Despite all the statistics about how remote work can increase productivity, working from home (WFH Meaning) is still a relatively new concept for most people and it can take a lot of hits and misses to find a remote work schedule that works.
After all, productivity is not an inherent skill. In fact, it’s not even a skill really; it is a series of habits that you need to establish and follow every day with consistency.
As a remote employee, there can often be big differences between how you expect your days to go and how they actually end up being. But with little tweaks to your schedule, you can build an effective remote work schedule that keeps you productive, and consistent throughout the day.
Why is it important to stick to a remote work schedule?
People who are new to remote work often fall into two types of traps:
- Those who assume they can automatically be more productive now that they are not in the office and end up working so much that it eventually leads to reduced work quality or burnout.
- Those who think they can’t work as effectively now that they are at home and end up scheduling far tool little work which leads to decreased productivity.
Time is an important resource to a remote worker and you need to schedule all of your work very carefully to make the most of your working hours. Scheduling can help you in many ways, including:
- Understand what you can achieve realistically during your work hours
- Ensure you have enough time for all the important and essential tasks on your list.
- Add some extra time in your schedule for the ‘unexpected work’ that might come your way
- Have enough downtime for your family, friends, hobbies, and exercise
- Achieve a better work-life balance.
How to create a remote work schedule
1. Block your non-work hours
The first thing you should do is block out all of your non-work hours so you know exactly how much time you have every day to finish your tasks. Blocking non-work hours can also help you unplug more easily at the end of the workday and draw a clear boundary between your work and home life.
Setting strict work timings also helps you get more done in less time because you don’t feel like you have ‘a lot of time’ to just sit around or take a long break.
2. Add uninterrupted focus time in your schedule
There are numerous things that can distract you when working from home: messages, emails from colleagues, chores, hungry pets, family members, the list is endless. To focus better and create an effective remote work schedule, you need to add uninterrupted focus time to your schedule.
The idea is to block 50-60 minutes of focus time in your calendar where you only focus on one task at a time with absolutely no other distractions. You can use a timer for it, put your phone on silent, and close out all the other tabs to ensure your attention is not drawn to other things while you are working on an important task.
3. Schedule meetings during your most unproductive times
Remote work gives you the benefit of flexibility. That means you can create your own schedule according to when you are your most productive self.
For instance, if you are a morning person who is usually the most productive early in the day, you can schedule all of your important tasks in the morning and then schedule meetings in the evenings when you can’t work on complicated tasks anyway.
Similarly, if you tend to feel sleepy and fatigued right after lunch, you can schedule all of your meetings during the afternoon. There is nothing more encouraging than virtually meeting your colleagues and catching up with them.
4. Schedule breaks just like you schedule important meetings
Breaks are just as important as focused hours if you want to stay productive and efficient all throughout the day. Working continuously all day without any sufficient breaks will only lead to burnouts and affect your work.
Of course taking breaks can seem rather challenging when you are working on something important or have a deadline looming. It is also common to often forget that you were supposed to take a break.
To always remind yourself of breaks, block 15-30 minutes break slots in your calendar every day. You don’t have to take all of the breaks scheduled, but you should try to take as many as possible and try not to schedule any other work during your break slots. Whenever it’s time for a break, try stretching out or walking outside the house a bit to get some fresh air.
5. Schedule your day as you would in an office
When you work from home, you have the freedom to create your own schedule but that shouldn’t mean working non-stop all day just so you can cross off all the tasks on your list. Without proper breaks, your productivity will eventually decrease and you may even burn out.
Instead, schedule and structure your day like you would in an office. Follow your morning ritual to get ready for the day, take a nice lunch break, and then take regular coffee lunch breaks when you start feeling tired around the evening so that you can come back to work all energized.
6. Create ground rules around your house
It can be difficult to focus while working from home when you always have family members interrupting you or roaming around you. Things can become even more challenging for working parents who have kids at home all the time. As a result, you should have a clear conversation with your family members about what they can and just cannot do during your work hours so your productivity doesn’t get hampered.
7. Practice self-care even during work hours
Working from home can be stressful and overwhelming, to say the least. The lack of connection with the team and the piling up workload can quickly add up and eventually lead to burnout.
That is why you should always make it a point to practice self-care everyday, even during work hours. Slow down when it feels like everything is coming at you all at once. Listen to some music, go outside, or spend some time with your family. The idea is to get away from the laptop to refresh yourself.
8. Don’t take on more tasks than you can handle
When you are planning your to-do list early in the morning, it is easy to be overoptimistic and go overboard. The result? You end up taking on more tasks than you can possibly finish in a day and then you eventually start feeling guilty by the end of the day as you realize there is no way you can complete all the tasks you were supposed to do.
Instead, you should keep more realistic goals for yourself and take on only as much work as you can practically handle.
9. Stay far away from the bedroom
When you are working from home, it can be rather tempting to either work from your bed or take a quick afternoon nap. But not only can this be really bad for your work productivity but it can also train your brain to associate your bed with stress and work, instead of relaxation. This can in turn make sleeping during the night a big struggle.
Even if you stay in a small apartment with no spare rooms, you should make sure to set up your workspace as far away from your bedroom as possible, or at least in a direction where you cannot see your bed directly.
10. Create a closing ritual
Disconnecting from work and walking away from your laptop can be just as difficult at the end of the day when your personal and professional life all fall under the same roof.
In order to create a better work-life balance, you should create a work closing ritual to prepare your mind to disconnect from work. You can check on the emails for the last time, inform your coworkers that you will be signing off, and review your task list for the next day.
Remote work is about staying flexible and using the right tools
It’s important to structure your life to maintain an organized and efficient remote work schedule. But developing an incredibly rigid pattern without any flexibility can also lead to burnout. Remote work is all about flexibility and you should be open to changing your schedule from time to time without risking productivity.
Using the best remote work tools to stay on top of your schedule can also make a lot of difference. It can be tempting to use all the new productivity and calendar tools you find online. However, the more tools you use, the more difficult it will become for you to manage all of your work data.
The last thing you want is use so many apps that you end up wasting half of your time switching between those applications and finding important data. Instead, you can use a centralized tool like a digital workplace which integrates all of your business applications and data together and allows you to access everything through one unified dashboard.