How to create a remote work schedule
Never has the desire to work from home been as high as it is now. Thankfully, the technology to do so is better today than it has ever been. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 62% of employees say they want to work remotely, while 56% feel that aspects of their current job can be done from home. As comfortable as working from home may sound, it is essential to understand that it can come with its own unique set of challenges.
Some people have a hard time focusing on their tasks while racing to meet strict deadlines because of distractions. Working from home can mean having to deal with distractions from your favourite show on television, pets that want to play, kids, and the appeal of an extended nap. Let’s not forget that friend who loves to show up unannounced!
People who did not work well under pressure in an office setting may come to find, to their shock, that the pressure does not go away even if they work remotely. In fact, the pressure may intensify, as some companies tend to micromanage remote employees because they can’t be seen working at their desks.
Whether you are a freelancer or a remote employee, it can seem impossible to meet your goals when you are faced with the aforementioned circumstances. Benjamin Franklin said,“Failing to plan is planning to fail”, which certainly applies to remote work. This is why it is important to create a work schedule.
A work schedule makes it easy to complete different tasks within a set time frame, and working remotely is best managed by having one. Many people have been demoted or lost their jobs or contracts because of an inability to meet deadlines or quotas. A work plan will give you the extra motivation you need to focus and accomplish your work goals.
Working remotely requires self-discipline and dedication to the tasks at hand. People who work from home must develop structures to help them get through the day. In this blog post, we will take a look at:
- Factors to consider when creating remote work schedules
- Ways to construct an effective Schedule
- Adapting to your remote schedule
Factors to Consider When Creating A Remote Work Schedule
When creating a work schedule plan, it is important to properly visualise the way you would like your day to go. You must also identify the priority tasks, and the time it takes for them to be completed. And it is also ideal to make considerations for personal life and other activities that you may or may not have control of. Some questions you need to ask yourself before committing to a remote work schedule include:
What is the best time to work?
Some people prefer to work during the day, while others prefer to work at night. This is perfectly fine because you must determine what works best for you. Each person goes through different productivity slumps. If you are one of those persons that wakes up feeling energised in the morning, you can use this time to complete your most critical work activities.
On the other hand, If you are more active at night, make use of this time to do critical tasks. You will thrive once you understand your body’s rhythm and how to use it to your advantage successfully. If you are a freelancer, for example, who does their best work at night, you can create a remote work schedule that revolves around your nighttime hours, and that will help you knock out your goals much easier.
If you struggle with being productive in a home setting, you may need to adjust your work environment. You could designate a peaceful area in your home as your workplace or you might also want to consider having alternative work environments as part of your work schedule plan. For example, Mondays could be for working in a home setting, while you may opt to work from a coffee shop on Wednesdays. Incorporating a change of environment in your plan can be a great way to improve your mood and help reduce burnout.
Some people can work effectively in a coffee shop, while others find it impossible to concentrate in such a setting. Some people prefer to rent a coworking space, while others prefer to set up shop at home. As long as you are in your ideal space, it will be easier to concentrate and complete tasks.
It is vital to keep personal tasks that require your attention in mind when constructing a schedule. Some parents, for example, might have to take their children to school early in the morning. This means that they must plan their working hours around this. By keeping such elements in mind as you organise your schedule, you'll be able to determine the best times to fulfil certain commitments while still working. This will help you be more efficient as you go through your day and knock out tasks in a timely manner.
Ways to Create an Effective Remote Work Schedule
Not every remote employee or freelancer’s schedule is the same. We all have different needs that are unique to us. However, what most people have in common is that some people working in remote locations have fixed hours while others have flexible hours. The schedule you create will be heavily impacted by whether you have a fixed or flexible schedule.
Set time aside for work and personal activities
People with flexible work schedules must set aside time during which they can work on various job tasks. Inserting breaks in between tasks should be an essential component because this will help to eliminate burnout. These breaks can be used to engage in a variety of personal activities like taking a nap, a walk, or even eating. Doing multiple, non-work-related activities throughout the day will help you focus on your work and complete assignments on time. It could also be helpful to incorporate activities such as exercise into your daily routine to enhance your overall health and keep your mind focused.
Make sure to clearly indicate these activities in your work schedule, so you know what to do next and what is upcoming throughout the day. If you are not a freelancer, and your boss allows you to work flexibly or pause work during the day for a personal life commitment or errand, such as picking up a child from school, make a note of it on your schedule. This will let your team know when you are busy and cannot be scheduled for a meeting, while also allowing you to preserve a work-life balance.
Start with Priority Tasks
The last thing you want on your work schedule is for priority tasks to fall through the cracks. It is challenging to stick to a work schedule when you start getting questions from clients or supervisors about late deliverables. Hence, it is crucial to try to schedule priority tasks first to get them out of the way early and then have the freedom to finish less essential tasks. Not being mindful of your most important tasks and not including them in your work schedule is an easy way to overlook tasks and not meet your objectives.
