Time management was a challenge during normal times. Now the pandemic has introduced a whole new set of issues, including sharing workspace with our significant other and managing our children’s educational needs from home. In May alone, 42% of Americans aged 20-64 earning more than $20,000 per year were working from home full-time, according to a Stanford University survey, compared to just 2% before the pandemic. And there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. While offices worldwide have started to reopen, employees will likely be working from home in some capacity until at least 2022. By implementing these time management strategies, you’ll be able to increase your productivity while still maintaining your sanity during these crazy times.
Find your own space
Now that we’re in it for the long haul, it’s time to designate your own workspace. You deserve to have a private area that you can make your own. Try to find a location that is quiet, free of distractions and separate enough so that you can feel off the clock at the end of the day. Even if you don’t have a separate guest room, other options could include a spare corner, dining room, kitchen, attic or basement. You can also use attractive dividers to create a clear distinction between your home and office space. In addition to having the right equipment like good lighting and a large computer monitor, the ergonomics of the workspace is critical. If possible, invest in a comfortable chair that can roll and provides adjustable height and lumbar support. The more comfortable you are, the more productive you will be.
Manage your energy
The ability to manage your energy is crucial for maximum productivity. We all have different internal rhythms. Some of us are night owls, while others are early birds. When are you most focused and effective? If it’s early in the morning, schedule your major projects to align with that timeframe. One of the benefits of working from home is added flexibility. Focus on what you can control and arrange your activities to take advantage of natural high and low energy times.
Take strategic breaks
As mentioned earlier, one of the main challenges of working from home is clocking more hours than usual. And when you work non-stop, you lose focus and concentration. To combat this, make sure you take strategic breaks and schedule them on your calendar. Some examples include meditating, walking your dog, playing with your kids or just daydreaming so you can give your mind a rest. If you’re concerned about impending layoffs, you could even use that time to update your resume or network on LinkedIn.
Collaborate with your partner
You and your partner are both working from home during the pandemic. So how do you spend day after day together without putting a strain on the relationship? One time management strategy is to create a shared calendar (like Google Calendar), so you can keep track of each other’s work schedules. You can duplicate events and send invitations or create a new shared calendar. Another helpful tip: decide what your “work hours” will be and who will keep an eye on the kids at different points during the day. Also, designate a quiet area that either of you can go to when you need privacy to take a call. And to avoid burnout, build in some daily alone time for each person if needed. Once you fine-tune your routine and keep it consistent, it will make your lives much more manageable.
Set healthy boundaries
Do you find yourself working longer hours during the pandemic? Recent research from Microsoft says yes. A study conducted by a group of data scientists found that employees worked an average of four more hours a week. Now that your commute to the office might mean a walk from your bedroom to the kitchen table, it’s more important than ever to focus on time management. To maintain a healthy work-life balance, create a schedule and end your workday at a specific time each day. Turn your computer off and disable work notifications on your cell phone so you can focus on personal time. You might even consider including your work hours in your email signature so clients and colleagues know when it’s appropriate to contact you. Also, make sure to enforce your new boundaries. Because if you don’t do it, no one else will.
You’ve got this!
Ultimately, it’s important to create a time management structure that works for the whole family. The more you focus on harnessing your time and energy now, the more likely you’ll emerge from this crisis with your relationships and happiness intact.