July 23, 2020
Work from home time management tips are more useful than ever Here are some ways to help manage your time as the demands of work life and home life merge.
For many people, time has become more amorphous than ever. Several of our usual time markers have changed or temporarily disappeared, such as the commute to the office, lunch hour with team members, arriving home, and TGIF. As the year marches on, countless people are left wondering, where did the time go? What day of the week is it? How is July almost over? Or simply how did it get to be this late in the day?
The tips below are not uniquely work from home time management tips. They are tried and true time management approaches that can help wrangle your time into productive units during this demanding period when work life and home life are melding.
Manage Your Schedule: Days, Weeks, and Months
Avoid letting your schedule freefall. Take a few minutes each day to evaluate what needs to be accomplished in the short term and in the long term. Look at the days and the months ahead and plot what small and large projects you’d like to accomplish.
Look at your schedule and make sure there is time allotted for you to accomplish what’s required. Of course, your schedule is dynamic and unforeseen demands and meetings will hit your calendar. If you start with a plan, then when your schedule does change, you will be able to adapt and be sure to re-allot time for what was displaced.
Simultaneously, your calendar may be more populated than ever with online meetings and updates (Really? Another Zoom call?). Without in-person check-ins, increased online interactions and conference calls are inevitable. Accept this new reality and don’t let it debilitate you from managing your own calendar. Continue to mange your schedule to ensure there is time allotted to accomplish what’s required of you. Then, importantly, protect and respect that time.
Some find it most useful to do this at the beginning of the day or week. Others find it more useful at the end of the day or week before “closing the office.” It may even help you feel that you have better control of tomorrow and allow you to psychologically leave work more completely at the end of the workday or workweek and help you sleep better.
Prioritize Your Time
Prioritize your time as you evaluate your schedule. This not only involves assigning priorities on your To Do List and determining how much time you need to deliver. Also, think about the nature of the task and when is the best time for you to do it.
Pay attention to when you have your best ideas, when it’s easiest to write or work on a presentation, when you usually flag, and when you will likely have periods of uninterrupted time to focus on more comprehensive projects. You are likely to notice times of day you’re best at certain types of undertakings. Prioritize and allocate your time accordingly.
For example, if your mind is clearest and most focused at the start of the day, try to work on things that demand your full brainpower at that time of day. Save the more clerical, menial tasks for other times when you’re less dynamic in your thinking.
Prioritize Your Energy
Similarly, but just at important, prioritize your energy. Just like your time is finite, so is your energy. Know your strengths and limits and plan accordingly.
Manage your day according to your own energy stores. If you’re not a morning person, try to avoid attacking things that demand your full energy first thing. If you start the day firing on all pistons, try to put your high-energy demands early.
Accommodating other’s schedules and demands is an ongoing balancing act in any work situation. You may not be able to reserve and take advantage of all of your prime time, but being aware or when you’re at your peaks and then leveraging them, may help.
Don’t Break Meetings with Yourself
It’s easier to create a schedule than to keep it – especially when working from home. The times most at risk can be when you’ve scheduled time for yourself to work on something specific. If possible, think of this time as a meeting you’ve made with yourself and keep it.
When others ask for your time, respect the meeting you’ve made with yourself. If you’d had a meeting with others during that time, you might simply respond, “I have a meeting then” or “I’m booked at that time, when else works?” Try taking this simple approach. It may help you to set boundaries with co-workers, clients, and family and protect the time you need to be productive.
Don’t Let Smaller Chunks of Time Go Unused
A day is made up of larger and smaller chunks of time – that’s no profound secret. Whether you’re working from home or an office, the smaller chunks can add up. Pay attention to and take advantage of these smaller amounts of time. Think about what might be accomplished in short bursts or a series of short bursts. You’d be surprised what can be taken care of in these brief sprints.
Many people schedule half-hour or hour-long meetings. If those meetings or calls end early, rather than letting those found 10- or 15-minute chunks of time be used checking social media or shooting out a few texts, try getting a jump on something else — organize your desktop, papers or contact information or return a phone call.
Be Conscious of Time Spent on Social Media
Speaking of social media: The aggregate time spent (almost unconsciously) on social media can be eye-opening. A quick check in here, a post there, a funny meme or video watched, and the trip down the rabbit hole begins.
Many smartphones have screen time trackers that let us know by the day and by the week how much time we’re spending on social media. Most track overall time spent, as well as time spent on specific platforms. Check it out.
While social media may feel like a stress-reliever during the workday, consider the overall time spent per day on apps like Instagram and Facebook. Think of other projects you might complete or things you’d like to accomplish and how they might progress if they were given the same amount of time. Then, decide which improves your overall sense of wellbeing and accomplishment more. Your answer may change week-by-week – in your gut, you’ll know what’s the best use of your time at any given point.
Make Time for Breaks
As you attempt to stay focused on your work – proving to yourself and your colleagues that you’re just as productive from home – don’t forget to take a short break a few times a day. It can provide a welcome refresh in mindset and make you better equipped to meet the task at hand (just make sure you don’t drift from break to something else non-work related or before you know it, another hour will have passed without your workload being addressed).
Evaluate What Works, Then Keep What Works
Not all work from home time management tips will work for everyone. Different approaches and methods may work for some and not for others. Give the techniques above a try to find which work best for you. Then, keep employing those techniques.
If you want to read more, Head of Content for Thrive Global, Marina Khidekel, has gleaned lessons learned from others on time management tips for working from home. Read the article here.
In this video, Kamini Wood, a certified life coach talks with PBS NewsHour’s Amna Nawaz about time management in a shifting world of working-from-home, unemployment and school closings.
If you’re interested in how others feel about working from home versus working in an office, read research results here