Remote work still remains the crown jewel of work for most professionals. Nothing quite measures up to defining your own hours and working from the comfort of your home.
You don't have to worry about the tedious office commute or the stress of dressing the part. You also get to save on costs and boost your productivity while at it.
But it isn't always rosy. Despite its many perks, remote work can put you in a bind. You could easily lose focus due to the many distractions and even end up burning out because you don't know when to stop working.
One way to avoid most of the downsides of telecommuting is by implementing exceptional time management practices.
This post will uncover different tips on optimizing your time management so you can be more productive when working from home.
Define a Strict Work Schedule
One of the main advantages of remote work is flexible working hours. Most companies allow workers to define how they work as long as they can complete tasks within stipulated deadlines.
While flexible hours is a great advantage, it can be a bad thing if you don't use it well.
And since working from home puts you in the middle of domestic distractions, you may be tempted to juggle work and other personal activities. This work behavior can significantly affect your productivity and efficiency. You'll be achieving less and reducing your work quality.
So, the first step in separating work and personal life is by defining your work hours.
Dedicating a number of hours to work means you can block out everything else and focus on your tasks.
If your workplace allows you to choose your hours, you can determine your own 9 to 5 by picking periods where you're more energized to work and will deal with fewer distractions.
Time Management Techniques is a Great Soft Skill
Managing your time goes beyond setting up your calendar and filling different time slots with tasks and activities.
You have to use different methods to ensure you handle those tasks efficiently and stick to time. We'll walk you through different techniques that help you to track your productivity, stop procrastinating, and waste less time in decision-making.
Time boxing refers to limiting a task to a specific timeline. This time limit could be days, hours, or minutes, depending on the task's difficulty or complexity.
You can use timeboxes to challenge yourself to finish jobs within a specific period. That said, you must be realistic when creating these time blocks.
Objectively consider the heft and complexity of the job before allocating a timebox.
Time tracking involves monitoring and recording how much time you spend on a task. The technique helps you to measure how fast you are while handling some jobs so you can be more efficient at timeboxing.
Time tracking also helps you identify time wasters and activities you should eliminate and reduce.
To track your time, you need a time tracker. Some of these applications track the apps and websites you use and tell you how much time you spend on each. That way, you're able to know what distracts you and what to avoid.
A time map is a visual representation of your entire work schedule and activities. By looking at your time map, you'll know exactly where you are at any point of the day and what to do next.
The time mapping technique involves collating and categorizing all your activities - both work and personal - in a signal place. This way, you're creating a system that guides everything you do.
You can create a time map using a spreadsheet or pen and paper. Some time management tools can also help you create time maps.
After listing out your activities, create a time block for each, then categorize them according to type and urgency using color codes.
The Pomodoro Technique
You can get rid of the temptation to procrastinate by using the Pomodoro technique. It involves working in 25-minute cycles and taking 5-minute breaks after each cycle. Each work cycle is known as a pomodoro.
After going through four pomodoros, you can take a longer break of about 20 to 30 minutes.
To properly implement the technique, you'll need a timer that alerts you to stop working after 25 minutes, then you can set it to alert you to start work again after your 5-minute break.
You can easily use your phone's alarm or download one of the numerous tools online that support the technique.
Use Task Prioritization Techniques
You won't be able to achieve anything meaningful if you don't prioritize your tasks correctly. Knowing the right time to handle specific tasks means you won't have to spend long hours to make your day successful.
So, when writing out your to-do list, take note of tasks that are important, urgent, and non-essential, then determine what to do with them.
Thankfully, there are different techniques that you can employ to effectively prioritize your tasks and execute them in the right order.
The Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix involves grouping tasks in four different quadrants, namely:
- Important and Urgent (Handle with urgency)
- Not urgent and important (Schedule for later)
- Not important and Urgent (Delegate)
- Not urgent and not important (Delete)
The important and urgent jobs are top priority. They're tasks with a strict and close deadline that are also critical to your core project.
The not urgent and important tasks are also critical to your core project but don't have a close or pressing deadline. Not being urgent doesn't mean you should take them less seriously. After all, they're critical to your main objectives. Thus, they should be scheduled after important and urgent jobs.
Jobs that aren't important but urgent are pressing tasks that don't concern or affect your work. They could be help you may render to a colleague or assistance for a subordinate. You can delegate these tasks.
You'll have to get rid of tasks that are neither important nor urgent.
The Pareto Technique
The Pareto Principle is also known as the 80/20 rule. It states that you only have to do 20% of your tasks to consider your day 80% successful. What you have to do is to identify the most pressing jobs that will make you feel fulfilled for the day once you've completed them.
Eat the Frog
The eat the frog technique compels you to handle your most pressing and challenging tasks at the start of your day. Once completed, you can move on to the next task that's also the highest in difficulty.
Break Down Large Tasks
Large tasks can be massive time wasters if you don't know how to handle them. They can discourage and slow you down, leaving no time for other critical jobs.
While the eat the frog technique encourages you to tackle the challenging jobs first, you don't have to eat the big frogs whole or you'll likely choke.
So, break down the tasks into smaller pieces that you can manage more efficiently. This way, you're able to handle the job bit by bit until you complete it.
For example, if you want to create a marketing video, you can break down the task by separating script writing from the voice recording and shooting. If the scripting is another large task, you can further break it down by dividing it into:
You may think that multitasking helps you do many things at once. It doesn't.
In reality, when you're doing more than one thing at any time, you're chopping up your time and switching between tasks.
You'll be spending more time completing a single goal than when you face one thing at a time. That's because you'll be interrupting different processes and will end up losing focus. More time will be spent to regain focus and continue where you stopped.
So, ensure you change your work behavior and focus on one thing at a time.
It's fine to take breaks when you've worked for too long, but when you do take breaks, make sure you're resting.
Find Your Productive Hours
Another great time management practice is knowing your productive hours and how to use them.
Your productive hours are those periods during your work day - or night - when you're more focused and motivated to work.
It works differently for everyone. While studies have suggested a specific time of day, many individuals don't follow the same pattern.
You may be a morning person or you could be more energized to work during the usual lunch hours.
To find you productive hours, you can look at your time tracking data to figure out which hours you do more work. If you find the pattern, then you can maximize these hours.
To maximize your productive hours, reserve them for tasks that are complex and challenging. That's because you'll have more focus and energy to deal with them efficiently.
Breaks are Sacred
Working long hours is one thing that work from home employees struggle with.
A study showed that remote workers often felt guilty about taking breaks. That's because they're constantly worried they might not be performing as they should while working from home.
You can always remind yourself to take breaks by making them a critical part of your schedule. If you feel like you're not achieving a lot, take a close look at the jobs you've executed on your to-do list.
Failing to take breaks could end up causing physical and mental breakdown, and you'll ultimately end up not performing. On the other hand, you can reach and maintain higher performance levels when you always take a break to recharge.
That's how to optimize your time management to improve your productivity levels while you work from home. You can continue to refine your work process by identifying things you can improve on. It's also recommended that you use a dedicated workspace and learn how to stop working to increase focus and performance.