Top Time Management and Productivity Tools
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Top Time Management and Productivity Tools

Here are a few tips and suggestions to get you started organizing your home office, improve your time management skills and increase your overall productivity.

Update: I wrote this post at the beginning of the new year but there are many tips and tools shared here that you will surely benefit from even now so read on…


We all tend to start each New Year with a few resolutions. As we ring in the New Year its a time to reflect on the previous year and to look ahead to the coming year with renewed hope and commitment.

Aside from the common resolutions we have all made one year or another such as, spending more time with family or getting fit, in this article I want to get specific to home business related resolutions.


For those just starting their online business, one of those resolutions may look something like this:

New Years Resolutions:

Actually make some money in my business this year!

or…

This is the year I finally Fire My Boss
and Go Full Time Online!

With the right planning, commitment and tools you CAN do it. It starts with organization and knowing how to manage your time.

Here are a few tips and suggestions to get you started organizing your home office, improve your time management skills and increase your overall productivity.

Home Office Design and Organization

We tend to spend as much time in our office sometimes as we do the rest of our home- and there are days when it seems we actually live in our office. Since so much time is spent here it just makes sense that it should be setup and organized right.

  • If you’re just setting up your home office, you’ll want to put thought into the right location. Number one it should be in a quiet area. If you have a spare bedroom this is typically ideal but if not, you just need to get a little creative in finding the right area of your home to work. Think outside the box- something completely unconventional may be the perfect solution such as an area under the stairs, using a screened in porch etc. Your home office location may change too over the years as your family changes.
  • Make it comfortable and set the mood. From your desk, to your chair, to the paint color on the wall…make this space you. Hang pictures, add candles, plants. Do you work better with a little music in the background or do you need complete quiet?
  • Make sure you have everything you need in a convenient location. If you find yourself constantly moving around hunting for things, this is a good sign that you need to rethink your organization and where you keep things. The first step to organizing is to make sure you have plenty of storage space. There are three ways of getting more space. You can increase the amount of storage space ( move your office to a larger room), use the space you have more efficiently (by adding a bookshelf, file cabinet or overhead cabinets) or reduce the amount of things you store in your office.
  • The best organization and time management investment you can make for your business is a good desk. This doesn’t necessarily mean an expensive desk. Just one that is comfortable and offers plenty of built in storage space. When I first started my business, I was using a make shift desk- an old dining table in fact. It had absolutely no storage space and things were all over the place. Several years ago, I purchased a complete set of office furniture- desk with built in drawers and shelves, matching bookshelf and hutch…the transformation in productivity was amazing. It’s also a little subliminal in that you just ‘feel’ more like an entrepreneur with the right office furniture and setup.
  • I also find that by taking an extra few minutes to straighten my desk at the end of the day or at the very least at the end of the week, I start each morning off better and tend to be more productive throughout the day.

Time Management

We all have one thing in common- we only have 24 hours in every day. By the time you deduct sleeping, eating, taking care of your family, working out, and your day J.O.B if you have one, we can only carve out so much of this 24 hours for actually accomplishing something in our business. The portion of the time you have set aside for work should be spent on income producing activities. You have to learn to identify the time stealers and eliminate them as much as possible.

  • Focus on the current project- Don’t let all those great new ideas distract you

Stop trying to juggle 10 projects at once. So you’ve got this great new idea or strategy and you can’t wait to implement it. Now may not be the right time. Instead keep all these great ideas written down in a notebook. Once you’ve written it down it’s now out of your head but not forgotten. Now get back to the current task or project- complete it. You always have your notebook of new ideas to refer back to when you have the time to tackle them.

  • Set a schedule and time limits and stick to it

Map out a Daily Method of Operation. Organize your week just as you would your office space. For example: You’re going to spend Monday going over numbers, stats, and planning. Tuesday is for writing articles and blog posts. Wednesday you work on product development…. You set a limit on reading email, your social media responsibilities…even phone calls. You can break each day, or each month down. Take some time and draft out a tentative schedule. You may have to adjust as time goes by but the important thing is to get something down in writing now.

Important: Repeat after me… NO. Learn to say no more often.

  • Get Inspired

I also recommend scheduling in some time for some inspiration- whether its a few minutes at the beginning of every day or some time during your week. We all need a little kick now and then to stay focused and motivated. Read a good book on personal development, listen to a motivational podcast, or watch a video on YouTube from a great coach or leader in your industry.

