Commerce expert Simon Horton shares his tips for successful time management when working at home, something that many of us may find us doing for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak.

On paper, working from home has the promise of an ideal working environment. You can be flexible in your working hours, no commute, reduced colleague interruptions; all allow you to achieve everything with time to spare. However, you may find you achieve less working at home, leading to feelings of anxiety and stress building up which further impacts productivity. Personally, I found most of this problem was largely down to poor time management.These seven tips for successful time management work for me and can help put you back in control and improve productivity:

1. Tidy desk, tidy mind A messy working environment will inevitably lead to you losing crucial pieces of information and wasting time looking for it. Create a simple, structured filing system for your paperwork, digital files and email content, filing information regularly as you receive it

.2. Establish clear objectives Without clear goals you won’t know if you’ve achieved what you set out to do. Start by creating and maintaining a to do list of everything which needs to be done.Add estimates for how long you’d anticipate spending on each task, remembering to be realistic with your targets as it’s all too easy to be optimistic.Break larger tasks into smaller chunks of work to monitor your progress better. Breaking larger tasks into sub-tasks will also produce a more accurate estimate of time required for the overall task.Keep your to do list up-to-date. Regularly ticking off completed items is a satisfying reminder that you are achieving your goals, which helps keep you motivated.

3. Prioritise A structured to do list organises your thoughts into clear objectives, allowing you to concentrate on the task in-hand, but you’ll need to know where to focus your attention. It’s easy to choose the jobs you find more interesting rather than the ones which need doing. Assign each task a priority rating of urgent, high, medium, or low, adding any deadline dates associated with each task.Add alerts into your calendar software to remind you at multiple dates prior to the deadline so you don’t miss it.Review your list every day, updating and re-evaluating as priorities shift.

4. Do not disturb Working at home means it’s too easy to take time out to catch-up on those overrunning weekend DIY jobs. If you have family or friends around the house, they’ll likely reach out to you for help with something. All these interruptions break your flow of concentration. It’s essential you set boundaries with yourself and those around you where you have fixed ‘Do not disturb’ periods which will allow you to ‘get into the zone’ and make real progress with your work.

5. Regular breaks We’re not machines and performance will suffer if you don’t take a break. Even though you think you might get more done by working through lunch, it’s actually likely to be counterproductive and effect your performance later in the afternoon. Take at least a 30-minute break for lunch, get some air and do something physical to stimulate the body and mind, such as a brisk walk.

6. Delegate If you have people working for you, try and delegate tasks appropriately where possible. If you have regular tasks on your to do list, take the time to show your staff how to do them as this will save time in the future.Keep these tasks on your to do list, as this reminds you to follow up on their progress so they’re not forgotten about.7. Avoid repetition If you find you’re constantly performing similar tasks over and over, come up with a strategy to streamline the process to avoid repetition. For example, if you end up repeatedly answering similar customer enquiries, invest the time to improve your website with an FAQ page, so the information sought is more obvious.Create standard email and letter response templates you can re-use for common situations. In essence, look at what software solutions exist to improve your business process.As a small business owner, your time is your most valuable asset. Hopefully you’ll find that my tips will help you achieve more with the same amount of time, and reduce your stress levels at the same time.