With the remote work lifestyle becoming more and more prevalent within modern society, creating and maintaining a realistic remote work schedule is becoming a much-needed skill.
Effective time management skills allow one to improve their productivity, have less anxiety, and deliver work on time.
There are even further factors to consider when working from home, especially for those who are responsible for preparing their own schedule.
Why is scheduling big of a deal?
Those new to remote work can fall into one of two traps. They may take on too many clients, which could quickly lead to burnout or reduced work quality. Individuals could also schedule themselves far too little work, leading to lower productivity than they initially expected. But before we get started, here’s an interesting resource for all remote workers and managers.
Whether you’re new to remote work or been doing it for decades, TopTal’s The Suddenly Remote Playbook is a great guide that will take you through managing and working with people and achieving productivity, solving problems, and building culture in a remote team.
So here are some tips based on our experiences.
Plan Your Day Night Before
Instead of jumping into the impromptu tasks waiting in your inbox, plan your morning the night before and stick to your plan no matter what. It’s easy to prioritize things that others ask of you, but be wary of restructuring your entire day and losing sight of your initial goals.
Consider how you’re supposed to act in an airplane emergency – you can’t help others until you’ve secured your oxygen mask first.
If a new task comes in that isn’t 100% urgent, designate a time that you’ll work on it uninterrupted or try to delegate the problem solving as much as possible until you have time to deal with it. If your mornings tend to start like this regularly, consider waking up earlier to be proactive, or make it known to your colleagues or clients that you’re happy to answer their emails in the afternoon if it’s not urgent.
If you’re just not a morning person, that’s completely okay!
Don’t let the hundreds of articles about successful entrepreneurs with 5 am wake-up times discourage you from creating a morning routine that’s comfortable for you.
And if, despite all your best intentions, you do find yourself sidetracked, don’t panic. Take a five-minute break to step away from your computer, breathe, write down the next specific thing you want to focus on, then come back to your computer with that singular task in mind.
Invest in yourself and your workplace
If you know you’re more likely to work from home, splurge a little bit on a desk or office space that you feel good about, and that will inspire you to get work done.
Pay attention to ergonomics.
Use the most comfortable chair you can with back support. Also, consider investing in a hands-free headset. At the very least, pop in your earbuds for long phone calls. I learned the hard way that sitting in a wooden chair, balancing a landline phone between my chin and shoulder was not a sustainable situation.
Create a work-mode ambiance.
Even if you have to cover 100% of the costs yourself, it may be a worthwhile investment in your business or career.
Join groups, forums dedicated to remote workers and ask around if there are people in your area who have found good cafes or hidden gems that are good for coworking.
If there are indeed “hidden gems,” they won’t be on Yelp or Google, so asking people in similar positions might shed some light on new, unexplored places. There are also tons of helpful tools like Breather, WorkFrom, and LiquidSpace that helps remote workers navigate the world of wifi speeds, access to power outlets, meeting rooms and more to skip the learning curve and get your day going.
Better yet, start your own coworking Meetup group that gets together at a cafe to work together once a week.
If you still have a hard time finding your flow as to where you’ll work best, keep trying new things. You can’t change your outcomes or find new solutions without trying new things to see what fits.
Prioritize Your Tasks
If you’re having a hard time identifying priorities, try working backward by recognizing work that’s not a priority. Eliminate those items and assess what’s left. You’ll have fewer things to consider and a more comfortable time deciding what’s necessary.
Be open doing experiments with some new productivity techniques that you may have rolled your eyes at in the past and find a method that suits you and helps you get things done.
Donald Miller, author and CEO of StoryBrand, outlines in his storyline productivity technique, managing your time goes hand in hand with managing your mental energy. The more time you fight with your mind on which task you should be doing, the more mental bandwidth you’re using up that won’t be available later when the real work begins. Make quick and intentional decisions to focus on what will serve you most, and just do it.
Maintain Work-Life Balance
The real key here is to figure out what the ideal balance set-up looks like specifically for you and your goals, and then work toward them. No one else can tell you how to manage the time in your life because no one else gets your life the way you do.
When you’re working on your own, or with a distributed team, you are responsible for managing your own time, create a self plan, establish self-discipline and self-awareness. You need to identify which habits make you more efficient and which ones are holding you back. Make it your objective to set clear boundaries for yourself. Identify what you’re willing to tolerate as far as time management, workload and hours, and stick to those boundaries.
Having a perfectly balanced remote work life is a complex process that truthfully never ends.
Even when you’re able to successfully get your work and life demands in sync, your priorities are invariably changing with life, you’ll need to re-assess often.
Don’t Push Yourself Too Much
We all have intense periods at work where multiple deadlines converge, a critical deal is closing, or a busy season lasts for a few months. During these times, we may work more intensely or longer hours. But we know that the situation is temporary, and we can keep our work in perspective.
Approximately 10% of Americans are considered workaholics, defined as having a “stable tendency to compulsively and excessively work.” Whether you are amid a temporary work crunch, or if working all the time is your version of “normal,” there are some vital signs that you are pushing yourself too hard.
Don’t forget to:
Consistently putting off vacations including working over significant holidays, regularly working all weekend, or dismissing the idea of an occasional day off is a sign that you are burning the candle from both ends.
Smaller breaks, such as taking the weekend to recharge, carving out personal time in the evening, or having an occasional day off can also be an essential part of having sufficient downtime to restore your energy and counter the drain of being “always on.”
Trust me on this one, it helps a lot and is simple: Don’t be a pajama sloth. Get out of your pajamas. Put on other clothes.
Hey, I’m not judging. It doesn’t need to be a suit; it could be workout gear. Just put on something that isn’t what you wore to bed. Outfit change might do wonders for your mind and will get your brain out of relaxing mode into work mode.