A conundrum for many beginning their life of working remote is how to define your schedule effectively. A real benefit of working from home is ability to define a schedule that makes most sense for you and that is not necessarily the standard 9-5 that is pervasive in the western world. However, many new remote workers worry that they are not working enough, that they need to put in extra time to show they are working, or equally may be working too much without realising and cannot turn off.
I know when I was working from home initially (and especially with office based colleagues) I was concerned about this and ensuring that I didn’t end up being seen as a slacker. If you have a partner as well it is really easy to fall into the trap of doing an extended day by starting work when they leave and finishing work when they get home (assuming they have a regular 9-5). I drop my fiancé off for her 7:15 train in the morning and pick her up at 6pm in the evening, if I work from when she leaves too when she gets back it can easily be a 10 hour day! All that time you’ve saved on not commuting is now being spent working which defeats the point.
So how to deal with this? Firstly, decide how you best work. I personally enjoy getting started before the team call we have in the morning and so I aim to start around 8am every day. That gives me an hour to set my day up and clear out emails etc before the daily 9am call we have where additional items may come my way. My next big milestone is midday. I try to break for lunch at midday for an hour every day to give my brain some time to recover and to split the day into equal amounts. It’s something I find just works for me. Then I get started again around 1pm and can carry on until around 5 when I try to sign off. I recommend spending a bit of time thinking and trying to observe yourself – when do you feel most productive and how can you maximise that? Now some of you may argue I am still doing a regular day of work but just at home – correct. On a typical day that’s what I do because it fits in with my life, however, when travelling, or needing to move the day around I can easily do so.
Secondly, I have a ban on the laptop being used for work purposes in the lounge and it is never taken into the bedroom. My laptop lives in my office, and if I am working on non-work stuff (such as a blog post, a side project or my YouTube channel) I often bring the laptop with me to the lounge so I can chat to my partner, but for my “day job” it stays in the office. This gives me a great way of separating out my work space from my non-work space and makes switching modes much easier (not I plan on discussing modes and switching in more detail in a future post).
Thirdly, combine these two pieces; stick to your schedule and put the laptop away when you come to the end of the work day. I had one colleague who used to switch their laptop off every night, they knew it would take a couple of minutes to boot back up and so it stopped them from grabbing the laptop and falling into work. After a week or two this will become habitual and you will find it a lot easier to have a productive scheduled day at home without overworking, and the fact you know you are finishing the day at some point and leaving the laptop can really help in adding that impetus to focus during those working hours.
- Observe yourself over the next week or two and notice when you work best
- From this work to maximise your schedule to accentuate this
- Figure out how you are going to separate your work time from your personal time
- Stick to your new schedule for at least a month and see how it changes your work patterns and how you feel
- Review and improve where necessary – schedules will need to change and flex as your life changes
Let me know in the comments below if there is anything in particular you have found that has helped you out in defining a schedule!