Hands up everyone! Who wants a better balance between their work life and their home life?
I am guessing pretty much everybody, right? In our current circumstances, a lot of us have been working from home. Something which may continue for the foreseeable future. However, this extra flexibility can bring with it a load of new time management challenges.
I get it, I’m one of you. My work life and my home life used to be distinctly separate. While now, they have become somewhat merged together. I’m home all the time and I’ve had to adapt in ways I didn’t initially expect.
I had an office setup. I knew I would be on my own. Nevertheless, my days look very different now than they did before. In ways, I didn’t necessarily expect and as a result, I’ve been making changes to how I manage my time. I’m trying to spend my time effectively to progress toward my goals.
It’s a big change to move from working in an office surrounded by people to being physically on your own at home with all the freedom and distractions. But look at this as an opportunity. This change is a good time to analyse how efficiently you use your time. Here are a few tips that can help you make the most of your “work time” and maximise your “home time”.
Prioritising your tasks is one of the basics of time management. One of the biggest reasons people opt to work from home (aside from the virus) is that their priorities have changed. Whether that’s about spending less time commuting. Making school pickups or having more time to devote to your home life. A shift in your priorities will have a huge impact on your time management. It’s all about prioritising the tasks that bring you closer to your goal. If that goal has shifted or changed completely then perhaps some of your routines, time management tools, schedules or processes need to be adapted to reflect that.
Consider new tools, maybe the Pomodoro technique works better for you now you are working on your own. Perhaps it is easier to block plan your time. Or theme your days now you have more control of your schedule. Or maybe it is simpler for you to combine your work and home diaries as well as your do lists.
Consider how your old morning routine set you up for your day in the office. It’s a bit different when the dress code doesn’t matter as much and you don’t have to commute to your work, isn’t it?
Creating a new routine gives you the same transition phase. It lets you get down to work more quickly.
However, some of your original work routine should remain the same. Have a “uniform” even if it looks nothing like it used to. Make your tea in your “office mug”. Pop-out of your house for a quick walk around the block. Whatever gives you the opportunity to make that adjustment from home to work. Remember to plan for how to transition back to “home mode” at the end of your working day too.
Consider which of your work office habits were beneficial and which need to be changed in your home office.
11am coffee break and a chat with Sharon? That’s a good breather and chance to connect, have it over Skype. Grabbing a meal combo from the corner shop for lunch eaten at your desk? Access to your kitchen and a separate area for eating could create a new habit that improves your nutrition and refreshes you for the afternoon ahead.
Habits and routines are like going to the gym at the same time on the same days. Eating the same things for breakfast, or taking breaks at the same times help with the discipline needed to get things done, save time. As well as decrease the draw on your decision-making energy bank.
Eliminating the need to spend energy on small decisions like this reduces the chance of decision fatigue. It bolsters your reserves for making the more important decisions as the day goes on and improves the chances of something getting done. It is more trouble to decide not to do it than to just follow your habit.
4. Time Wasters
You probably already have strategies in place in the work office to avoid time wasters. Like checking your email only at particular times or closing your office door. A ‘do not disturb’ on Skype or wearing unicorn earmuffs so people know not to interrupt you (true story). But the home office brings a whole new variety of challenges. Let’s be honest, it is a lot easier to set when to chat boundaries with Sharon who sits at the next desk than it is with your new colleagues at the home office (ie the Labrador/toddler/curious cat in your life).
So think ahead, what type of distractions might happen. The Amazon delivery for next door, the home phone line or interruptions from kids/pets. The laundry pile shouting at you, and deciding how you will deal with it.
An actual office door works wonders if you’re lucky enough to have space but there are other solutions to get the quiet time you need. Get creative – is there a reason you need to work during typical 9-5 office hours? Would evening or early morning hours work better in your household? Is there an under stairs cupboard big enough to create an office in? Remember that if you were in the work office that doorbell and landline would have gone unanswered without catastrophe. The same goes for the laundry and all those other household chores. Although being able to pop a load in the washer at lunchtime is a life changer!
Also, don’t underestimate the amount of time wasted on searching for something you need. Staplers, sticky notes, a pen that works…make sure you have the supplies you need to hand!
The transition from work office to the home office isn’t simply a matter of doing exactly what you used to do in a different location. Luckily, with a bit of thought about how you use your time, you can make it work in a way that gets you to your goals.