Time management is one of the biggest challenges any professional has to face.
Even in a traditional workplace, figuring out how to organise your schedule to be as productive as possible is tough. When you’re working from home and you don’t have the structure that used to guide you, the problem becomes even more significant.
According to the Office of National Statistics, the number of UK employees working remotely has increased by a quarter of a million in the last ten years. In the last few months, that number has skyrocketed.
According to the Office of National Statistics, the number of UK employees working remotely has increased by a quarter of a million in the last ten years. In the last few months, that number has skyrocketed. Click To Tweet
While it’s true that remote working increases employee satisfaction, happiness, and even productivity in some cases, the best results come with proper planning. Now that many employees are suddenly in a remote environment without warning, it’s up to dedicated team members to find a way of staying productive.
The benefits of time management
45% of people say that they spend over an hour on their commute every day. Working from home instantly eliminates one of the major drains on our time when it comes to mastering the workday. However, it’s essential to learn how to use these new schedules to our advantage.
If you can master proper time management, your productivity will naturally go through the roof. Some of the benefits of time management skills:
You’ll be more likely to deliver work and tasks on time, which means that you master your deadlines. The more you complete work on time, the less stress you need to deal with, worrying about losing an account or disappointing a boss.
Better work quality
Organising your time effectively involves using your most productive hours to focus on your most challenging tasks. When you discover how and when to use the majority of your brainpower, you benefit from a better quality of work.
Time management means that you spend less time figuring out what to do next, and more time getting work done. With smart goals to guide you, you’ll find yourself accelerating towards your targets at a greater rate.
Reduced anxiety and stress
Feeling as though you’re always struggling to keep up at work can be a source of significant stress and anxiety. This hampers your productivity and takes a toll on your overall health and quality of life.
A person with time management skills will often have access to more opportunities. You’ll be the first person on your boss’s list for new and engaging tasks, and you may discover new chances to gain promotions too. What’s more, you prove that you can thrive in a remote environment.
The implications of poor time management
Just as good time management delivers a host of positive benefits, being unable to properly handle your time provides several issues. When you don’t have a strategy in place to guide you through your day, you start stumbling from one task to another, never benefiting from the right amount of focus.
As valuable as the remote working environment can be, it can also lead to stress, procrastination, and poor productivity without a proper plan. Some common implications of poor time management include:
The most obvious result of poor time management, procrastination happens when you’re not sure what you should be doing at any given time. When you don’t have a clear plan in front of you, it’s easy to start with easy tasks and put more complex projects off until later. Applying good time management skills helps you to work smarter rather than harder.
Reduced energy and motivation
When it feels as though you have an insurmountable pile of work ahead of you, it’s hard to find the get up and go you need. Learning how to effectively manage your time can make every workday feel less daunting. This increases your feelings of motivation and allows you to leverage your energy properly.
Not knowing how to effectively manage your time often means that you spend longer on certain tasks. This could mean you often end up working longer than you should be just to finish crucial projects. When you’re pushing yourself too hard, your risk of burning out increases too, which means that you’re more likely to get sick.
Strained working relationships
When things don’t get done on time, it has an impact on the entire business – not just one person. If your colleagues don’t feel as though you’re pulling your weight, they’re going to start feeling unhappy with you. This could lead to problems with strained relationships in your work.
Damaged customer and client relationships
If you miss deadlines or deliver work that isn’t the right quality, your customers and clients start to feel unhappy too. This becomes even more of an issue for businesses that have service level agreements to live up to.
Working at home tips for effective time management
Now you know why effective time management is so crucial, you may be asking, “What are some good time management skills to learn?”
In most cases, the more time you spend working from home, the more you’ll discover about your working strategies, and how you can make yourself more productive. However, there are steps you can take to ensure you’re moving in the right direction. For instance:
1. Finding a new routine
When you were working at the office, you probably woke up and prepared yourself for the commute to work. You’d stay in the office until it was time for you to end your shift, then you’d return home.
Now, the moment you wake up, you’re simultaneously at work and at home at the same time. This means you need to re-think the way you approach the workday. Staying in bed for another hour because you don’t have to take your morning commute might not be the best way to handle your schedule. Instead, it might be worth setting your alarm for the same time and arranging your day from there.
