Who hasn’t dreamed of working from the comfort of their home? These days all you need is a computer and an internet connection to get the job done, and with that you can say goodbye to everyday annoyances like commuting, noisy office environments, and the obligatory small talk with people you barely know. If your office is at home, then you’re living the dream, right?
But actually, as fantastic as home office work with flexible work hours is, it still has its own downsides and challenges, the hardest of them all being the need for self-motivated time management. In fact, properly controlling time spent on work is the biggest challenge for home office workers to deal with; it’s something that can only be dealt with by abiding to a set of strict rules.
Tips and Tricks for Proper Work Time Management
Setting up a Work Schedule
Starting and finishing tasks whenever you want is convenient, but you should still treat your job with office expectations. Sticking to a routine helps keep track of time and will put you into the right ‘work mode’ mindset. This includes scheduling lunch breaks and setting time aside for errands; the freedom of working whenever means choice to tackle things as you like, but controls need to be put in place – even when it comes to breaks.
In fact, properly planning breaks is especially important because the brain needs approximately 25 minutes to start focusing on a task after a break or distraction. As such, fewer but longer breaks at planned intervals is much more effective for job performance than several smaller breaks.
Do Not Disturb!
A huge pet peeve of home office workers is when others – such as family members or roommates – falsely assume that being at home also means that you are available for their slightest whims. For this, make others aware that you have a job to do with proper work hours and they should, therefore, only disturb you during breaks or after your shift. And this isn’t just for conversation, remind them that watching TV, listening to music, or having a phone conversation too loudly will also affect your concentration. If you’re in your work space, you’re working; that’s a rule you’ll need to be strict about keeping with anyone else in the building.
Even if you live alone, you’re still susceptible to distractions and the number one cause is likely sitting in your pocket. Keep your phone on Do Not Disturb to avoid that infernal buzzing, and better yet keep it out of reach to avoid the temptation to Tweet your latest thought.
The same is true for the screen you have to look at, too. If your browser still has tabs open from last night’s online shopping spree or you’ve minimized a video game to finish later, then you’ll constantly be tempted to turn away from work. Use a separate user account for work and you’ll be kept from such distractions without having to completely close everything down.
The Business Space
There’s a big problem about working where you eat, and while this problem isn’t exclusive to home office workers it’s something that comes up often. Setting aside a room or space dedicated entirely to business tasks helps get into that proper work attitude, and that separation of work and leisure helps you to focus – time management wouldn’t be a problem then.
But not everyone has the luxury of a ‘proper office’, so if your workspace has to be used for everyday tasks, too, then keep both sides separate. Avoid having your personal files mingling with business-related ones by creating a separate user account or at least using a dedicated work folder. Similarly, there should be a clear distinction between notes for work and those to remind you to get milk, too.
A Clean Work Environment
As with any regular office environment, having clutter on your home office desk can be extremely distracting, so be sure to remove anything that may break your concentration during work time.
However, when it comes to remote work, you need to pay attention to a special kind of cleanliness as well – the cleanliness of your computer. Unlike the desk that only needs to be cleaned physically, it’s important that the computer is ‘spotless’ on the inside as well. You don’t have to overthink this concept, though: a few tricks like installing work management and utility apps – such as password managers, Mac optimizers, or registry cleaners – while setting the computer to schedule software updates outside of work hours is a good start to avoid software distractions.