Time Tracking and Monitoring Tools
The age-old method of keeping reminders through an alarm clock, still has its relevance in the home office. Setting an alarm, be it in the mobile phone, computer or an age-old grandfather clock is the simplest way to remind oneself of an impending task, or trigger oneself to start or stop working at a particular predetermined time.
Another approach to track time and effort is the timesheet, either a simple pen and paper one, or electronic versions using Google Docs, an Excel worksheet, or a web based one such as actiTime. Applications such as TimeSnapper automate the process by working in the background to track user activities and generating a log. Timesheets however remain reactive in nature, with the user only able to make logs and analyze, resolving to make future improvements.
Time tracking software that track work time are an improvement on trying to schedule work by setting alarms, and offer a real-time and proactive alternative to timesheets. Select from any of the thousands of such time tracking software available in the internet. Some of the more simple applications are OfficeTime, ProjectClock, Toggl, Tick, timr, Klok, 1DayLater, 24SevenOffice, 5PM, and others. Advanced tracking software incorporates basic time tracking plus a time module with a scheduler, where the scheduled activities flow from the schedule module to the time module and the actual work done flows back from the time module to the schedule module. This allows for tracking and comparison of planned activities versus actual activities.
Optimal Times to Schedule Work
A simple way of tracking time and effort without relying on any technology is to schedule tasks in between normal or routine chores such as in between meals. For instance, an at-home worker allocates the time between dropping kids off to school and picking them up as the time to work, and the time between that favorite television serial and dinner to make new marketing pitches. Scheduling tasks in between routine chores might pace the work better, but does not track effort put in during such time. Pacing the work within definite periods, or say an hour or two, interspaced with breaks helps determine the productivity during each work session. Before starting out, make sure to set priorities by preparing a to-do list and ranking tasks in order of importance.
All people have peak or most productive hours when they remain at their productive best. This time depends on the individual's biological clock. Some people just cannot get up early morning and remain distracted and dazed throughout the day but start working well during nights. For some others, it may be the other way round. Identify the most productive hours and allocate the most critical work at such times.
Finding Time for Family and Clients
Secure feedback from clients, bosses, or other family members regarding time usage patterns. Family members, for instance can sound a warning signal when the at-home worker indulges in over work or remains distracted. The boss or the client can sound a warning signal if productivity slacks.
In the pure commercial sense, the only good use of time is when the work done generates billable products or activities. Check before the start of each task or activity whether the task or activity contributes to an item on the invoice, or serves any other beneficial purpose. If the item contributes to the invoice, determine the rate and the contribution of the specific task to the invoice rate, and then determine the quantum of time for the task relative to the invoiced amount.
Maintaining the productivity and focus that comes when working in a conventional office is a big challenge for the at-home worker. Effective monitoring and tracking mechanisms can help the home worker maintain direction, and thus play a big role in the success of the home office setup.
Source: Author's experience