Guest post by ©2004 Priscilla Y. Huff

We all have the same 24 hours in a day—but some of us maximize those hours better than others—especially when it comes to managing a home business’ operations amidst all the other demands on our lives.

What are some examples of “time-wasters” and causes of wasting one’s time?

Having work-related items scattered about the house and not keeping or returning those work-related items in the office area where they belong!

Solution: When possible, conduct most of your business work in your home office or space. If you do have to take it out of the room, return it immediately when you are finished so important papers or phone numbers or other work-related items do not become misplaced or “buried” amongst household “piles.”

Unnecessary telephone usage can be a large disruption in one’s work schedule.

Solution: Thankfully, phones—ground lines or cellular phones—are easily set-up to take messages. Unless you are expecting an important call, let voice mail or another answering system handle your calls and then periodically return them all in one block of time

Not setting specific work hours.

Solution: If you set specific times for your work—while factoring in scheduled breaks and allowing some extra time for unexpected interruptions—you will be accomplishing the “must do” tasks in your business “space” where you can focus better in accomplishing them.

Not having a plan of action.

Solution: You can create a daily “to do” list from a weekly plan you can draw-up each weekend. Prioritize business and personal chores; but be realistic about how many tasks you can really carry out. Do not overwhelm yourself with too many tasks or you will become frustrated when you cannot achieve all you set out to do for the day.

*The Clutter!!

Solution: Hire or (or barter time with) a professional organizer! I hired one and together we filled 4 ½ trash bags from my files and office space!! If you cannot find one in your area, go to the site of the National Association of Professional Organizers to find one in your area.

Additional Tips

One time management expert says, “Women home business owners and managers should learn their own personal time wasters. Once known, they can then be eliminated.” Other time-management experts suggest that you set apart blocks of time to carry out specific tasks. For example, block out specific days and hours to run business and/or personal errands and assign yourself as many as you can do into your designated time period in order to save time and gas money. Keep a time diary of all your activities for a week and then closely analyze your most productive work times. Take advantage of technology—PDAs, software, daily planners, and other organizational aids to assist you in your time management.

Do you have a “time-waster,” of which you are guilty? Mine is being on the Internet too long (even though I write for a number of Internet sites!). I find that if I go online at the end of my workday or at least until I finish the most important tasks of the day, I am more productive and less likely to “wander” around in cyberspace.

The challenge here of every home or small business entrepreneur is to find her own “balance” of business and personal-related tasks. It may take a while—but believe it or not, you will find the best schedule that fits your business and your life! It goes without saying, that even with the best daily plan, life “happens” and is filled with unexpected “surprises; but that is one of the great advantages of being self-employed—flexibility. Unlike most 9 to 5 jobs, you can pick up your child from school when they are suddenly sick or miss their bus, and re-schedule a task at a later time or day.

Being aware of how you use your time can increase your business’ productivity, profits, and organization, while helping you also find more time for yourself and for those people who are most important to you.

Priscilla Y. Huff is the author of 101 Best Home-Based Businesses for Women, 3rd ed.; and The Self-Employed Woman’s Guide to Launching a Home-Based Business

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