Now that you don’t have your commute to worry about, you can calmly go through your morning routine, eating a healthy breakfast, rather than just grabbing a piece of toast, or getting some exercise into your morning. When you sit down for your day “at the office” make sure you know when you’re going to start work, and when you’re going to stop.
2. Take plenty of breaks
It’s important to embed plenty of breaks into your working routine so that you can refresh your mind. Remember that when you’re at the office, you’ll often have moments when you go and get a cup of coffee or talk to a coworker. You can still have these small relaxation moments at home.
If you’re using a desktop app for collaboration, learn how to set your presence at certain times so that your colleagues know when you’re available to talk, and when you’re away. This will be particularly useful at the end of the day when you decide to “log off” for the night. Setting your presence as offline may prompt employees to avoid messaging you until the next day.
3. Remove unnecessary distractions
One of the biggest challenges of working from home is that there are often more distractions around you. In the office, work surrounds you on all sides. Even if you’re briefly distracted by a team member, the conversation often has something to do with work.
When you’re at home, there will be family members, noises from pets, and even televisions in the background. The best thing you can do is reduce distractions wherever possible. Turn off un-needed electronics that might steal your attention and clean your desk, so you know where everything is.
Remember to set aside scheduled blocks of time when you can check your phone and your email, so you’re not constantly responding to messages instead of getting work done.
4. Plan around your energy levels
Some employees are their most productive when they first arrive at the office. They wake up fresh and feel ready to tackle the day, until about 2pm when they hit a productivity slump. Other people don’t feel productive until later in the day.
Now you’re working from home, you’ll have more freedom to organise your tasks based on your own energy levels. Think about when you’re most likely to feel driven and motivated. If it’s okay with your boss, you could even decide to start and finish work at a later time in the day. For those moments when you know you’re going to be less productive, set time aside for more monotonous tasks, like responding to email.
5. Establish smart goals
You may have used smart goals worksheet before to plan for business targets. The same goal-oriented process can also work when you’re at home. Set targets at the beginning of each day that is:
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
- Achievable (agreed, attainable)
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
- Time-bound (time-based, time-limited, timely, time-sensitive)
For instance, you might decide that you’re going to finish an entire pitch for a new sales customer by the end of the working day. Once you’ve set your goal, focus on that, and don’t let anything else grab your attention. This could even mean getting rid of things that might steal your focus, like notifications from your team members, or phone calls.
6. Make meetings more meaningful
In an environment where instant messaging exists for quick conversations with remote teams, there’s no need to launch a meeting for every conversation. That means that when you do decide to get together with your team for a video or audio conference, the conversation needs to be meaningful.
Plan the agenda of the meeting in advance, and make sure that everyone who should be attending knows what you’re trying to achieve. At the end of the meeting, follow up with other team members to ensure that everyone knows what they should be doing next. You can even use time management and product management tools to assign specific projects to colleagues.
Create a productive environment
Perhaps one of the best things you can do to make the most of your work-from-home environment is to organise it properly.
If possible, it’s helpful to set aside a specific space for your work. Converting your garage or spare room into an office while you’re working from home will help the “home” life from encroaching on your work environment.
Having a door that you can shut when you’re at work to block out the sounds of family and other distractions is incredibly valuable.
Create a dedicated workspace that includes everything you need to stay productive and connected. If you have time management resources available from your team, like collaboration tools, and time-tracking apps, make sure that you know how to use them.
Take the time to explore the video collaboration tools that you’ll be using to work with your team members. Find out how file and screen-sharing works, and make sure that you have a good enough internet connection to deliver a good voice call. You should feel 100% comfortable and familiar with all of the technology that’s available to you.
You could even look for ways to reduce the number of distractions that you face each day by cutting down on email and using instant messaging to keep on top of the conversation instead.
At the same time, make sure that you keep your office space clean and organised. Cluttered space often leads to a cluttered mind.
Make the most of your new workplace
Working from home can an incredible experience for a lot of employees. It’s a chance to leave the frustration of the morning commute behind and organise your day in a way that suits you.
However, before you can unlock the full benefits of working from home, you need to figure out how to manage your time and your space effectively. Using the tips above to ensure that you have the right setup in place will help you to minimise distractions and increase efficiency in your new home office.
Good luck mastering the work-from-home lifestyle!
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Originally published Jun 05, 2020, updated Jan 16, 2023