How To Keep Your Working Hours In Check When Working From Home
A recent study showed that people are actually working longer hours now that they’re working from home rather than in their typical office setting. One reason is that it’s harder to keep track of time working from home because you don’t have a commute anymore, something that typically signals when work both starts and ends.
The biggest reason, however, is that working from home doesn’t mean you’re just working – you’re also taking care of your family, homeschooling children, preparing meals, and trying to practice self-care. This leaves today’s work from home employees stretched even more thinly than before.
To keep working hours in check and prevent work from fully taking over your home life, there are a few strategies you can try.
Don’t work during your former commuting time.
Take advantage of working from home and use your commute time as personal time. Eat breakfast with your family, read a book, exercise, or watch TV – anything except for working. By not allowing your work time to creep into your personal time in the morning, you’re establishing a healthy work-life boundary.
The same goes for lunch time. Stop working and take an actual lunch break, just like you would if you were still working in the office. If you were a serial desk lunch eater, now is the time to break that habit.
Work in blocks of time.
Without the rigid structure of a typical work day, it’s easy to lose track of time and end up either working more or working less than you would if you were in the office. To better manage your time, schedule blocks of working time for specific tasks. For example, you could dedicate one hour to email in the morning, three hours to a big project, and another 30 minutes at the end of the day for email again.
It’s important to not block out your whole day. You need to leave some time open to work on the tasks that pop up throughout your work day.
Practice single tasking.
Multitasking may feel efficient, but the reality is that it makes you less productive overall. Tasks take longer to fully accomplish when your focus is split, and the quality of your work can suffer. Single tasking allows you to focus all of your energy into one task at a time and reduces the temptation to jump around from project to project.
If you’re an avid multi-tasker, single tasking can be difficult to adjust to in the beginning. Be conscious of every time you shift your focus to another task, and immediately go back to the single task you were focusing on. Be diligent about not allowing yourself to multi-task even once, and eventually you’ll form a new habit.
There will still be times when multi-tasking is unavoidable, and that’s fine. If you practice single tasking for the majority of your work day, you should see an increase in productivity and a decrease in the overall hours it takes to complete a task.
Goals give you something concrete to work towards and help you stay focused on the tasks that are most important. You can choose to set large, broad goals or smaller, micro goals. It can also be helpful to set daily and weekly goals as well, as those provide a bit of structure. For extra motivation, write your goals on a post-it note and place it somewhere you’ll see frequently. Regardless of which goal setting method you choose, experiment until you find the method that works best for you and stick with it.