The best way to streamline your work life and quit wasting time unnecessarily is to create daily business routines that carry you effortlessly through your workday and help you spend your time more effectively.
Any Mom knows that life without routines equals chaos. The principle holds true in personal and in business life, especially if your business life happens to be conducted from your home office. Routines create order that holds no matter how many projects you are juggling or deadlines you have looming. No, you can't fit everything into a routine; but you can use routines to organize, prioritize, and streamline your work. Not only will you accomplish those daily tasks and repetitive jobs, but you will do so as efficiently as possible. That leaves you more time, space, and mental energy to tackle the bigger projects and deadlines that are not part of your daily business routines.
Use Routines to Organize
Part of daily business, especially if you are working from a home office, is keeping your space neat and uncluttered, your supplies stocked and accessible, and your files, both digital and paper, updated. You also need to do organizational jobs such as back up your data, schedule meetings, and keep track of all that reading you need to catch up on. Create a daily business routine to carry you through the basic organizing tasks of your day: it should be the first thing you do when you sit down to begin work, whether that happens at 5 a.m. or 2 in the afternoon.
List out the daily organizing you need to accomplish; then put those tasks into an order that makes the most sense for how you work. Give yourself a time limit to accomplish the entire routine so that you don't get sidetracked. The goal is to get the jobs completed, even if imperfectly, not to get mired down in detail work. Set a timer for the first week or two as you make the routine into a habit, and follow your list to be sure you accomplish all the tasks. After two or three weeks of going through your organizing routine every day, it will become second nature. You'll be keeping yourself and your business organized without worrying about how to do it.
Use Routines to Prioritize
You need to know what is most important in your work and give it adequate time and attention; often, however, an entire day goes by spent on dealing with last-minute jobs and pressure-filled obligations. At the end of the day, you haven't actually worked on what is most important. You shrug it off and determine to do better tomorrow. But without a strategy for making tomorrow better, there's no guarantee that it will be.
Use a business routine to get the important work done first. Think about what is most important for your business at this time. It will change, so don't use your goal sheet from 2005. Think about where you business is now and where you want it to be one year from now. Do you need to spend more time on marketing? Design? Producing content? Contacting clients? Once you decide what the top one or two items are, set up a routine of spending 45 minutes to 2 hours of your most productive time (morning, afternoon, whichever works best for you) on those items. You could spend one hour per day on each item, or spend two hours on Item 1 and then, the next day, spend two hours on Item 2. It doesn't really matter how, it just matters that you create a routine and stick to it diligently. Even if you only fit in 45 minutes each day, you will be 45 minutes closer to accomplishing your goals. Make sure you accomplish your priority routine every day at the time you've designated for it.
Use Routines to Streamline
You have a multitude of other tasks, too, that are necessary for your business but can also be the biggest drains of your time. Checking and answering email, for example, or returning phone calls; both are important, but both can eat up the precious time you have to spend in your home office. Create a routine for those regular tasks; having them lumped into a routine will set a limit on how much time they will take while still ensuring that they get done.
For example, you could make it a daily routine to check voicemail and return phone calls right after lunch. Set a time limit, listen to your messages, jot down notes, and return phone calls quickly and all at once. Going through the entire list at one time will help you stay focused on communicating information and moving on and less inclined to get sucked into a chat that's unrelated to your work. You can create routines for all those necessary type of tasks in your work, and if you stick to them consistently, you'll see a great improvement in the amount of time you have available to get to the rest of your work.