Working from home only makes having proper time management worse. But there’s a way to get balance the distractions and unnatural nature of working from home so you can continue to be productive.
If you’ve recently seen yourself working from home due to the pandemic induced stay-at-home order, then you’re probably still trying to figure out your new normal of working from a home office or couch or kitchen countertop. It can be quite daunting.
As someone who has worked remotely for the past 3 years, I use a combination of these time management rules to help me power through my workload. If you’re struggling to manage your time properly, face distractions from kids and pets, or find the will to start or finish tedious tasks when working remotely, then these time management tips might help you during the workday and sometimes work night.
Deep work is when you put everything aside and only focus on a task at hand for a certain period. Could be 1 hour, 3 hours or even 30 mins. During deep work, you have to remove all distractions. This included turning off your notifications, closing your door, letting people around you know that they shouldn’t disturb you. No phone, no chatting, no daydreaming. Deep work requires discipline and a determined mindset so be prepared to show discipline when getting into it. It usually requires doing away with distractions for an extended period of time. However, if you’re new to this, you can try it for 30 minutes and see how you do.
When your deep work time is up or you’re done with the task you can take a 10 minute or a 30-minute break. Whatever works for you. Now taking a break doesn’t have to be your official break of the day or a lunch break. It could be just chilling at your desk, scrolling through your phone, chatting with a colleague, going on a short walk, or just going through other tasks slowly.
Deep work ensures you’re getting through your tasks and so when you’re not fully focused on work (i.e your breaks) you don’t feel guilty or anxious.
The 10-minute rule
If a task is so tedious or annoying that you don’t want to do or start it, give yourself only 10 minutes to work on it. Set an alarm even. If after 10 mins you still feel hatred toward the task then let it be and do something else. If not, then you can continue working on it. After you’ve passed your 10-minute mark, you can stop anytime without feeling bad or anxious because you already exceeded your goal of working on the task for at least 10 minutes 🏅. This tip helps break down the barriers that prevent us from starting big or tedious projects. The fear of big tasks and how long it would or might take causes us to procrastinate getting started. The 10-minute rule gives you an incentive to work on your big or time-consuming projects without fear or pressure.
Make a to-do list
Make a list of your weekly and daily tasks. Break the list down into what you want to work on during the day and insert breaks (lunch or deep work breaks) between them.
You can also write things down in order of priorities or importance. So you can work on a big or important project, then switch to a smaller or less tasking project without losing track of your time. For example, I add responding to emails to my to-do list because going through my inbox and responding to all the messages takes over an hour. Setting time aside for it also means, when I get an email during deep work time, I don’t have to respond immediately. And that gives me more control of my time. (Unless it’s an emergency of course).
When you make a to-do list you can visualize all you need to do that day or week and it helps you stay organized, on track, and checking things off a list is always a good feeling!
Garnish Tedious and Monotonous Tasks
If you’re doing a tedious task that doesn’t require a lot of brain focus you can listen to podcasts while you do it. Any kind of podcast you like. When you do this, you’ll feel less bored and so less likely to abandon the task.
This includes tasks that involve collating data, cleaning up spreadsheets or administrative tasks you have to do every week.
I hope this helps!
Bonus tip: When working remotely from home do things to put you in a work mindset or work mode. This includes getting out of bed or your room (if you can) to work, shower, wear actual clothes (not sweatpants or your jammies), create a workspace or desk that helps remind your brain that though you’re at home physically, you are at work.
This article was first published in an issue of The Quarter-life Crisis Newsletter.
Sign up to receive The Quarter-life Crisis Newsletter which brings conversations that encourage you but also challenge you directly into your inbox every week. Plus it keeps you in the loop of what’s going on in Clever-ish.