As our professional landscape shifts dramatically towards remote work, the autonomy and flexibility it brings also come with unique challenges. One of the most pressing is time management. In the confines of our homes, without the structure provided by a traditional office environment, the lines between work and personal life can blur, leading to inefficiencies, stress, and a disrupted work-life balance.
Mastering time management in the remote environment is more than just juggling video calls and emails—it’s about optimizing productivity, maintaining mental well-being, and carving out space for personal time. Time management skills can help remote workers to maximize productivity, reduce stress, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and achieve their professional goals.
Let’s explore a few essential strategies of time management for remote workers to help you navigate your workday with increased efficiency and satisfaction.
Benefits of Time Management
Time management is crucial for remote workers due to several reasons:
- Enhanced Productivity: Good time management allows remote workers to get more done in less time. By prioritizing tasks and setting clear goals, they can focus on what’s most important and avoid wasting time on less important tasks.
- Work-Life Balance: One of the biggest challenges of remote work is the blurring of boundaries between work and personal life. Effective time management can help establish clear boundaries, ensuring that work doesn’t encroach on personal time and leading to a healthier work-life balance.
- Reduced Stress: Without effective time management, remote workers can quickly feel overwhelmed by their workload. By managing their time effectively, they can ensure a steady and manageable pace of work, reducing stress and preventing burnout.
- Increased Autonomy: Remote work often comes with a greater degree of autonomy. Effective time management is key to making the most of this autonomy, allowing remote workers to work when they’re most productive and take breaks when needed.
- Meeting Deadlines: In a remote work environment, supervisors and colleagues can’t always see what you’re working on. Meeting deadlines and producing quality work are critical to demonstrating your effectiveness and maintaining trust.
- Avoiding Procrastination: The flexibility of remote work can sometimes lead to procrastination. Good time management techniques can help keep this in check, ensuring tasks are completed in a timely manner.
- Professional Development: Effective time management can free up time for professional development activities, such as learning new skills or pursuing further education, which can be particularly important in the rapidly evolving world of remote work.
Time Management Approaches:
Prioritizing & Results-Oriented
Time Wasters vs. Prioritizing
Common time wasters can include excessive time spent on unimportant tasks, lack of clear priorities, and distractions in the remote environment. Time management strategies can help address these issues and make remote work more efficient and satisfying. An effective strategy is to categorize and prioritize tasks:
High Priority Tasks are tasks that are both important and urgent.
They’re tasks that contribute significantly to your goals and objectives, and they often have a deadline that is either due today or in the very near future. For example, if you’re a software developer, a priority task might be fixing a critical bug in your app that’s preventing users from making purchases. This task is both important (because it directly impacts revenue) and urgent (because the longer it takes to fix, the more revenue is lost).
Secondary Tasks are important but not as urgent.
They contribute to your goals and objectives, but they can be scheduled to be done after priority tasks. Continuing with the software developer example, a secondary task might be adding a new feature to your app. While this task is important because it improves the app and provides value to users, it’s not as urgent as fixing the critical bug. You would typically work on this task after the critical bug has been fixed.
Low Priority Tasks are neither urgent nor particularly important.
They need to be done, but they have little impact on your major goals or objectives. A low priority task for a software developer might be organizing their code library or cleaning up their workspace. While these tasks can make work more efficient and pleasant, they have a minimal direct impact on the app or the users. These tasks can often be done during downtime or delegated to others if possible.
Next, we will move beyond prioritizing tasks and explore the results-oriented approach to time management.
People have different productivity rhythms and work demands. Using a results-oriented approach that focuses on accomplishing specific goals rather than simply putting in a certain number of hours. This can be particularly effective in a remote work environment where employees have more control over their schedules and autonomy to choose projects and tasks to work on.
A results-oriented approach to time management is critical for remote workers due to several reasons:
- Remote work often offers greater autonomy and flexibility in terms of when and how tasks are completed. A results-oriented approach allows remote workers to leverage this flexibility to work when they’re most productive and balance their professional and personal commitments effectively.
