How to have a successful work from home planner

At first you think it is only about notebooks or agendas to write what you have to do because you don’t want to forget it. Once you start to investigate, you realize that a planner is the ideal tool to get your work at home life on the right track.

What is a work from home planner?

A planner is a mix between a calendar and an agenda. It allows you to organize your tasks and activities for an amount of time (hour, day, week, month and / or year) in a simple format. They also allow measuring results and analyze what you did and control where time invested goes. This allows future correction and improvement in productivity.

Yet, it is not easy to have a successful planning method. It is easy to get sidetracked and distracted by what everyone else is doing. To begin, it is important to make an outline or sketch of what your work time will look like. As with every project, it is subject to continuous modifications, but it will help establish some general lines to be more organized. Especially if you use them when working from home, where personal life seems to always clash with your work, this guide to a successful work from home planner will be the most useful tool to begin with.

Hot to successfully start with a work from home planner

1. Choose the right planner

Deciding on an agenda is not always easy. But answering these questions will help you choose the right one for you.

1. Do you need a lot or a little space to write? Look at the space provided by each agenda or setup sheets. Do you need monthly, weekly or daily spreadsheets? This depends on your tasks, time distribution and work from home routine.

2. Is there room to plan the weekends or at nighttime too? Maybe you need enough space to write on Saturdays and Sundays as well. Maybe you’ll work at night too. A 24/7 agenda will be best in this case.

3. Are you going to keep it in one place or move it around? Think about the size, weight, material and durability. Where you keep your agenda matters.

4. Do you know when you will take a vacation? Some agendas assume that it will be in the summer. If that’s not your case, get an annual Planner. Otherwise you’ll have a partial one.

5. Do you prefer inspiration every day or a more minimalist style? Your planner can be decorative and full of stickers or it could be functional. If you choose the first, more time will be invested in making it pretty and full of information. The latter focuses more on the content and doesn’t care for much else. You could also find a middle ground if it suits you.

Remember that a planner should suit your needs and motivate you to control your time and be successful at balancing home life and work. It is important that your work at home planner allows you to plan for both things, that way you won’t spend half a day cooking and not working or all day working and not eating.

Here are some suggestions of planner brands you can check out and choose from. The style, design and content that fits your needs is always the best one.

Paper work from home planners:

Digital work from home planners: 

2. Set up your planner

When it comes to the planner’s content, you have to decide if you prefer to see day by day, two days for each page (you will have 4 days in view) or the entire week. This, like everything else, will depend on your needs. An agenda day per page has more writing space for each day. While a week view will allow you to control the entire week at a glance in exchange for having less space for each day. You have to choose what is right for you. Once you know how you prefer it, there are a series of things that will make it the perfect agenda for a work from home environment. Choose what suits your needs!

1. Annual calendar for the current year and the next. This way you can see the dates in advance and overview the year for project planning or management.

2. Annual planner: where you can write down future things, important dates, vacations, etc.

3. Monthly planner/Calendar: for deliveries of work, project overview, etc. Having icons in your calendar will make visual planning and preparing your day easier.

5. Timetable: In case you decide to time block or plan per hour. Useful for meetings and a more controlled environment at home. It will help you divide your time for personal, home or work related things. One useful technique is color coding activities and times.

4. Notes section: there is always something you want to have written down, but not on a specific day.

5. Schedule: in case of having a fixed schedule of hand in projects, reports, etc. This will help you handle time availability and scheduled events per duration. Detailed information about projects or reports can be written down here.

6. Home planning: You can add any section for home managing planning that will simplify your life-work balance. Meal planners, time for hobbies, routine or habits tracker, finance sections, etc, are incredibly useful and customizable to manage time and efficiency.

7. Work planning: it is good to customise your agenda to your work needs. Add any section that will fit your tasks (finance handler, PR strategy organiser, Media planner, marketing planner, lists, etc.).

