At first, remote working may feel like a dream!
No managers overseeing your work, no physical boundaries to your workspace, no commute, and no pressure to dress up in work attire (unless on a work zoom call!) However, this dream may soon fade as reality sets in that you are now completely responsible for your time keeping and the way in which your days are structured.
With 52% of our current global workforce working from home at least once a week, it can be a very difficult transition and something that many, if not most, people cannot just effortlessly slip into.
Having such a large mass of unstructured time on your hands can quickly become overwhelming. Without receiving direct feedback, it can be hard to ascertain how well you are using your time and your work may not immediately be as visible as it is in an office context. Therefore, I have put together some tips that can help you get on top of your workload whilst working from home.
Track your time
It is important to understand how long different tasks take, so that you can allocate a certain amount of time for different pieces of work across your week.
Automatic tracking apps such as Timely, Toggl or Harvest can handle this for you.
If you are self employed and have many clients, it can also be useful to track time when you are NOT working, so that you can see what distracts you and for how long.
It helps maintain healthy work patterns – showing you the number of hours you work each day, so you can offset any imbalances and protect yourself from burnout.
Keep a routine
I have a client meeting at 09:30 every day, so I always know that I must be up and ready to engage for a specific time.
It’s useful to set consistent ‘core hours’ for your work, including dedicated availability hours so colleagues know when they can contact you and when they can expect a response.
Always outline what you want to achieve by the end of the week and sketch out the tasks required to get there. Each day frontload your most important tasks (and typically the most complex) to capitalise on your fresh focus.
‘Time blocking’ is a highly effective method for getting you started with your most daunting tasks. It requires you to set finite portions of time for different activities in your day, ensuring that the amount of effort you put in stays proportionate to the value of the task.
If you have several clients, it’s imperative to keep ‘time blocks’ so each client receives your undivided attention for your allotted amount of time. It prevents you from overworking on one client’s work and leaving yourself tight for time for another.
Separate Work and Relaxation Areas
With remote working, it’s easy for work to bleed into your downtime, and no clear cut-off means that you may work longer hours than you would in the office.
At the end of your workday, shut down your electronics and move into another room or area. This physical boundary enables you to take a step back from the workload and enjoy some time away from your desk to recharge your batteries and come back with a clear head.
To help with productivity, block unimportant notifications on smartphones and ensure you don’t have ‘background visuals’ such as TV taking away from your full attention. It can lead to mistakes being made. Just opening one notification on Social Media can lead you down a rabbit hole and take your attention away from your work. You can check your notifications on your break.
Try anti-distraction tools such apps like LeechBlock or FocusMe. The first is a smart browser extension on Chrome or Firefox which has a timer that allows you to choose which sites you want to block, when you want them to be blocked and how long for. The second is an app of similar effect, enabling you to create productive routines by blocking sites, as well as having a Pomodoro timer and activity tracker to see exactly where you’re spending your time.
Aid Your Wellbeing and Posture
Sitting on a sofa, bed, or at the kitchen table for long periods of time can play havoc with your posture. Sit/Stand desks and office chairs will help, but if you do not have these, then just try to find a seat which keeps your back straight and supported.
Taking 5-minute “microbreaks” has been proven to improve cognitive performance.
Take a break from all your screens as this can cause visual stress from looking at them for too long. Instead, get some fresh air as this reduces anxiety and aids mental focus.
Creating a playlist and listening to your favourite music may also prove to be effective at helping you to unwind and go to your happy place! Personally, I choose different music depending on my task. It’s good to do things you enjoy as it can really help lift your mood and improve your mindset for the rest of the day.
Check In With Others
Keeping in contact with friends and family is important for both parties involved. It shows that you care about them and want to know how they’re doing, strengthening your relationship and relieving anxiety
It can also be a massive mood booster on your side, allowing you to blow off some steam and have a laugh.
An Inviting Workspace
I am lucky enough to have a separate office space as I work from home permanently. I have made it into a little haven of serenity.
I have lots of plants surrounding me and plenty of natural light.
My desk is clear and tidy (mostly), and my cat sits with me most days. I have everything I need within arms’ reach and a cup of tea and bottle of water are always to hand.
Stay Conscious of Events and Meetings
Before clocking off each day, check your schedule for the following day to ensure you’re ready for any early-morning meetings.
After you finish a particularly trying work block, take a break and treat yourself to a tea and your favourite snack.
This is a great motivator to keep you feeling positive and increase productivity.
I hope these tips prove useful in helping you to manage your time more wisely whilst working from home. Although many of these tips may seem obvious, sometimes the simplest ideas get forgotten and so it’s good to have a reminder!