Time Management when Working Remotely

(April 2020) – Whether you’re working from home for the first time or you made the switch to a remote gig years ago, you’ll find that, just as in any workplace, time management is key to staying productive.

As many will tell you, however, it’s much easier to let time get away from you at home. Picking up your phone to check a text message in the middle of the day, only to look up half an hour later and realize you haven’t started on your to-do list is an all too common occurrence. When you don’t have a team physically nearby to keep you in check, it’s vital to keep yourself accountable. Here are some tips and tricks to keep you on track:


  • Limit distractions. Set some restrictions for yourself to stay on task. Try checking email only at certain specifically allotted times of the day and turn off social media alerts. There are even apps that track and limit your time spent on certain websites that can help you maintain your goals, like SelfControl, FocusWriter, and Anti-Social.


  • Designate your workspace: If you can, carve out a space in your home that is exclusively for work. It might be your desk, your kitchen table, a chair in your bedroom – wherever it is, try to keep it organized and focused. Make a rule for yourself that this space is free of distractions. If you take a break, move to a new spot to check your phone or watch TV, that way you won’t ever associate your workspace with these distractions. When you next feel the urge to scroll through Instagram, you’ll know that you have to leave your workspace to do it, and most of the time you’ll find that urge is just a fleeting impulse.


  • Implement strategies. People are always trying to perfect the formula for efficient use of time. Some of the most popular are:


    • The Pomodoro technique: Set a timer for 25 minutes, then take a 3-5 minute break when that time is up. Do this four times, then take a 15-30 minute break and start again.
    • 52-17 technique: Similar to the Pomodoro Technique, in this approach you work for 52 minutes at a time, separated by 17-minute breaks.
    • Quadrant time management: This technique is used to help prioritize your to do list. Draw a graph with four quadrants. Label the columns “urgent” and “not urgent”, and label the rows “important” and “not important”. Then map out your tasks. Any that fall into “important” and “urgent” should be done first, then “important” and “not urgent”, then “nor important” and “urgent”, and finally “not important” and “not urgent”


  • Prioritize your days. Before you can hold yourself accountable, you have to know what you’re holding yourself accountable to. No matter what method you use to make your to do list, make sure you have one, and tackle the hardest tasks at the beginning of the day. Starting your day off this way not only ensures productivity but makes the rest of the day breeze by.


  • Keep your physical workspace organized. This one’s pretty obvious, but can be hard to keep on top of. Taking a minute to declutter is a valuable and worthwhile use of your time that will pay off in the long run. After all, a decluttered workspace is proven to be a more productive one.


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