It’s easy to get distracted when working from home. Aside from calendared meetings that are difficult to change, requests from housemates, doorbells that demand answering, and the endless emails and texts that arrive all clamor for your attention, time, and a fraction of your working day. So how do you stay on course? Consider a daily work plan.
Many years ago, I had occasion to see a video by productivity legend Steven Covey. In it he demonstrated conclusively why only by planning your work can you ensure that the most important or complex tasks and deliverables are completed on time.
I’ve always advised people to create their daily plan the day before, usually before shutting down for the day. Adding breaks, and plenty of time for what Covey calls, “the big rocks” (your top priorities for the day) helps to clear the decks and avoid missed deadlines. Alternatively, some people like to set aside 10 minutes first thing in the morning to plan – if they can ignore the phone long enough to get it done.
When planning, even when forced to work away from the office, it’s important to use a modality that is comfortable and consistent with your preferred working style. For example, some of us like to use traditional paper planners (like Franklin Planner) or simple lists, while others prefer electronic tools. It’s possible to use Outlook as a planning tool with readily available software overlays, or you could choose to use a more comprehensive planning tool that encompasses not only work activities, but the activities of daily life .
Whichever solution works best for you, be sure to be on the lookout for those “time wasters” that can wreck any plan. I have found the “start time delay” to be the biggest problem for me personally. There is always something to deal with before starting the workday, and frequently it leads to another task that just “must” get cleared. Excessive travel between appointments can also run out the clock, although with the growth of Zoom and Skype meetings, this time waster is less common.
Finally, don’t overschedule. Allow for downtime during the day, a reasonable gap between meetings, and a heavy “think” session. Increase the number of scheduled tasks and meetings to your daily plan only after you’ve had success with a less aggressive schedule.
By following these simple steps, you will get increasingly adept at meeting daily objectives and higher lever goals.