It’s consistently one of the biggest issues people find when they start working from home, whether they’re working for themselves or they’re working as part of a remote team for the first time. They find it difficult to manage their time and often find that they’re not spending as much of it working as they would like. Whether you’re having trouble focusing, don’t know what to do with your time, find yourself wanting more of it, or are missing deadlines, you need to get a better grasp on the time you have. Here are a few ways to do that.
Make a routine
First of all, make sure that you have a set time when you’re going to go to work. Pretend like you’re leaving the house and going to the office if you need to, and have a proper morning work routine. Get dressed for work, make sure you have breakfast beforehand, and make sure that you actually start working at the time when you’re officially “on the clock.” One of the big issues of working from home is that work-time and home-time can tend to blend together, making you less productive while at work, but also less relaxed while trying to enjoy your home space. Set clear boundaries and you’ll have a much healthier attitude towards your work when you start.
Work when you feel most productive
Unless you’re working to the specifications of an employer or employer-like contractor, then you’re not going to have to follow anyone else’s work schedule. As such, you may not have to do the 9-to-5. Instead, you can find the time that’s most productive for you, whether that means working a little later in the evening of getting up at the crack of dawn to get everything out of the way by noon. Find when you feel most productive and be willing to experiment a little with it. You might be surprised to find that most people do not like working that 9-to-5 and, when given the freedom, will work at all kinds of times of the day. Whatever works best for them.
Ensure you have a separate work-oriented space
When you’re working from home, then maintaining a healthy balance between business and family, or home life is crucial. One of the benefits of working from home is that you get to see your family during breaks and, if you have a very young child, you can do some work while keeping an eye on them as well. However, if there are no boundaries set between your workspace and the rest of the home, then distractions can walk in and out freely, making it hard for you to get any uninterrupted work time to yourself. Make sure you set some boundaries, create a clear home office space for yourself, and ensure your family or other tenants in the home respect some rules.
Know what work you have to do first
If you have your workspace set up, and you have a clear routine to your work, then the next step is to consider which work you’re actually going to do. You can set a to-do list, which helps you oversee all the tasks on your plate for the day, but that doesn’t help you see which ones you actually need to do first. Tools like the Action Priority Matrix can help by allowing you to sort and order those tasks on your to-do list by certain criteria. The most common criteria are timeliness and importance, so you’re always doing the most urgent and key actions first. It also makes it easier for you to see which tasks you don’t have to do anytime soon, helping you avoid some major timewasters.
Split the day into time blocks
There are some tasks you can look at and clearly declare “it will take me half an hour to get this done.” Then there are tasks that are much harder to pin any timescale to. For tasks like those, it’s important that you make progress on them, but you might not necessarily get them completed in a single work session or day. As such, to make sure you’re not spending too much time on a process that isn’t getting completed, you should break your workday into blocks of time, whether they be 30 minutes, an hour long, or otherwise. As such, when you’re scheduling the day ahead, you can layout time blocks that are dedicated to a task and, even if you don’t finish the task within that time, you make sure you don’t leave other tasks undone by moving one.
Schedule everything that you need to
Whether you’re working alone or with others, there are likely to still be certain time-intensive tasks you’re going to have to do, whether it’s a deadline to follow, a meeting to have with clients or teammates, or otherwise. If you’re working as part of, or the leader of, a team, then you need to know that other members of the team have and follow a schedule, too. With tools like Sling work schedule management, you can even have collaborative schedules. This means you can see what any member of the team is doing at a given time of the day, so you know when not to interrupt them, for instance.
See where you’re wasting time
Even if you have a completely organized approach to how you’re supposed to spend your time at work, it’s not unheard of for some of that time to slip through the cracks. We’re not always spending our time doing what we should be. We can promise to be better, but unless we find exactly where we’re letting ourselves down, it can be hard to live up to that promise. To that end, it’s worth looking at time-management tools like RescueTime. These tools can help you see where you’re using your time and show you how to get back the time you’re wasting in future. Whether it’s a distraction such as a certain website that can be blocked or emails, as highlighted in the next point, you need to find the specific approach necessary to fight off time-wasters.
Don’t let email take over
If you’re spending a lot of time throughout the day checking and re-checking your inbox, then you’re going to end up wasting more than you think. To ensure that you’re not stuck in your emails for most of the day, you need to set specific times that are dedicated to emails and then, throughout the rest of the time blocks, spend no time at all looking at your emails. Also, ensure that you take steps to organize your inbox so that it’s much easier to find a certain email when you need it, and to ensure that you’re not scrolling through the dreaded multi-page inbox.
Take breaks when you need to
Don’t forget that you are not an automaton. You will not be able to work for six hours straight without any drop in productivity. If you want to make sure that you get the most work out of yourself throughout the day, then taking a break is an essential part of that. People tend to experience a decrease in energy during the second half of the work-day and a break, away from your workspace with real time to relax, can help you feel re-energized when you come back.
With the tips above, you may not be able to always stay completely in control of your time, but you can make sure that you’re always using it more productively and efficiently.