Time Management Tips for running an Online Business

If you run your own business online, statistically you spend most of your time working from home.  Working from home is great.  It’s nice to pop out of the office for a few minutes here and there, give the kids a kiss, see what’s on the news, have a snack and think about those poor schlubs at initech (or one of the millions of similar office farms) staring at the cubicle wall and praying for death.  It is nice, no, it is WONDERFUL to not be one of those poor worker bees.

But this freedom comes with a huge price.  The price is discipline.  There are just certain things that have to be done.  You have orders that must be processed, you have email that has to be read, filed and dealt with, you have blogs to write, comments to moderate, and a million other things that must be done right this minute.  At the same time, everyone of them can be put off until tomorrow.

This is a deadly combination.  You must force yourself to stick to a certain schedule when you will work regularly.  Plus you need to figure out a way to be productive during those hours.

When setting a schedule and being productive there are two great enemies.

Enemy #1 – Procrastination

Like I said, working from home is nice because you can choose when to work.  There are times we all want to go to the zoo, watch TV, or just lay in a hammock and let the world go by.  When you are you’re own boss that is one of the benefits.  But you must determine exactly how many hours you need to work, and then schedule them.

Let your family know that today, these hours are work hours and they need to be respected.  Then you need to take the lead in adhering to that.  If you interrupt your own work schedule to do something relaxing or entertaining, you will be teaching them that your work hours are something that doesn’t need to be taken seriously.

Another way to get around the procrastination monster is to remove distractions.  I am writing this post from a coffee shop where I like to go to work from time to time.  There is nothing here to distract me except for the occasional interruption from a friend or an acquaintance for a brief chat, and that is something I actually plan for when I decide to spend some time here.

Enemy # 2 the tyranny of the urgent

The phrase above is completely plagiarized from somewhere.  I don’t know the original source so I am not able to cite it, but it has been repeated so much that it is probably in the public domain almost at the level of a cliche’.

What it means is that when you are working from home, everything is urgent, and must be done right this minute.  Those emails you need to check, those RSS feeds you have to get to, those orders you need to batch.  All of it is essential.  Darren Rowse wrote a post on this exact topic the other day so I will refer you to that, but let me summarize quickly.

He suggested “Batch Processing”  where you focus your energy on one thing at a time.  When you are writing, turn off your email notifier.  In fact only check email a few times a day and deal with all of it at once.  Set aside time for particular tasks and don’t interrupt editing content so you can send someone an email.

Personally I keep a notepad beside my computer so that when I am working and I think of something I need to do, I jot it down really quick as a note to do later.  Then I spend a few minutes each day dealing with the items on that note pad.

So, Just to sum up.

Schedule your work time and keep it work time.  Remove distractions that might keep you from work.  And then work in a way that prevents your work from distracting you from your work.  (read that last sentence again slower)

Batch Process it!  Now when you have the time set aside, go read Darren’s post on that very topic.

Are there other things that you would see as enemies to your schedule?  I would love to know your thoughts, as well as any ways you have dealt with them.