Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people are forced to work remotely. Working from home is a great opportunity. With this set-up, you enjoy flexibility and a more relaxed environment. However, managing time can be challenging, and being able to balance productivity and personal life is one hefty task. It’s either you fall for all the distractions around, or you fail to give yourself some time to relax. So whether you’re an employee or you have your own businesses, this blog will help you because we’ll guide you through time management tips for your work-from-home set-up.
What Causes the Challenge
Before we move on to the tips, we first discuss that one thing that makes time management a challenge while working from home: freedom. Although it may sound like a very positive word, each benefit that you get from freedom has an equivalent challenge. For example, in the work-from-home set-up, you have the freedom to set your own schedule. However, the challenge is sticking to that schedule. Another example would be that you have the freedom to spend time with family at home. However, that could also be a distraction. The key to navigating through these is to set boundaries. We will constantly mention this as we discuss the tips in this article.
Managing Your Spaces
The usual “Guide to Working from Home” blog would just suggest having a workstation. But for us, it is also important to manage other spaces in your home. Set boundaries for your workstation. Identify until where will you do your work, and let the rest of your house be your “life space”. So how do you differentiate your “workspace” from your “lifespace”? First is the location. Ideally, your workspace is a separate room, or at least there is a divider between your “workspace” and “life space”. The second way is the set-up. You want your work space to optimize productivity: a decent computer, a table, an office chair, and office supplies. On the other hand, you want your “life space” to be a lot more comfortable. Third would be the access to people. You certainly don’t want people to disturb you in your workspace. In your “life space” however, you want to encourage conversation and contact.
Limiting Your Work Hours
One thing about time management during a work-from-home set-up is that sometimes, it feels like you’re working the whole time you’re at home. This is because you failed to set boundaries to your work hours. Set a definite start and end time. Take into consideration your sleeping habits and health when choosing a starting time. A recommended work period would be more or less eight hours per day, with a one-hour break in between (we’ll get into breaks later). Now, another challenge to this is transitioning your mind from work mode to free time. One solution is having a transition time. For example, if you’re planning to end your work every 5pm, set 30-minutes before it as a transition time so that you can decompress yourself and completely let go of work by 5pm. We like to finish off our working from home day with a sunset walk around the neighbourhood.
Learning Your Productivity Rhythm
Productivity expert Dave Crenshaw introduces the concept “productivity rhythm”. According to him, we have periods of high productivity, low productivity, and rest. This is one way to say that we are not productive all the time; we have peak hours, and low hours. Knowing your productivity rhythm guides you to how you schedule your work in the day; you are likely to schedule your most challenging tasks to your most productive hours. Another factor that Crenshaw suggests is the amount of interruptions from circumstances like when you should do some household chores, or when will your boss schedule a meeting with you. Identify the pattern of interruptions and schedule your most valuable tasks in between these interruptions. It is important, however, to know that these patterns, both your productivity rhythm and interruptions, can change over time. It is impossible to avoid this change, but at least you now know more how to manage them and you are less frustrated.
Take Healthy Breaks
Taking a break has numerous benefits that can help you with your productivity. First, because breaks are meant to be spent for relaxation and fun, dopamine in your body is released, causing you to feel motivated. That, in turn, causes you to be more productive after every break. Second, taking breaks allows your body and mind to rest, enabling you to recharge for your next activities. Resting also prevents you from getting burned out. Take small breaks to rest your eyes and hands from your computer. Do this every 20 minutes, for 1 to 2 minutes. Take long breaks for you to eat and do some energizing or relaxing activities. We recommend taking two major breaks during the day, for 30 minutes to 1 hour each. It is important to stick to a break schedule to condition your mind.
Expect the Need to Adjust
Although it is ideal to have a definite working schedule, the reality is that you may need to make some adjustments. For example, your employer suddenly schedules an emergency meeting with you during the time that you have already scheduled some tasks. This is where a buffer time is important. Buffer time is some one hour to one-and-a-half hour of unscheduled time that you can use in case a task has to be rescheduled. With a buffer time, you are able to accommodate emergency tasks without compromising your other tasks. Our recommendation is to identify these patterns of interruptions, and schedule several buffer times in the week depending on the pattern. With this, you are lessening the chances of being frustrated, as well as accomplish your tasks before the deadline.
Generally, time management can be challenging, but once you develop such skill, you reap the benefits. You not only become extra productive at work, you also manage to make time for yourself and your loved ones. Like what we pointed out, setting boundaries is key…boundaries when it comes to your workspace, your work schedule, and your breaks. And aside from setting boundaries, familiarity of your productivity rhythm and accepting the fact that adjustments may have to be made is important.
So, are you ready to have a very productive day and a time for yourself? Apply these tips and reap the benefits of a well-balanced schedule. If we missed out on any tip, feel free to drop some in the comments section! We’d also love to hear your stories so feel free to share!