Are you a remote employee? If so, congrats! You have the freedom and flexibility to work from anywhere in the world. While this is a fantastic perk, it also comes with its own set of challenges. A common one is time management.
How do you manage your time with no one looking over your shoulder to ensure you're productive? The following time management tips for remote employees can help you level up your existing routines. Let's dig in!
Ruthlessly prioritize your to-do list
As a remote employee, having a clear-cut path of what needs doing is essential. An efficient way to accomplish this is with strict prioritization. We've all heard the advice, "rank tasks in order of importance." That's exactly right, but let's take it one step further.
Look at your list again. If something isn't urgent, ask yourself, "Does this really need to get done today?" If not, move it to tomorrow's list. Now, defend your list against distractions and time sucks.
One such time suck is multitasking. That might sound counterintuitive, but our minds run better doing one thing at a time. In fact, according to recent studies, multitasking can lead to long-term health problems by causing the release of stress hormones and adrenaline. Also, it contributes to short-term memory loss.
Are you a chronic multi-tasker? If so, train yourself to recognize when multitasking is actually just wasting time. Focus on the most important task, and remember this little epigram, "one by one until it gets done." And that brings us right back to why you need a to-do list in the first place.
Identify your most productive hours (and plan accordingly)
When it comes to productivity, everyone is different. Some people are morning people, while others work best in the evening. The key is to figure out your most productive hours and plan accordingly.
Here are some time management tips for doing just that:
- Track Your Time: One of the best ways to identify your peak hours is by tracking how you spend your time over several days. Write down what you do each hour. Also, record when you get interrupted. Are there any patterns?
- Take a Test: There are several online tests that can help you determine your optimal working hours. The test will ask questions about when you feel most energetic and focused.
- Experiment: Don't be afraid to experiment with different times of the day. Some people find that they're more productive when they work from home in the morning, while others prefer to work late at night when everyone else has gone to bed.
Once you know your most productive hours, plan to do your most important work during these times. You'll find that you can get more done in less time when you work when your energy and focus are highest.
Find the time robbers (and eliminate them)
What distracts you and robs you of time? Without deliberate effort, this is often hard to pinpoint. Most of us aren't aware of what eats up our time. We get busy and start running on autopilot without noticing how we spend our days.
Common distractions that rob us of our limited work time each day are:
- Unnecessary emails
- Overly long meetings
- Social media distractions
- Videos and Podcasts
- Poor planning
Here are a couple of techniques that'll help you uncover the personal time robbers in your life:
- Review your time-tracking sheet from above and look for the little thieves.
- Ask others close to you for feedback on how they see you spend your time.
Be mindful of the activities and things that regularly steal your time. If you want to take control of your schedule, identify and eliminate the habits that don't serve you. Some guidelines to follow are:
- During work hours, don't mix work time and personal time
- Ensure family and pets respect your work schedule
- Keep your work area organized and distraction-free
- Stay off social media during work hours
- Mute the notifications on your phone and other personal apps
Take mind breaks & schedule downtime
To stay productive and avoid burnout, it's essential to take breaks and schedule downtime. Most people know this in theory but don't always put it into practice.
Take a break every 90 minutes or so to give your mind and body a rest. Get up and move around, even if just for a minute or two. For global talent, this is especially important since your work hours may not coincide with those in the office.
Find creative ways to break up your day, such as taking a walk outside, cooking lunch, or listening to music. You'll also want to schedule time each week for yourself when you completely unplug from work. Turn off notifications from your email and social media accounts.
Set firm boundaries
As a remote employee, setting firm boundaries is vital to protect your time and energy. Without clear boundaries, you'll quickly find yourself overwhelmed and stressed out. An all-important boundary is setting work hours and sticking to them. Doing this one thing will make all the difference in your work-life balance.
Don't forget to communicate your availability with your co-workers too. It's ok to say no if you already have too many things on your plate. If your team uses Slack or another team management app, set your status as unavailable when you "clock out" for the day.
Consider using productivity apps
Time management productivity apps can help remote employees stay organized and focused. These apps can help improve organization, reduce stress, and boost productivity. While some people may prefer to stick to pen and paper, using a productivity app is a great way to level up your time management skills.
Here are some of the most popular productivity apps:
- Trello: This project management tool helps you organize tasks and collaborate with your team.
- Todoist: Create daily to-do lists, set reminders, and track your progress.
- Evernote: Take notes, store documents, and streamline your workflow. It syncs to all your devices.
- RescueTime: Track how you spend your time online. It "coaches" you as your day goes by.
- OmniFocus: Create projects, prioritize tasks and check off remote work items when completed.
- Asana: Track tasks and projects, assign tasks, share files and collaborate on documents.
- Google Calendar: This free and familiar calendar app can help you organize your tasks.
- Monday: Monday helps you create a workflow to manage anything, including checklists, scheduling, and teamwork.
Learn the art of delegation
It can be challenging to manage everything on your own, especially when working remotely. Delegating tasks to co-workers can help lighten your load and make the workday more manageable.
It also lets you focus on your strengths while passing off tasks that aren't in your area of expertise. If done correctly, delegation can be a win-win for you and your team. Although it may seem daunting at first, with a bit of practice, it'll be second nature. Here are five steps for effective delegation:
- Define the task: Make sure you're clear about what needs to get done and what the expected results are.
- Assign the task to the right person: Choose the person most qualified to handle the job. Take into account skillset, experience, and current workload.
- Establish timelines and deadlines: Be specific about when the task is due and follow up regularly if needed.
- Communicate frequently: Keep everyone in the loop by communicating often and clearly.
- Give feedback: Let the person know how they did afterward.
Try some time management techniques
Working remotely is a great perk, but it can quickly become a nightmare without good time management skills. In this section, we'll cover some of the most popular techniques. Try a few out to see which works best for you.
Chances are you're probably working on tasks that are a waste of time. That's where a Pareto analysis comes in. The Pareto principle is that 80% of outcomes come from 20% of the effort. Therefore, the goal is to select the tasks which produce the most significant overall progress. In other words, focus on the things that drive the most results.
The Eisenhower Matrix helps you prioritize tasks by urgency and importance. Take your to-do list and place each task in one of four quadrants:
- Urgent and important: Do these tasks
- Urgent but not important: Delegate these tasks
- Not urgent but important: Consider and decide on these tasks
- Not urgent and not important: Delete these
The goal is to work on tasks in the "urgent and important" or "urgent but not important" quadrants. Focus on the ones that matter most and avoid distractions.
This is a popular time management strategy used by remote employees to boost productivity and stay focused while working from home. The technique is simple:
- Work for 25 minutes and take a 5-minute break
- After 4 Pomodoro's (the 25-minute focused work sessions), you take a longer break of 20-30 minutes
The key is to use the breaks to recharge and refocus so that you can be productive for the next Pomodoro.
Parkinson's Law is the principle that work expands to fill the time available for completion. In other words, if you have a week to finish a project, it will take a week. But if you have 24 hours to complete the same project, it will only take 24 hours.
Remote employees can use Parkinson's Law to their advantage by scheduling their work in realistic and achievable blocks of time, allowing them to stay focused and avoid spending excessive time on any one task.
Time blocking is a technique that involves dividing each day into blocks of time and devoting those blocks to specific tasks.
For example, you might block off 30 minutes for answering emails, one hour for taking calls, and three hours for writing a report. You can improve your productivity and work more efficiently by chunking your day into manageable tasks. This technique is especially beneficial for remote employees juggling multiple tasks and deadlines.
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