How to Work from Home Effectively – Manage

By 20th March 2020 April 3rd, 2020 People Management Tips

Mindset – M is for Manage

M – Manage Best Practice

  • Establish a Routine – Choose 3 times.
  • Do Eat That Frog – Identify your frog each day and eat it first.
  • No More Cabbage Butterflies – Remove distractions, e.g. turn off email notifications, and do ‘start to completion’.
  • Write a Daily To-Do List – Write a new to-do list each day, and asterisk what must be done that day.

Read the main article: How to Work from Home Effectively – M.I.N.D.S.E.T. – Adopt 7 Best Practices.

Managing yourself. Almost 10,000 people in the UK type into google each month ‘Time Management’. Probably looking for tips to improve. I liken time management to cookbooks. We all like the idea of having them-doing it. Makes us feel good to own them-know about them. But we’ll rarely use them-do it. It’s the difference between liking the idea of change and actually changing. Liking the idea of cooking, and having the cookbook to do so, but never actually getting round to doing cooking a chef-style meal.

Comic strip who wants change?

Who wants change? Who wants to change?

A big challenge when we work from home is the magnification of productivity. If we have great discipline in the corporate office, we’ll have great discipline working from home. If we are, for example, stuck in our email inbox at work, then we’ll really, really, really be stuck in it at home. People want the tools and tricks and tips to be better time managers, but they don’t really want to change. And who can blame them? They’ve held down a successful job for a lot of years. Achieved some great things. So, why should they change?

Don’t change. Skip this section.

Unless you believe that of all the soft skills people need to be the best version of themselves, time management is the key to unlocking everything else. I believe this. Time management is the king of soft skills.

When I was in a corporate job, as a buyer at Sainsbury’s, my time management was shocking. Truly shocking. I ran from one meeting to the next. Had lists everywhere. Hid in my email inbox. And convinced myself I was busy. I mean very busy. Banged out busy. I succeeded because I worked a stupid amount of hours. Not because I was productive. When I moved from corporate working to home working and started my own business, that is when I realised what worked and did not work in my time management ‘system’.

Since then I have taught time management training for 15 years. And to teach it well, you need to have been ‘through the mill’ of knowing what works and does not work. I have. I want to share that with you, to help you. But I can only take a horse to water…

Clock on the wall

Time management is the key to unlocking everything else.

4 Best Practices You Need to Adopt to Work From Home Effectively

  1. Establish a routine.
  2. Do Eat That Frog.
  3. No More Cabbage Butterflies.
  4. Write a Daily To-Do List.

It’s that simple and that hard.

1. Establish a Routine

When my daughter Gabby was born (Now 20 and at Uni), like most parents, I didn’t have a clue. Someone had forgotten to send me a copy of the baby manual! Whereas my wife, Gayle, was a natural. She’d always wanted to be a Mum and took to it much easier than I. She’d say, ‘Babies love routine’. I never knew how she knew that. She was right. Without a routine, Gabby seemed to rule the roost. Once we (Gayle, really) had her in a routine, however, Gabriella knew what to expect, so did we, and we all just got on with it. Tea at 5 pm, bathtime at 6 pm, and bedtime at 7 pm. We, as homeworkers, are not so different.

Get a routine. You just need to agree with yourself 3 times; when you start, when you eat lunch, and when you finish. Without it, you’ll struggle to stay on track and always be thinking of whether you should be starting earlier, or working later, and oh, I missed lunch again. Choosing and writing down these times gives you one less thing to think about.

Be Kind to Yourself

You’ll not stick to this 100 % and allow yourself not to. It’s ok to start a little later if you were out last night, or finish earlier if you are going out. That’s the advantage of working at home. Use it.

A pilot takes off with a flight plan. Having met a pilot some years back at a party, he told me that they are rarely on the flight plan. Weather, other planes, and so on meant that they have a plan, but fly 80% off of the flight plan. The point is that they have a plan. Something they are always striving to get back to, as they fly. A routine is similar. If you start at 9 am, instead of 8 am, finish 1 hour later. Or accept that you work hard and it’s a gift.

2. Eat That Frog

Brian Tracy, the Canadian-American Time Management guru wrote a book called ‘Eat That Frog‘. It is still a best seller. Published in 44 languages and sold 1.6 million copies.