One strategy you can use for your work schedule is to colour-code your tasks. You can highlight priority tasks with red, for example, and less critical tasks with blue or yellow. As you get through your day and knock off each task, you can highlight them green. This is a great mood booster because you will feel a sense of accomplishment as you see all the different colours become green (or whichever colour you prefer) as you finish your tasks.
Group Similar Tasks Together
Group similar tasks together, so your brain does not have to switch contexts too often. Have you ever had to work on two completely different but complicated tasks? Did you realize how difficult it was for your brain to switch and for you to get into the groove of working on the next task after mastering the first task? If you can relate to this, then you understand the importance of grouping similar tasks together.
Grouping tasks will help you focus better on the tasks at hand and help you complete them faster. Our brains love repetition, so it is far easier to do five similar tasks back-to-back than to do five complicated and entirely unrelated tasks. More time will be spent on the latter, which can prove to be a less efficient way to make use of your workday.
Be mindful of what tasks you will need to accomplish throughout the day and group the most similar tasks together. As part of your work schedule plan, you can group similar tasks into batches of three or four at a time, with breaks in between. This strategy will help you become more productive, reduce the number of mistakes you are likely to make, and help reduce burnout.
Make room for the unexpected
It is important to understand that life happens to us all, and so you should not try to schedule an activity for every second of the day. Leave gaps in your work schedule for unplanned activities that may spring up. Sometimes you may have to attend an emergency virtual meeting, or a client call might take longer than you expected. During times like these having a preplanned time for unplanned items will ensure that you are not using up time reserved for planned activities.
If nothing unexpected happens, you can take the extra time to check in with team members by phone, go over your task list for the day, or simply relax. The choice is yours. However, if something unexpected does happen, you will be better prepared because you factored it into your schedule ahead of time.
Incorporate an end of work ritual
The beauty of having an end of work ritual is that it helps your brain disconnect from work entirely and allows you to mentally move on to your life outside of your job. For example, you can schedule your end of work ritual to begin during the last 30 minutes of your workday. This ritual can consist of making sure there are no emails left to respond to, checking in with a client or manager to see if there is anything they may need before you end your workday, or simply saying goodbye to your colleagues if there is a team chat group.
These might seem like subtle activities, but they are a great way to reinforce leaving work at work and not bringing it home with you even though you work from home. You can label this period on your work schedule with a fun name just as an extra reminder that work is about to end soon. Again, this might be subtle, but it will create a powerful boost for your brain and your mood.
Keep your meeting times limited to a few days
If you have the flexibility to choose when you want to have meetings with clients or team members, this next tip is for you. A great way to make the most of your work schedule is to group your meetings for a particular day or days in the week. For example, you could dedicate Wednesdays as meeting days on your schedule and jump into sessions with team members or clients if need be. The advantage of doing this is that it reduces the possibility of being distracted by meetings when you start working on your non-meeting days. It is an unpleasant feeling when you are deep into your work but have to stop to attend a lengthy meeting, after which you may not be as focused as you were prior.
Make time for work colleagues
As a remote worker, it is easy to feel disconnected from the rest of your colleagues or teammates since you may not necessarily have to speak or interact with them every day. In some cases, you may not even interact with certain colleagues for several weeks, and this can worsen the feeling of disconnection. One way to counteract this is by setting time aside in your remote work schedule for virtual one-on-one meetings with teammates. These meetings can be used to catch up and get to know team members better. They can be an effective way to feel like part of an organisation and promote team cohesion.
Find an accountability partner
It will take some time to put together a work schedule from scratch. Take as much time as you need to create your work schedule the first time, and it will be much easier to do so in the future because you will have a template that you can modify as needed. However, after you have your work schedule in place, you may still find it hard to follow your plan - even though you took the time to make it. This can happen for several reasons, one of which is the difficulty to remain disciplined. This is where an accountability partner comes in handy. You can ask someone you trust to check on you randomly throughout the week to ensure that you are following your plan. Soon you will get so used to working with a work schedule; you will not need an accountability partner anymore.
Working remotely has the potential to provide a great deal of freedom and flexibility. It is possible to complete a variety of tasks in your home office, coworking space, or even a local coffee shop. Some remote employees have the luxury of choosing their schedules, while others have to work with a fixed schedule. In both cases, you will require a plan that will guide you in the proper direction.
You must adhere to the schedule you create after you have made it because sticking to your plan is one sure way to complete all tasks on time and avoid missing any deadlines. However, it is essential to remember that plans do not necessarily need to be static. You might have to change your work schedule every week depending on what you anticipate for the coming work week.
Finally, do not be too hard on yourself if you are unable to knock out all your tasks as you begin this process of creating and following a work schedule. Like most things in life, following your plan takes practice, and it might take some time to adjust to the discipline of following your schedule. Keep sticking to your plan, and soon you will wonder how you ever made it through your workday without an effective remote work schedule.