7. Accessories: Sticker, dividers, pockets, markers, washi tape, covers, etc.

It is always good to also keep in mind that a nice design always makes the planner better and will motivate you to use it. Having inspirational phrases distributed throughout the agenda could also be a nice touch.

Work from home planning tips

It is not just about having the correct sections, planning is also about knowing how to use it correctly. Here’s some advice on how to successfully plan to work from home:

1. Define what your medium and long-term goals are. What do you want to achieve with your remote team? Create a better relationship? Dedicate some time to it and plan a virtual water cooler chat. Consider what you have to do to achieve it and when you are clear about your goals, learn to focus on them. Does this task contribute to my goal? If yes, go ahead with it. If not, move on to something else.

2. Prioritize your tasks and distribute them. The most important tasks on the list are those that affect the achievement of goals. With this in mind, prioritizing should be straightforward: high – medium – low.

Priorities are dynamic, context influences them. What two weeks ago had low priority, today has high priority because tomorrow is the delivery day. This are some factors to take into account to distribute your tasks:

  • Deadline
  • Priority according to importance
  • Personal energy
  • Available time
  • Task grouping

Start by assigning a space to urgent tasks, those that must be done this week, and your important tasks. If you have planned well in previous weeks, you will have fewer and fewer urgent tasks. Organize them according to your own personal energy. This is where the advice to learn to know ourselves comes into play. If your creative energy flows better in the morning, try putting these types of tasks first thing in the day. If you find yourself concentrating after eating, set tasks that require little mental effort.

How long does each task take you? If you need several hours in a row to finish it, you should leave a whole morning free to finish it. Also, it’s recommended that you group tasks that are similar.

3. Plan as far in advance as possible. If you know that you have to deliver a project, prepare a client’s order for a specific date, or have a big meeting… Why don’t you write it down on your calendar now? The ideal is that you have a place in which you deposit all the tasks that arise throughout the day. This place will be your “inbox”. Before finishing your day, process them. Give them a specific priority, a deadline and schedule them. My recommendation is that you plan as far in advance as possible. Don’t leave it until the last day of delivery. If there are last-minute unforeseen events or urgent tasks, it will not help that you haven’t planned.

4. Include proactive and reactive tasks. Proactive tasks are those that we schedule based on our objectives. Reactive are the tasks that we did not have planned and that we have to solve during the day. An example of a reactive task would be phone calls or e-mails.

How to plan a week having a lot of reactive tasks? The solution to deal with them is to expect these types of activities. Assign one or more fractions of the day to check them: mid-morning and mid-afternoon, for example. Avoid checking your email continuously and responding immediately. The only thing you will achieve is to distract yourself from the rest of the tasks.

5. Do a daily review at the end of the day. In addition to planning your week on a specific day. You should spend a little time reviewing everything at the end of each day. 5 or 10 minutes will be enough. What do you achieve with this daily review?

  • Process the tasks that have entered throughout the day.
  • Re-plan what you have not been able to finish.
  • Review what the next day has in store.

It will help you end the day with the feeling of having everything under control. That way, you will disconnect and feel better.

6. Be patient with your time estimates. Learning how to plan your week to be more productive in a remote setting is not something that you’ll do overnight. 

One of the things that will cost you the most is getting the estimate of the time that each task will take you right. Some of them you’ll have controlled because you do them frequently. However, you can lose sight of those that you face for the first time or do once every couple of months. Also, let’s be honest. We always think that we will be able to finish faster than we actually do. We believe that we will always be 100% and that is impossible. We are not machines, we will have days of downturn, low concentration, headaches or unforeseen events.

There are two solutions for this: One, assign 20% more time than you initially think. If you think you’ll have it in an hour, give yourself an hour and 15 minutes. 3 hours? Make it 3 hours and 40 minutes. And two, as the subtitle says, be patient. Start by creating your calendar with a few tasks, give yourself more time than you will need and adjust.