Creating a balanced work-from-home schedule is critical to maintaining work quality and mental health.
You wake up feeling relaxed and rested, planning to make breakfast for yourself while worrying about the upcoming meeting at the office. As the day starts to warm up, you begin to feel the pre-commute stress. And all of a sudden, you realize…
“I don’t have to go to the office! I can do my work without leaving my place!”
Welcome to the world of work-from-home!
Due to the pandemic or a lifestyle change, you must have experienced remote working at some point in life. The flexibility and freedom it gives are unmatched. Today, many people are working from home as most companies are shifting to the remote culture.
According to Global Workplace Analytics, 4.6 million people were already working remotely even before the pandemic hit. The freedom to choose your work location and the perks of staying home near your dear ones are a few of the advantages of working remotely. But that’s not all; remote work has tons of other benefits:
Benefits of Remote Work:
- Office of Your Choice: Work from your grandma’s home or the beaches of Hawaii; that’s up to you. As long as you have a laptop, internet, and a cup of coffee (optional), you can build your own office anywhere.
- Commute Stress...What’s That?: No more frustration from eternal car honks and save a lot of time spent on commuting and can use it for other productive tasks.
- Work Whenever You Want to: Remote work enables you to define your work hours. The main catch here is creating a realistic work-from-home schedule to keep everything on track.
- Eat Healthy and Tasty: Often, people neglect nourishing their bodies with vital nutrition. When you create a balanced work-from-home schedule, you can cook your food instead of consuming unhealthy calories.
- Your Productivity Hits the Sky: One of the crucial benefits of remote work, if managed right, is high productivity. This is even backed by studies that affirm that work-from-home increases employee productivity. If you get more focused during the job, you’ll take less time doing a task.
- You Save the Environment: A study reveals, around 54 million tons of greenhouse gases would be reduced if people choose remote work. This means along with the benefits of productivity, flexibility, and health, you can also do your part in reducing pollution.
However, remote work is not all gold. Working from home sounds like a dream...until the moment your cat decides to jump on the laptop. And your kids decide to play Batman and start chasing the bad guys around the house. Remote work has its own challenges.
Challenges of Remote Work:
- Distractions: It is easy to get distracted when no one is watching you. While working from home, you may feel the constant urge to switch off the laptop and watch your favorite show on Netflix. The key to tackle this is to learn how to schedule your day working from home.
- Communication: The most challenging part of remote work is staying connected to your peers. Here, technology plays a vital role as it can help you collaborate with your teammates. For example, work from home apps like Slack and Google Meet enable remote workers to discuss and collaborate with other team members.
- Work-Life Balance: When you shift the office to your home, the work-life balance may get disrupted. Procrastination is another bug that can crawl up your shoulders and eat into your time. The solution here is to allocate and demarcate personal and professional time strictly.
Things can quickly go from excellent to messy in remote work if you don’t create a work-from-home schedule. A schedule helps your mind stay focused on the most critical tasks of the day. Moreover, it gives you mental clarity on the priorities at hand.
15 Tips on Creating a work-from-home Schedule
To make everything easy for you, here are 15 tips on how to create a work-from-home schedule:
1. Get a Grip on the Morning Hours: Eat The Frog
As difficult as it may seem, waking up early can give you more time to get ahead in the day. Plus, the morning hours are filled with energy and freshness. Take a moment and remember your office days. At that time, you used to wake up early to reach the office before time after beating the traffic.
Here's a study showing how millionaires leverage morning hours:
When there is no office, things can get intimidating. The transition from the warm blanket to the work chair can shake your comfort. Eventually, morning sluggishness will deplete all your motivation to do work.
One way of creating an effective work-from-home schedule is to tackle the most critical tasks on your to-do list of the day. Starting a project first thing in the morning will kick-start your day. In short, eat the frog.
2. Plan Your Day Before Working
“What gets measured, gets managed” - Peter Drucker
If I tell you to run in a race without a finish line, what would you do?
Would you question my sanity and purpose? But that’s what most people do. Instead of first planning out the day, they jump in front of their laptop to get everything done. Remember that you are the personal manager while working from home. This means you have to take care of your responsibilities regarding the job.
To make the most of your day, you need to structure it first. Just like you would do in the office. Take a planner or a work-from-home app and write down the day’s goals. Then allocate the time and duration for each of them. You can also create reminders for events on any calendar app.
3. Take Help From Parkinson's Law
Parkinson’s Law states that “Work expands to fill the time required for its completion.”
In short, the more you procrastinate, the more time it will take to complete the work. If you give yourself 24 hours to do a 2-hour task, the job will become daunting and complicated.
This doesn’t mean that those extra hours will positively impact the quality of work. Instead, they will only create unnecessary stress and tension. Thus, you would spend an entire day doing a 2-hour task.
Remember the last time you finished an entire project in four hours because of the deadline?
That’s Parkinson’s Law in action.
How to apply this while creating a work-from-home schedule:
Trim down your deadlines. Make them shorter so you can avoid distractions. Cutting down on the number of hours given to a task will save you from procrastination. The main catch here is to keep trimming (or expanding) the deadlines until you find your sweet spot.
4. Be Realistic with Deadlines
Do not set impractical deadlines. You can’t squeeze a 7-hour task into a 2-hour window. In the end, you’ll compromise on two things—quality and peace of mind. And you are likely to suffer from burnout.
Hence, always be realistic while setting goals or deadlines. There is no strict rule to complete a task in a defined period. It depends on the persona as well as the complexity of the task. So, before jumping in front of the laptop, figure out if the deadline is achievable or not. If it isn’t, then adjust the target accordingly.