  • Use our Time Analysis worksheet

Analyze your time and energy busters. Are your truly productive or just busy? Download this free Time analysis worksheet and find out. Complete one sheet per day for one full week. After doing so you will get a better understanding of where you are wasting your time, what you struggle with, what you hate doing and what you enjoy doing, what makes you money and what doesn’t.

There’s no need to be a one man show these days with all the great and affordable outsourcing resources. Learn to delegate more and stop wasting time on things you struggle with or just hate doing.

Productivity Tools

  • Brainstorming and mind maps. bubbl.us is a free service that lets you create mind maps online. You can share them with your colleagues, print them and embed them in your blog or websites.
  • Pick up a copy of “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. You’ll learn a lot about how to get your life organized. You may also want to check out, Propelr.com which is a web based productivity application based on David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’ (GTD) methodology.
  • RescueTime is a free time management software application that you download to your computer. It tracks your activity and gives you a birds eye view of how you spend your time.
  • Remember The Milk takes the To-Do list to a whole new level. With this free task management application you’ll never go back to sticky notes again. Also available as an iPhone app, Blackberry, Gmail and Twitter.
  • Google Docscreate, store and share documents, spreadsheets and presentations and online forms You can work on your own or collaboratively. You can also import docs from MS Office and Open Office. This is a tool I use daily.
  • Social Media Status Updater: With Ping.fm you can update Twitter and a plethora of other social sites such as Facebook, Friendfeed, MySpace and Pownce all at the same time. This is a great time saver and it’s free!
  • With Mobile Apps like Twittelator for your iPhone (download from the Apps store) or Twitterberry for your Blackberry you can keep up with your Twitter peeps even while you’re on the go.
  • By far the very best online Project Management and Collaboration tool is Basecamp HQ. We’ve been using this in our business for the past 2 years and it has been an invaluable communication and organization tool for us and our clients. Its simply brilliant!
  • Billing and Invoicing is a drag but a necessary task. Freshbooks takes some of the sting out. Allows you to create and send invoices, track time and expenses and more. Several plans to choose from and range in price from Free on up to $149 per month.
  • Need a new contract or legal document? Try Docstoc.com, a community for people to find and share professional documents. Find free legal documents and free business documents.
  • WP Contact Manager. Rather than being a WordPress theme to help create a small business website, this is a theme that can help create a more productive workplace, by providing a common area to keep everybody’s business contacts up-to-date. You just install the theme, and then start posting your clients’ contact details to keep them in a central repository. (Free)
  • Inspired by Twitter and made for WordPress, Prologue is a group blog theme designed for short update messages. Small teams collaborating on a particular project could use Prologue to effectively communicate about who is doing what and when. (Free)

What has worked well for you?

Any tips to share?


7 Comments
  1. Great post Rhonda. I really like your second point under time management about scheduling. It is what I’m going to try to use to make my blogging New Year’s resolution stick. I’ve drafted out a tentative schedule of the work I’ll do in the month of January as it relates to blogging. I think it will work well.

    Under Productivity Tools, you didn’t mention my own tool BubbleTimer (at bubbletimer.com). You may not be aware of BubbleTimer, but it’s a new take on time management based on the concept of emergent task timing. The idea being to very quickly and easily discover how your time is being spent so you can make a change for the better. It’s like RescueTime in a way, but not just for time spent on the computer and it emphasizes how time tracking is inherently imprecise so you shouldn’t waste time futzing with timers and tracking things down to the second. Give it a look and let me know what you think.

    I’m checking out Prologue and Propel’r. Thanks for those, I hadn’t heard of them.

    -Sean

  2. Awesome tools! saved me a lot of time, thanks.

  3. This is a great list and should provide especially useful for anyone wondering how to start out the new year. Can’t agree more with learning to say no. It may feel like it hurts to do so in the short term, but in the long term you will be far better off.

    Another great productivity tool to add to your list would be Intervals, a hosted group task and project management tool.

  4. Thanks – As a beginner to photography I frequently feel overwhelmed by how much I need to learn. However, the more posts like this i read, the more i learn. Thanks for helping me move on a bit.

  5. Hi Rhonda thanks for share with us. Its a great list

  6. I’ve recently begun working from home and subcontracting developments to various people. Google Docs has been very useful for me in sharing documents with people. It saves loads of time compared to sifting through emails or exchanging requirement definition documents by emails.

  7. @Sean Johnson -Hi Sean. Thanks for mentioning BubbleTime. Sounds like a useful app. I’ll check it out and add it to the list.

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