaker and am loving it! I can throw all of the ingredients in after lunch (when I’m already in the kitchen), set the delay and have fresh bread for dinner! I don’t know how I got along without it!
- When cooking from a recipe, jot down how long it took you from start to finish and how much of it was active work.
- Make a weekly or bi-weekly menu and go to the store as little as possible.
Around the House
- I do all of my housecleaning on one day, Friday. I write on a whiteboard what I’m going to do and how long it’s going to take to make sure I have time for it all. This way I don’t go wandering around the house to see what I need to do next, and that things that would conflict are done at different times of the day. For example, if I’m going to start the breadmaker, I need to do it before I mop the kitchen floor.
- I keep the diaper bag always packed. When I get home, I check and restock supplies before putting it away.
- Keep a stash of snacks ready to grab when you have to go out around meal time.
- In the winter, keep all of the boots, gloves, hats, coats, mittens, snowpants, etc in one place. It already takes long enough to get the kids ready to go out as it is, we don’t need to run around the house looking for everything on top of that!
- Keep sets of toys in boxes and train your kid to put the toys away before getting out something new. (Ok… I’m not so good at this myself, but it’s still a good habit.)
- A friend of mine is an organized planner like me, but her husband tends to call her up on Friday afternoon and say “hey! let’s go camping this weekend!” I love her solution… she has pre-made lists and menus for each type of last-minute trip he likes to take (beach camping, forest camping, hiking, grandparents’ house, etc). It saves her time AND she made the lists when she had the time to think through, so is less likely to forget something. I love it! Fortunately MY husband requires 72-hour notice before plans change or his brain brakes, so I don’t need to worry about last-minute plans.
- Exercise. Period. The more you exercise, the more energy you’ll have and the faster and more efficiently you’ll work. It will more than recover the time it takes to actually DO the exercise.
- I set up the coffee pot before I get on the treadmill, then when I’m done I hit the start button and get in the shower. By the time I’m done, the coffee’s ready.
- Take brakes, you’ll make fewer mistakes.