How to Stay Organized When You Work From Home
I've been a full time, work from home mom for 3 years and it's taken me some time to figure it out. I rely on a few tools that keep me organized and help me keep my priorities straight (so I can spend more time focusing on the girls, and less time buried in my computer). I used to rely solely on pen-and-paper lists and notes, but I found myself forgetting things and losing track of tasks and projects.
I still base my life off my planner, but I have a few digital tools that keep me organized.
For: General Organization
For everyday calendar appointments, notes, and document organization, you cannot go wrong with the G-suite. Google is intuitive, offers a whole host of services, and makes it easy to keep track of images, content, and meetings. If you work with a variety of clients, it is simple to create a folder for each client, and then separate each item for clients within other folders. (see screenshot below) Images, documents, files, even slide presentations can be kept in the Google Drive. If you create design collages, blog posts, images, or content in any way, it all be organized clearly within a single place.
Another thing Google will manage and help you maintain is your Google business listing. If you have not claimed your business online, someone else will... there are plenty of fake listings that can overshadow your business. Claim yours and let Google do the rest.
One thing a lot of contractors and small business owners may want to take advantage of is a free Google voice number. This is so you can casually hand out a phone number to a prospective client without giving out your personal cell phone number. It can make your business look more professional and give you credibility. This number will redirect to your private line easily. You can also send text messages from this number to add another line of communication to your clients and customers.
For: Project Management
I'm constantly in the middle of a dozen client projects at once. And it can be difficult to keep deadlines and progress straight in a pen-and-paper notebook. That's when a project management dashboard like Asana saves the day. If you work with a team others as contractors, want your client to stay in-the-know, or need to share things with other people, this is your best bet.
There are a few key features to Asana that help small businesses and contractors:
This is basically a digital to-do list. All projects and tasks in Asana allow you to see things as a list or in a calendar view so it's an easy visual to see when things are due and what tasks or meetings you have each week.
This tool might be the most helpful. You can organize each client into a project and keep track of all their tasks, contracts, and deliverables. Projects can be broken down into categories such as communication, onboarding documents, resources, content, etc.
Not only will Asana let you choose deadlines for tasks and projects, but there is a template for content calendars. As a creative, I am responsible for creating content for 20+ clients a week. This allows me to keep everyone's content schedule in a clearly defined place, for each of them. I can manage this as in a list or calendar view, making it easy to move things around to account for time-sensitive content. Creatives, whether you are a photographer, content strategist, copywriter, content creator, or work with any creative medium, this will keep your weeks straight and planned.
There are other project management dashboards such as Trello and Basecamp that are functional, but I find that Asana is the best there is. It's smart and comprehensive - exactly what I need to stay organized.
For : Cloud-Based Sharing
A lot of businesses and individuals do not have a Gmail account or ability to access the Google drive. If you are sharing visual content like videos, images, or graphics, a cloud-based workspace like Dropbox is extremely helpful. You can access images and folders that are shared with you and create folders that can be shared with specific people. I don't love Dropbox, but if your clients don't have the ability to share documents through Google or another cloud-based sharing, this will do the trick.
For: Communication (Internal and Client-based)
I'm not sure what I did before joining Slack. Because honestly, it's better than any other chat platform I've ever used. It links to the Google drive, making document sharing easy and accessible, you can archive conversations, and create Channels for each client. That way, if you work with specific people on different tasks internally, they can each have their own chat, or group chat, under that Channel.
Sending direct messages is easy, and if you have the app on your phone, it eliminates the need to hand out your personal cell number to each member of a team - or contractors. I like that I can save messages and easily search for keywords if I need to find a conversation quickly. (This is more for a team - probably not if you are a one-woman-show (or man!).)
For: Conference Calls
Whether I'm doing a video call or not, I love Zoom. It's been in my repertoire long before everyone was working from home, and I've had nothing but success with it. Setting up calls and inviting people to join is a piece of cake. You can record calls to use as a reference later, share your screen, and there's even a chat feature to send links and info easily while on the call.
You cannot go wrong with a good old paper planner. I keep track of work and home and life stuff all in one paper planner, so it's all in one place. Project deadlines, dinner plans, and doctors appointments. (yes, I have all my calendars synced on my phone). This makes it easy to remember things and have a copy at home that anyone can reference.
That being said, I love my Google calendar. It keeps all my calls organized with Zoom links, locations for appointments, holidays, vacation, etc. in one place. One of my favorite things is that you can share calendars. My family had a vacation calendar so we knew when people were traveling and out of town. Share a calendar with your spouse for date nights, events, information about babysitters, or even your work schedule. Google makes things pretty simple to share.
It seems like a lot, but once these are all set up, I dare you to forget a deadline again ;) It's near impossible. All my software is linked to my email so I get notifications and see when things are due, keep track of emails and communications, and can spend more time with my family instead of tracking down work projects and tasks.
If you ever need help getting anything set up, let me know and I'd be happy to chat!