If you have been working from home for some time, you will have experienced the sense of freedom that home-based entrepreneurs love so much. You will also know that being your own boss has its challenges too.
When you work for an employer, your work schedule is normally determined by the employer. In a work from home business it is up to you to organise your own work.
We have a simple system for getting things done that works for us:
List -> Prioritise -> Do or Defer -> Review
Each week we start by listing all the tasks that are still outstanding from the previous week on a spreadsheet and adding new tasks that have arisen since a week ago.
Then, we prioritise the tasks based on urgency and importance. Urgent tasks that can be dealt with quickly are given top priority.
It is essential that important tasks are not overlooked until they become urgent. So, every morning we review and update the list and re-prioritise all outstanding tasks.
Every Friday we review what we accomplished that week and whether we need to approach tasks that were not completed differently.
How To Organize Email
Incoming emails can be extremely disruptive when you are running your own home business. Apart from the interruption to your workflow when they arrive, outstanding emails can soon mount up and become stressful.
The answer is to keep your inbox empty. How?
We have developed a simple system for dealing with incoming emails called The Bucket System.
Set up 4 email folders (buckets), called Action, Watch, Archive and Reference.
Then, turn off any automatic updating of your inbox.
Three times a day, first thing, late morning and an hour before the end of the day, go through your inbox and respond to any emails that can be dealt with quickly (in a minute or two).
Then, move all emails into the 4 buckets based on these criteria:
- Action: Those where action needs to be taken sooner rather than later.
- Watch: Important emails that you will need to refer to in the short term
- Archive: Emails that are of historic value.
- Reference: Emails that contain information you may need to refer to (such as containing passwords or reference numbers).
Using this system of moving emails into buckets, your inbox should always be empty until you receive the next batch into your inbox.
Handling paper is extremely time consuming and largely counterproductive.
4 Tips For Dealing With Paper Quickly And Easily
Use 3 filing trays – “In”, “Pending” and “Filing”, as well as a waste bin.
- All paper starts in the “In” tray. Once a day, consider each piece of paper in the “In” tray and whether there is an action it requires. If it can be done immediately, deal with it and move the paper to “Filing”. If it will require more time, move it to “Pending”. If no action is required, move it to “Filing”.
- Set up a filing system with “hard edges”. Hard edges means a system where the distinction between files is quite clear and an item can only belong in one file. A date-based system is a good example of this. File only those items that you need to keep. Remember that there is a cost associated with maintaining the home filing system and clearing it out from time to time.
- A paperless alternative is to go through the “Filing” tray and scan each piece of paper before discarding it. Set up a system of folders with hard edges and move the scanned documents into appropriate folders.
- The ultimate alternative is to use shoeboxed.com, the best paperless office systems for organizing receipts and business cards, to organise and store your documents. You can either send the original documents to them in the mail using their pre-paid envelopes or scan and email them. They use optical character recognition to process your documents and generate expense reports, contact lists (from business cards) and organize your tax filing requirements.