The #1 Rule of Time Management When Working From Home

Coffee isn't the #1 rule of time management, but maybe #2.
Coffee isn’t the #1 rule of time management, but maybe #2.

You really don’t have to look far to find a blog post on productivity hacks, managing your time better, or finding ways to fit more into each day. Some people dedicate their entire writing careers to selling these time-saving methods. I am not one of those people.

Instead, I am someone who has managed to build a writing career from nothing, all while single-handedly raising a daughter, homeschooling, and maintaining at least some level of cleanliness and sanity in the home.

So, while I may not have a collection of hacks and tools to make your life better, I do know what’s worked for me.

After much trial and error, and many hours wasted or simply not used in the most productive manner, I have arrived at a single rule that governs my most productive days. By following this rule day-in and day-out, I am able to not only “get it all done”, but have time for relaxing and yes, hobbies.

The #1 rule for time management when working from home is this:

Identify and use your peak time(s) for maximum productivity.

There are certain times of the day that we are just more alert, more productive and more focused than others. Our energy levels are highest, and therefore our potential for output is also highest.

This time isn’t the same from person to person.

I am a morning person. My peak hours for production are between 4 and 10 a.m. In these six hours, I can do more than I can the rest of the day.

For writing, the hours just before and just after dawn are when I am in the zone.

Many writers and entrepreneurs are night owls. They can put in work long after I’ve gone to bed, and still be up producing when I am drinking my first cup of coffee in the pre-dawn hours. It’s their peak time. If they tried to function during my peak hours, they’d likely stare at their computer screen with heavy eye lids and a confused look on their face—sort of like I do if I try to write in the evening.

If my day doesn’t start ridiculously early in the morning, it won’t be as productive. Not by a long shot.

How I schedule my day around this peak time.

Because I know my focus is best earliest in the day, this isn’t the time for interviewing, social media, or research. It’s definitely not the time for sleeping. I use this peak time for the most demanding work on my plate. I use it for writing.

I spend the first 20 or so minutes of my day drinking my coffee and loading Buffer (more on that here). And then I get to work. For several hours, I focus on maximum production. I focus on getting the most words on the page and tackling the most important deadlines.

At this time of day, I don’t wait for inspiration; I just act. And it’s when I create my best work.

If I have any stories coming due in coming days that I haven’t begun, I work on a rough draft. If I have a deadline later that morning, I’ll spend some time polishing the copy before it’s ready to go.

This is the heaviest stuff on my schedule. As the morning progresses, I ease up, moving on to things like outlining or writing out questions for upcoming interviews, and later research and reaching out to sources—those tasks that are furthest from the final drafts I will end up submitting.

It’s no coincidence that my most productive hours are those where I am least likely to be interrupted. It doesn’t throw me too far off base if I’m interrupted while doing research. But constant emails, phone calls, and text messages during the writing phase can bring my production to a standstill.

What’s your peak time?

By using the hours I know I’m at the top of my game to tackle the biggest of my responsibilities, I’ve been able to produce more and do so under deadline time and time again.

On my really early days, it means I’ve produced a full day’s worth of work before my west coast colleagues have even arrived in the office.

Working in the predawn hours doesn’t mean I’m a glutton for punishment or an insomniac (I really love sleep and am really good at it). It means I’ve identified when I can do the absolute most work at the highest quality, and I use these magic hours to get ahead.

So, when is your peak time? And how do you build your day around it?


Photo credit: Bill Israel

    • Elizabeth

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