5. Evaluate work with Pareto's Principle
Pareto was a famous Italian economist who devised the rule of 80/20. It states that:
“Approximately 80% of the output is gained by 20% of the input.”
This 80% of resources or actions are also termed as the trivial many. In contrast, the remaining 20% are termed as the vital few.
Pareto’s principle is widely applicable because of its flexibility. It works perfectly in personal and professional life alike. Here’s how you can apply it while creating a work-from-home schedule:
- Take out a pen and paper and write down five goals for today.
- Then ask yourself which primary goals will have the maximum impact on the progress.
- Prioritize tasks and complete them sequentially.
- If you’re an entrepreneur, focus on the tasks that move the needle in your business. Delegate the rest to your subordinates.
After applying Pareto’s principle, you’ll realize how much energy you used to spend on unnecessary tasks. But now, with 80/20, you’re doing the vital tasks first.
6. Social Media is the Enemy
Okay, not the enemy but definitely an alluring distraction. Social media is a virtual black hole. If you aren’t aware, you’ll be glued to the screen for hours. Accept it or not, we all are guilty of this.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: At times, when the project becomes challenging, you open your phone, scroll through social media, count the likes, and get high.
This instant high takes a nasty hit on your concentration. The result? Instead of a relaxed mind, now you are even less focused than before opening your phone. And thus, you become less productive.
To counter this, you need to set some ground rules:
- No social media during work or breaks.
- Remove social media browser shortcuts from the browser.
- Try working in incognito to stop the browser from auto-completing the URL and distracting you.
- Switch off the notifications or activate the silent mode on the phone.
Of course, if you are someone whose work involves social media, you can tweak these steps accordingly. If you manage a company’s social media profile, ensure that you stick to that account during work. Do not cheat and escape to scroll your own social media account.
7. Identify and Work During Peak Productive Hours
24-hour productivity is a myth. Our brain cannot function optimally for twenty-four hours. Even science says long hours don't mean high productivity. So, how to deal with this when you have a deadline the next day?
The answer is identifying your peak productive hours and working in that period. Figure out at what time of the day you are most productive. Then create a work-from-home schedule around those hours. Complete the most challenging part of your work in these hours and assign the easy tasks for the other hours.
Keep in mind that not everyone has the same productive hours. For instance, you might feel the most productive during the evening hours while your friend prefers the early morning. The main catch is that there is no one-fits-all rule. You have to observe your working patterns and tailor the work-from-home routine accordingly.
8. Take Frequent Short Breaks
As mentioned earlier, reward yourself after task completion. This is necessary to break the long hours into short productive ones. As counterintuitive as it may seem, working more doesn’t make you more productive.
Thus, you should take breaks between work. Here’s how you can build an effective break schedule:
- Short Breaks: Short breaks are of a duration of 5 minutes. The idea behind a short break is to give rest to your mind. This is the time when you’ll recover from mental fatigue. As a rule, take a short break after every 30 mins of working. Hydrate, stretch, or sip a coffee during this break (Pomodoro technique).
- Long Breaks: Long breaks re-energize your body as a whole. This break should be 15-20 minutes long. You can take it after every 1.5 hours of working. Stand up from your chair, stretch your body, stroll to the other room, wash your eyes, or sit and take deep breaths. You can even munch some snacks during the break.
9. Don’t Be Lonely, Connect with Colleagues
Remote work culture can make you feel lonely sometimes, especially when you are single or live alone in a house. Further, little to no interaction with your friends at work can make you feel isolated. Thus, it is beneficial to connect with your colleagues.
You can opt for a video call or voice call, whichever suits you. Talking to others matters a lot. We are social beings and not machines. While connecting, don’t just talk about work. Instead, speak about movies, books, events or share life experiences. In short, chat with them as you do with a friend.
Humanity should be a priority in remote work. Find time from your busy routine to chat with your workmates. Gradually, you’ll find that all of us are in the same boat, tackling struggles one at a time.
You can use these video conferencing tools to converse with your colleagues:
10. Schedule Meeting Smartly
Joining a meeting right after you wake up is a bad idea. Your early morning hours should be reserved for personal time. That means in the morning hours, you should be creating a to-do list and planning the day.
In short, work with yourself before working with others. Remember this while creating a work-from-home schedule for maximum productivity.
Ideally, you should take meetings and calls in the second half of the day. This is because meetings can take a lot of time, which isn’t good for productivity. This is where Fireflies.ai comes into the picture.
Fireflies.ai records, transcribes and saves notes for all your meetings automatically. That means you don’t need to prepare notes or worry about the information shared in the discussion. Login to your account, and you’ll be able to see the whole transcript, which you can search or collaborate on later.
11. Communicate with Your family
Working from home means you’ll most probably have some company around you. Be it family, roommates, spouse, children, or parents. Communicate with them and tell them about your work hours.
Talk about the need for a quiet space while working and ask them to cooperate during the hours. Remember, when you work from home, you are in an office built in your home.
In a Nutshell: Design Your Day For Success
Working from home brings many benefits. Along with no stressful commutes, you have flexible working hours and high productivity. But to enjoy all the perks of remote work, you must create a work-from-home schedule that is efficient.
And that is not difficult to do if you follow the right tips and ideas for building a routine. All the above information will serve as a lighthouse in the sea of uncertainty.
Keep in mind that a perfect schedule doesn’t exist. It’s all about trying out what works the best for you and applying it smartly.
Image illustrations by Storyset