When my boss agreed to let me start working from home, I was excited about the prospect and confident that I could do an even better job than working at the office, but he responded with a knowing smile, “Just remember, I may call sometimes just to see if you’re at your desk. Don’t let me find you in the kitchen!”—My boss knew my love for good food and cooking!—“Just be at your desk by 9:00 every morning, and everything will flow from there.”
This advice was the foundation of one of the best time management tips I’ve ever found: Set your boundaries and discipline yourself to stick to them.
However, getting to my desk on time every morning was only the start. I’d then find myself overwhelmed by dozens of messages, all relaying requests and things that needed to be done. It was hard for me to prioritize. Everything seemed to cry out to be done first!
Again, my boss came to the rescue. He suggested that I write down everything I had to do and send him the list. He would then go over it, prioritize it for me, and send it back. It was helpful to be able to draw on his experience, especially at the beginning. After a while, I was able to start setting my own priorities, but I have never gotten away from keeping a to-do list.
Once, after spending a morning on a low-priority project and failing to meet the deadline on something that was urgent, I learned another good lesson: “Do the important stuff first.” I’d been overly optimistic in estimating the time I’d need and thus failed to meet the deadline.
My boss had some more good advice: “At the close of each work day, take a minute to look over your to-do list. Then make a note of the two or three top-priority items to start on first thing the next morning.”
I found that at the end of the day, I actually do have the best insight on what still remains to be done, so it works well to start my day’s to-do list the afternoon before.
I ended up working from home as a personal assistant for many years, and I believe these tips and suggestions I received when I first started are what helped me build a reputation for being punctual and reliable.