Your Portable Career — How Do You Keep it On Track when Life Gets In the Way

JugglerI admit, I’m not very good at juggling.

No, I’m talking talking about the balls-or-clubs-in-the-air kind of juggling.

I’m talking about the elusive work-life balancing act.

Right now, I’m having a hard time staying on top of my normal business tasks. After living here in Panama without a car for six months, we finally decided to buy one.

The search for a decent, affordable used car is a lot more time consuming than I had anticipated. Instead of planning future articles for this site, for example, I’m talking to people and combing the Encuentra 24 website looking for likely possibilities.

How can you keep your work flowing when life is so distracting?

In other words, what can you do to keep your portable career on track when you’re focused elsewhere?

Plan Better

When your time or attention is limited, it’s hard to allocate time for planning, but this one simple thing can save your bacon. Not to mention saving you a lot of time in the long run.

If your overseas business involves a website, for example, and you need to update it regularly, establish an editorial calendar.

Plan out your calendar at least 30 days in advance — 60 is even better.

Break down each article idea into tasks. Plan time for

  • Research
  • Finding appropriate images
  • Writing
  • Proofreading and editing

Then figure out how to get each of those chunks done within the time you have available, put them on a calendar or To Do list, and do them.

It’s a lot easier to write a new article if you know the topic ahead of time!

Do Your Most Important Work at your Peak Time

We all have energy and attention that’s more focused at certain times and less so at other times.

Some folks are tremendously productive early in the morning. Others hit their stride late in the evening.

Figure out what your peak time is, and use it for your most important tasks.

I’m not a morning person, so I like to ease into my day by going through email first thing. Once I’m fully alert, I start writing. That’s my peak time, and it can last for up to three hours.

During my writing time, that’s all I do. I spend about half an hour of concentrated effort, then force myself to get up and stretch, refresh my iced tea, walk around for a minute, than I head back to the keyboard for another half hour.

During my peak time I don’t check email, Facebook, Twitter, or answer the phone unless I’m expecting the call and have planned on it.

There’s plenty of time later for those things.

Eliminate Distractions

We’ve all read it dozens of times, and I know it’s easier said than done.

During your prime working time, shut off your email notifications, turn off your phone and get rid of other distractions.

Sometimes that means working out a signal for your significant other and children that you’re not to be disturbed!

If you have an office door, close it during your important work times.

My husband used to think that, just because I worked from home, I was available for conversation at any time. I didn’t have an office door I could close, and it became a real problem for a while.

Finally I started asking him, “if I were working in somebody else’s office, would you call me to ask me that?” After some repetitions, he learned to save his casual conversation for times when I wasn’t at my desk.

I don’t mind interruptions when I’m checking my email or social media, but I fight to defend my writing time!

It’s OK to Let Some Things Slide Temporarily

When you’re extra busy or extra distracted, figure out which tasks you can set aside for another time.

Yes, keeping financial accounts up to date is a pretty important task. But the world won’t end if you put it off for a week or even two — unless that’s your actual business.

Just make sure you have a system for keeping track. I use Outlook to set reminders for myself when I need to come back to an unfinished task.

There are lots of tools you can use for better productivity. I’ll share some of my favorites in another post.

How do you stay on track with your business when your life gets hectic? Share in the Comments!

photo by Matt Davidson on flickr

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