One of the biggest challenges I came across when I became a work at home mom was tracking my productivity.
I knew it was going to be harder working at home than in an office because of all the distractions, but how will I know if I’ve done enough for the day?
In an office, I know because I have the company clock and boss to tell me when I’m done for the day. I know when to start working, when to take breaks, and when to finally punch out.
But what would happen once I start working at home? How will I know if I’ve already clocked in 8 hours worth of work? How will I know if I’ve done too much or too little for the day?
From being an office worker to telecommuter to work at home mom, I’ve had the opportunity to try out different ways of tracking my productivity depending on the type of work that I had to do that day. These different methods have helped me
- be more productive
- track my productivity
- determine my work personality
- find the time and motivation to work even when I don’t want to (or feel like it).
Eventually, I found out what hours of the day I worked best (I’m a morning person, an 8-5 kinda gal) and my work personality (I prefer to focus and finish 1 task at a time, not an efficient multi-tasker). Knowing all that helped me to be more productive, allowing me to do more with less time.
I’ll be sharing just some of the techniques that I have tried and have worked for me and my friends. We actually use more than one way technique. We also change techniques sometimes depending on the project, how busy we are, where we’re working and how we work.
Creating a task list/Get Things Done
Creating a list of the tasks you need to do every day is extremely helpful especially if you’re working on a very flexible (unpredictable) schedule. And there’s something really satisfying watching your task list grow shorter.
When you make a list be honest with yourself and know how much work you can really do in a day. You’re not superwoman and no one expects you too. Put just enough work on your list that you can do well for that day and still have time for everything else.
Another great thing about working from a list is it forces you to be organized and to learn how to prioritize (especially when you have to make last minute insertions to your task list). Categorize what’s most important and least important. That way, you’ll know when you’ve done enough and putting in a little bit of extra work would just be optional.
For creating a list, it can be something as simple as a list on a sheet of paper or on a spreadsheet on your computer. But if you’re sharing a tasklist with colleagues or employees, you may want to put that list online or use project management tools like Basecamp or ClockingIT.
A lot of online workers I know don’t like time tracking/productivity tracking software because it makes them feel like they’re being spied on.
It does have that big brother quality to it that bothers me. But the thing I like about tracking software is it helps you identify what type of worker you are and what kind of things can distract you. This because the software tracks everything that you do, down to the very last second. It helps you see whether you’re spending too much time on Facebook or answering your email.
The software also shows you what jobs you like the most, what jobs you’re most efficient in, and what jobs you dislike the most or take the most time finishing. RescueTime, Freshbooks, TrackLabor, and TimeDoctor are just some of the software I’ve tried.
I use a timer for tedious, repetitive tasks. It motivates me to work faster (for some reason, must be the ticking) and I also use it when I have a definite deadline. Having a timer is also great if you’re being paid by the hour.
For the past few months I’ve been using the Pomodoro technique and I love it. With this technique, you basically work in short bursts and take short break in between. I find it easier to focus on a task when I know I have to finish it within 25 minutes. The 5 and 10 minute breaks also helps me sneak in some chores, exercise, or a much needed nap.
Any productivity apps and hacks you would like to share? Please let me know and I’ll update this list.