The premise is simple. The metaphor is that if the first thing you do every day is to eat a frog, then the rest of your day won’t be that bad. In time management terms, Brian wants us to find the task that makes a big difference. The task that we have been putting off because it’s too ‘big and horrible’, and then he wants us to just start. And do it first. Begin with a simple and practical action.

During a training course, a Learner told me that she had ‘Move House’ on her to-do list. ‘It has been on there forever!’, she frustratingly told me. I encouraged her to write the first practical task instead. She wrote ‘Phone estate agent’. The next day she called me to say it worked. Once a task starts it becomes like a snowball rolling down a hill. It gathers its own momentum. Alan Lakein, the very first grandfather of time management, back in the ’60s shared his metaphor. He said that it was like Swiss cheese. You just need to find the first hole in the task and poke it. Then other holes will begin to appear.

3. No More Cabbage Butterflies

I was 5. I had Woolworth’s red wellies. And those gloves that hang on a string from the arms of your coat. Dad and I were in the garden on Saturday morning. He was a keen vegetable gardener. I was playing in the mud. He was swearing. Swearing at the cabbage white butterflies that had been eating his cabbages.

A cabbage white butterfly sits on a cabbage eating the leaf. Looks up and sees another tasty cabbage a few feet away. Flies over. Nibbles that one. Sees another. Flies over. Eats that one. Moving from one cabbage to another, nibbling. Never finishing a whole cabbage (Though if the butterfly did, he’d be enormous and couldn’t fly!).

The time management guru’s call it ‘Task switching‘. The research tells us that to task switch will add 50% more time to a task. ‘Start to complete’ is the way forward if you want to be more productive.

4. Daily To-Do List

The key to an effective time management system is a daily to-do list. This is where people fall into one of 3 groups; those that have one, those that don’t, and those that think they do, but it’s actually just a long list of actions.

Which group are you?

Imagine building a house without a plan. You’d start laying some bricks and say, ‘I’m sure we’ll be ok’. And you might make it up as you go along, and be ok. Chances are, you won’t. A daily to-do list is a clean sheet of paper with the tasks that you will do that day. And against the ‘absolutely must get done today’ tasks you put an asterisk. These are the ones you do first. This is because of ‘QFE’ – Quick, fun and easy. Most people want to start their day gently. Ease themselves in. So they begin by knocking a few QFE tasks off their list. Before they know it they’re stuck into a problem and they never really get back to doing the big and important stuff. Though they convince themselves that they are ‘busy’.

If you don’t have a plan for the day, someone else will have a plan for you and steal your day. Make it your plan. A list of your tasks that you want to get done. A list of tasks for that day and the ones you need to get done first are marked with an asterisk.

(Click on the image below for the extended version)

How to Work from Home Effectively Infographic

Is Working from Home a Good Idea?

M – Manage Best Practice

    • Establish a Routine – Choose 3 times.
    • Do Eat That Frog – Identify your frog each day and eat it first.
    • No More Cabbage Butterflies – Remove distractions, e.g. turn off email notifications, and do ‘start to completion’.
    • Write a Daily To-Do List – Write a new to-do list each day, and asterisk what must be done that day.

Adopt the Other 6 M.I.N.D.S.E.T. Best Practices

Read the main article: How to Work from Home Effectively – M.I.N.D.S.E.T. – Adopt 7 Best Practices.

I is for Isolation: Find out how NOT to isolate yourself working from home.

N is for Neat: Know why staying in your pyjamas all day will affect how you feel about work.

D is for Deliverables: Find out why you are on the payroll and where to start investing in you.

S is for Space: Getting your own space when you work remotely is very important. Find out how and why.

E is for Emotions: Read about why you need to articulate how you feel.

T is for Technology: Technology is the foundation of your productively. See how to ensure that it is up to the job.

Additional Resources to Help You


For further tips and information, you can take a look at our Ultimate Guide to People Management Skills and our People Management Skills YouTube Channel. Also, check out our award-winning blog to see more People Management Skills Tips and HR Management Tips.

Darren A. Smith

About Darren A. Smith

Darren has been working in the world of UK Supermarkets & Suppliers for over 25 years. He began his career as a buyer at big 4 UK supermarkets and after 13 years he decided to leave to set-up Making Business Matter because he wanted to help suppliers and supermarkets to work better together.

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