- By focusing on results rather than the number of hours worked, remote workers can prioritize their tasks more effectively and work more efficiently. This can lead to increased productivity and better outcomes.
- A results-oriented approach can also reduce the risk of burnout by preventing overwork. When the focus is on results, workers can finish their tasks efficiently and avoid unnecessarily long work hours, thereby maintaining a healthier work-life balance.
- In a remote work setting, supervisors can’t monitor employee activities directly. A results-oriented approach helps establish trust and accountability, as employees are evaluated based on their work output rather than their time spent on tasks.
- Everyone has different productivity rhythms. Some people might be more productive in the early morning, others in the afternoon or evening. A results-oriented approach allows for these individual differences, enabling each worker to work at their own optimal times.
- By focusing on results, workers can better align their daily tasks and activities with the larger goals of their team or organization. This can lead to more meaningful and impactful work.
Putting it All Together
Below is a sample daily plan that demonstrates time frames and prioritizing tasks with a results-oriented approach. The key point is to focus on achieving specific results each day rather than simply working a certain number of hours. Remember, this is a sample plan and might not work for everyone. For example, your most productive and creative time might be in the afternoon. The example below is for a project worker with high energy in the morning.
Important: Always check with your supervisor for specific expectations of time management and scheduling for your specific job.
Ten Step Time Management Schedule
Step 1: Define Daily Goals (8:00 – 8:30 AM)
Start the day by defining what you want to achieve. This might include completing a specific project, reaching a particular milestone, or finishing a set number of tasks.
Step 2: High Priority Task Time (8:30 – 11:00 AM)
Use your most productive morning hours to work on your most important and challenging tasks. This is when you’re most likely to be fresh and able to focus. It is also a good time to innovate and create. Remember to take stretch breaks during this time.
Step 3: Short Break (11:00 – 11:15 AM)
Take a short break to refresh your mind and maintain productivity throughout the day.
Step 4: Transition to Secondary Tasks (11:15 AM – 1:00 PM)
Continue working on priority tasks or move on to secondary tasks, depending on your progress and the demands of your work.
Step 5: Lunch Break (1:00 – 2:00 PM)
It’s important to take a break for lunch and step away from your work. This helps prevent burnout and maintain productivity throughout the day.
Step 6: Low Priority Tasks (2:00 – 3:30 PM)
Use the post-lunch period to handle lower priority tasks, respond to emails, and take care of administrative tasks.
Step 7: Short Break (3:30 – 3:45 PM)
Another short break to help maintain focus and productivity.
Step 8: Continue Low Priority Tasks (3:45 – 5:00 PM)
Continue with lower priority tasks and wrap up any remaining work for the day.
Step 9: Review and Plan for Tomorrow (5:00 – 5:30 PM)
Review your progress for the day and set goals for the next day. This helps you stay organized and maintain a focus on results.
Step 10: End of Work Day
It’s important to establish a clear end to your workday to maintain a healthy work-life balance, especially when working remotely. That is why we put this as an actual step, for those who want to “check off” ending the day – which can be very satisfying.
In the realm of remote work, effective time management is not merely a skill, but a crucial linchpin that holds together the framework of productivity, efficiency, and work-life balance. As we navigate through an increasingly digital work environment, it becomes imperative to adapt and refine our time management strategies. By prioritizing tasks, setting clear goals, and carving out time for both work and personal life, we can maximize our productivity while reducing stress and preventing burnout.
Successful time management is less about clock-watching and more about result-oriented work, aligning our efforts with our goals, and appreciating the value of our time. As we continue to redefine the contours of the professional landscape, mastering time management will be key to thriving in the world of remote work.
To learn more about time management in the remote work environment, sign your remote employees up for our Remote Professional Certification. In this certification track, you will learn more about factors that can enhance productivity through time management.