Getting in the groove

Now that I’m a self-employed web designer/developer, I’m learning a thing or two about managing my time and handling projects.

I’ve been focused on House on Payne Web Design for the past three weeks, and it’s been a different world.

The upside is being my own boss, setting my own schedule, and advancing my knowledge about my chosen trade as well as business.

The downside is that I don’t have a lot of hours in the day, and I have to be REALLY careful about how I manage my time.

Because I work from home now, I’m also the main babysitter for my 3-year-old son.  READ THAT.  3.  Have you tried to work on a computer while a 3-year-old demands your attention?  Don’t.  It’s not worth the effort.

Here are a few of my strategies, and while they haven’t managed to completely clear my schedule so I can work, they have managed to make my time more efficient.

  1. Send the child to camp or school.  That may sound selfish, but kids actually love camp and they benefit from the structure of a program, mingling with other kids and planned activities.  Luke adores his summer camp, and it gives me 2 1/2 free hours in the morning to work uninterrupted.  I can’t wait for school to start, because that will be 6 1/2 hours.
  2. Make a daily schedule EVERY DAY.  I was writing out two pages that broke my day into 30 minute and 1 hour blocks until I realized that I could be more efficient in Outlook, which also links to my iPod Touch calendar, where EVERYTHING is stored.  My schedule looks silly to some, because it has stuff like “Shower/dress” on it, but I have so much to do that if I don’t schedule that stuff in, I’ll fall really behind.
  3. Use a to-do list.  But make sure it’s one that helps you plan out all of those little tasks that have to get done.  I use Remember the Milk because it’s online and there’s an app that links to my mobile device.  It sends me reminders and it works well for me.  It’s not the only one out there, though, and I’ve found that whatever task manager you use has to work for YOU.
  4. Set expectations with your family and friends.  This is one of the toughest and most challenging parts of effective time management.  As much as I would like to talk on the phone or IM my friends when I’m at my computer, I can’t because I have work to do.  I try to go over my schedule with my husband so he knows what I have on tap that day, both on the workfront and on the homefront.  My friends also know that my 2 1/2 hours in the morning are precious, and I’m unlikely to be able to chat much.  Maybe a little, but not much.
  5. Reward yourself with social media, but don’t overdo it.  Facebook is a huge draw for me, but I know that if I jump on just before I start working or while I’m working, it will waste valuable time.  I actually schedule it in sometimes or I reward myself with a check if I finish a task earlier than I expected.

So that’s it — my strategies.  I’m still figuring this stuff out, but so far, so good.

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