The freedom to work from home allows you the freedom to structure your day. It also allows you the freedom to procrastinate – a lot.
If you regularly work longer and later when working from home, yet complete the same amount of work, it’s time to learn how to structure your remote working schedule for maximum output and minimum hours.
The importance of structuring your remote working day
If you ever feel you’re working more when working from home, you’re probably right. Research shows employees put in an average of 28 extra hours per month when working from home; crazy when remote work should technically give you a better work-life balance (no commute, fewer distractions, etc.).
Structuring your remote working day can help. By properly apportioning your time, you can schedule work, create realistic goals, and save procrastination for the end of the day.
Plus, structured days have many more benefits than getting more done in less time, including:
- Focusing on specific tasks
- Giving you more time to connect with colleagues
- Protecting your mental health from burnout
- Protecting your physical heath from sitting at a desk all day and night
How to structure your remote working schedule
So, where do you begin?
Find what works for you
This guide isn’t a downloadable working-from-home schedule. The best working-from-home schedule plays to your individual productivity levels – whether that’s logging on before the kids wake up, working through your lunch break, or burning the midnight oil.
Instead, this guide contains the best tips for creating a remote working schedule that works for you and that you’ll stick to.
1. Identify your productivity hours
Whether or not you like it, there are times of the day and week that you perform certain tasks quicker and better.
List the different tasks you’re responsible for and then write down when you work best at them, taking into account the flexibility of your working hours. For example:
- Admin = First thing in the morning
- Heads-down tasks = Mid-morning to mid-afternoon
- Budget planning = Monday morning
- Meetings = After 3 p.m.
Tip: We all have hours we’d like to work, but these might not match the hours you work best in. Be honest with yourself and try to balance your needs and wants.
2. Block out your non-working hours
The most effective way to protect your personal time is by blocking out non-working hours in your diary.
This stops you and others from scheduling meetings outside of your working hours and helps you allocate tasks according to how much time you have in the day.
Google Calendar users can automatically create working hours under Settings > Working Hours. Alternatively, create a repeat personal appointment for non-working hours, not forgetting lunchtime.
3. Schedule repeat tasks
Scrambling around at the beginning of each day, week, or month to find time for repeat tasks is not only time consuming itself, but is often forgotten about until you’re about to log off.
Use the repeat event function in your calendar to create and stick to a time for repeat tasks, admin, and meetings. This doesn’t mean you can’t re-arrange when necessary, but it does mean you’re more likely to complete these tasks in your working hours and not at the weekend.
4. Create buffer time
Everyone needs a mental break between tasks, after meetings, and before getting into the first project of the day. Allow yourself this time.
Add buffer time to events in your diary that allows your brain to download information, breathe, and catch up before the next task. This helps prevent mental burnout, gives you time to stand up from your desk, and stops you from having a lengthy list of notes to type up at the end of the day.
Tip: We often forget how much time we spend not working in the office – making coffee, chatting to colleagues, and walking to meeting rooms all take time that you shouldn’t feel guilty about taking at home.
5. Group your meetings
If you have a mix of maker and manager schedules, consider grouping your meetings in the morning and reserving afternoons for heads-down work – or vice versa.
This helps focus your mind on similar tasks and allows you to turn off your phone and email notifications when you need to concentrate without distraction. Even better, share this schedule with your colleagues and employees, to align your diaries and set expectations on your availability.
6. Don’t forget physical and social activity
Have you ever looked up from your laptop, found it was 9 p.m. and you haven’t left your desk or spoken to anyone other than your dog?
Structure time into your day and week that promotes both physical and social activity, so you don’t forget or become distracted. This could be a lunchtime walk, a catch-up call with a colleague, or a pre-work jog.
Fitness watch users: Set your watch to alert you when you haven’t moved in the past hour. It prompts you to stretch, move your legs, and take a mini-break.
7. Schedule your life admin, too
When you’re working from home, it’s easy for life admin to enter your day and push your work admin into your evenings. You’ve got a project to start, but you’ll just quickly put the washing on first, or you’re struggling to think of the right words because you can’t stop thinking about the groceries you must order.
Often, tasks like these consume our thoughts because our brain worries we’ll forget about them. Appease your mind and protect your working day by either scheduling personal tasks into your out of hours calendar or keeping a person to-do list on your desk that you add to whenever anything non-work related pops into your mind.
Structuring your remote working day is the best way to protect your out of office time, but the same structure doesn’t work for everyone.
Experiment with different schedules and tactics and, importantly, if you’re struggling with excessive hours when working from home, speak to someone about it. It may simply be that you have too much work and need to outsource some tasks to make your working life more manageable.