Ever wondered how some people manage to achieve more in their day than others? We all have the same 24 hours in a day, but good time management will see you working smarter and not harder.
When you work in an office environment, the emails don’t seem to stop and there are often people around you creating an endless amount of distraction. In fact, Jason Fried in his book, Remote, calls the office an “interruption factory”. As a result, many people actually find themselves needing to stay longer at the office, often unpaid, in order to get their work done.
We caught up with Troy Quaife, a corporate trainer who specialises in time management. He’s passionate about helping people to achieve more in less time and create better work/life balance.
As Troy explains, things are slightly different when you work remotely. While you may not have the distractions from office colleagues, you’re vulnerable to other forms of distraction, particularly when working from home. There’s always things around you that need to get done, like doing the laundry or cleaning the house. Then there’s the pull of the TV or time wasted surfing the net.
“On the other hand, it’s very easy to overwork when working from home. Your work and living space can become one and your computer or phone is often at arms length at all times of the day,” says Troy.
Without a doubt, spending a little time learning about time management techniques will have huge benefits now and throughout your career, particularly if you’re a remote worker.
Here are Troy’s 6 simple time management tips that you can implement immediately:
1. Set your hours
It’s so easy to just pop online to do that little bit more. But it’s important to set your work hours so that you’re not eating into your family or leisure time. This is crucial when you’re working across multiple time zones with colleagues in different countries. There can be an expectation you are always available for everyone when you are part of a distributed remote team. Unfortunately, all that will do is burn you out. Communicate your hours to your team so they know when you’re available and try to stick with it. Don’t fall into the ‘always on’ lifestyle which is one of the biggest challenges people face when working remotely.
2. Set up your work space
In an office situation, there is a space for you to work. It should be exactly the same for your work space at home. Make sure you have everything you need within easy reach, but resist having your work overflow into your living room or bedroom. Try to separate your work area so you can set a clear boundary between when you’re working and when you’re not. And it’s a good idea if you can close the door to your work space at the end of each day. This helps to create a habit of ‘switching off’.
3. Plan your day
Just as you would do if working around in-office colleagues, it’s imperative to plan and prioritise your activities for the day. Make a list with the most important to least important tasks you need to work on. Then set blocks of time throughout your day to work on these activities. For those really important tasks where you have a deadline to meet, set your devices to do not disturb for that block of time so you can get into a state of deep focus.
4. Take real breaks
Part of planning your day should also include planning your breaks. Setting times for your morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea will give you more defined blocks of time when you can focus on being productive. And if you’re feeling the pull of the pantry when you’re trying to focus on your work, prepare some snacks to nibble on at your desk.
5. Beware of ‘drop in’ visitors
A previous client told a story about parking her car around the corner because her Mum kept turning up for a coffee and wouldn’t leave! It’s so important for friends and family to understand that just because you’re at home, doesn’t mean you’re available for them. You’re still working and, like any job, you still have deadlines to meet. Be clear about your work times and communicate this to your friends and family so there’s no misunderstandings.
6. Learn your time wasters
Of course, these things vary for each individual, but you need to know what your time wasters are. It could be spending too much time on Facebook, watching Youtube videos or online shopping. Avoid doing these things during your set work hours as they can be a huge black hole for time. Instead, set a time to devote to these activities and you’ll feel less inclined to have them distract you when you should be working.
With a few simple rules, you can easily work smarter and not harder and enjoy your remote work lifestyle. As Troy explains, “the most important part is to set the rules upfront and have clear boundaries. Don’t let your time become a ‘free for all’ otherwise you can burn out and find you have less time to do the things that are important to you.”