Learning tips for time management can significantly improve your remote work-from-home routine. Mastering time management is essential for any working professional, but it’s particularly important for self-employed individuals or those working remotely.
When you work from home, time management is completely your responsibility, since nobody is looking over your shoulder or making you get your work done. When certain hacks or tips for time management are implemented, your work-from-home routine suddenly becomes much more efficient and smooth.
It may not be in your genes to be great at organization or time management. There are certain genetic mutations that cause people to have slower processing and thinking speed. These people need to master these tips for time management even more. Thankfully, time management is a skill that can be learned, practised, improved upon and mastered. All you need is a little guidance. Below are some essential tips for time management that will help any freelance worker, self-employed individual, or remote worker.
1. Create a Conducive Work Environment
As someone who is self-employed or working remotely, you likely work out of local coffee shops or from home. While this is undoubtedly a convenient commute, it can actually make time management more difficult, since there’s no physical separation between what space is used for leisure, and which is designated for work.
Not everyone has the luxury of having their own dedicated workstation at home or their own office space. You could get creative with this, however. Buy an affordable desk (even a used one) and try to find a place for it, along with an ergonomic chair. At the very least, try to choose a work-from-home space that’s far away from your bed or couch. It’s easier to be productive throughout the workday if you’re sitting upright in a mess-free environment, without any nearby distractions such as a TV. Perhaps you’ll place your desk near a window, and put some plants or other stress-relieving items near it.
Do you have roommates or live with a partner who also works from home? Be sure to outline the boundaries of work and leisure time to your housemates. A seemingly harmless interruption can quickly break your focus while you’re working, so you need to set clear expectations of when you’re available and when you are trying to focus.
2. Write Down a Realistic To-Do List and Plan Your Day
A big component of time management is learning how to be a productive planner. Planning your day is an art, and having a planned-out day is one of the tips for time management to remember. This doesn’t mean stuffing as much into your schedule as humanly possible. Rather, this should equate to having a handful of major tasks you’d like to complete that day, evenly spaced out over the course of your day.
Try writing out a to-do list for the following day each evening.
Also, be realistic about what works for you. If you like to take power naps during the workday, so be it! Just make sure this is factored into your time budget. You’ll want to add in some padding in between tasks. This way, it won’t be a travesty if you’re slightly behind schedule. As your own boss, building trust with yourself is just as important as it would be with any employee.
Don’t just meet deadlines for your clients, do so to build a strong sense of reliability within yourself. It feels good to be organized and on top of things. It’s good for your mental health.
3. Stick to The Plan
Above all, the most important component of successfully managing your time is keeping the promises you make to yourself and others. For example, stick to your to-do list and get in the habit of sticking to it.
Find little ways to incentivize yourself to meet deadlines by rewarding yourself afterwards. Perhaps your reward is one of your favourite treats, an episode of your favourite show, a special weekend outing, or some extra relaxation time throughout the week.
Habits will form themselves whether you’re intentionally forming them or not. In other words, the bad habit of ignoring your day’s to-do list could become a habit that is strongly formed if you’re not careful. If you’re not sticking to your deadlines, it will become increasingly more difficult to break that cycle. Luckily, the converse is also true. By choosing to stick to the plan you set forth for yourself, you’re making life easier for your future self and your employer or clients.
4. Protect Your “Zone” and Focus
It’s easy to get distracted throughout the day, especially if you don’t have a traditional office space to keep you more focused. Self-employed individuals and remote workers also have the challenge of potentially juggling multiple clients at once. This can quickly deteriorate your focus if you’re not careful.
To stay in the “zone” and stay focused on your work, you’ll have to master one of the best tips for time management: Removing distractions.
Try your best to turn off your smartphone notifications throughout the day and only check email, productivity apps, etc. at specific times. This way, you’ll have uninterrupted chunks of time to help maintain focus while you work. It’s also helpful to focus on 1 or 2 clients at a time so that your brain doesn’t have to constantly switch from one project’s parameters to another.
Some remote workers may appreciate on/off methods like the popular Pomodoro technique. In these methods, you’re given a short amount of time to break on a regular basis so that you can maximize your focus without burning out too early in your day.
5. Underpromise and Overdeliver
As a general rule, it’s always a good idea to under-promise and over-deliver to your employer or clients. The same principle applies to yourself and your own time management techniques. Let’s say you finish early one day– If you still have some juice, why not get a head start on tomorrow’s to-do list?
Paying it forward for your future self is a great way to feel like you’re in command of your schedule and you’re overall satisfied with how smooth your workday flows. Also, build in some buffer with your deadlines by underpromising (telling your employer an ETA or deadline that you think you actually could beat.) This concept of underpromising and overdelivering pleasantly surprises your clients or employer, rather than letting them down.
You never know when a client will have unexpected edit requests, so make sure you stay on schedule and deliver things on time if not earlier as often as possible. In any situation, communication is key. Be clear about your work schedule’s availability and don’t take on what you know you can’t currently handle or handle well. Oftentimes, saying “No” as someone who is self-employed is just as important as saying “Yes”.
6. Don’t Neglect Your Mental and Physical Health
Part of the reason you escaped the traditional 9-5 was to free yourself from unfavourable management. As part of your time management strategy, remember to schedule necessary breaks throughout your day and eat a nutritious snack every 2 hours if you can. You’ll also want to make sure you’re taking care of yourself outside of work.
This means exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of sleep and spending time with the people you love most. Self-employed burnout can be more common than burnout for a traditional 9 to 5 employee at an office. This is because self-employed individuals forget to set the necessary parameters for when their workday ends. Remote workers often work on and off all day and all night instead of setting boundaries of “off the clock” times of the day.
Protect your mental and physical health so that you can perform at your best and brightest when you are on the clock instead of spreading yourself thin.
Having Trouble Focusing or Managing Your Time?
If you’re having trouble focusing and you feel you have poor time management skills that you’re struggling to improve, there could be a few reasons why. For example, you might have brain fog throughout the day for a variety of reasons, including poor diet or anxiety.
It’s possible you suffer from anxiety or another mental health condition that you need to get counselling for. When your mental health improves, your capacity to improve your time management skills also improves.
You could even have a nutritional deficiency that’s causing your poor concentration and giving you trouble focusing. CircleDNA can tell you if you’re at risk for any nutritional deficiencies that could cause brain fog. A nutritious diet could help you become better at time management and reduce brain fog, giving you the ability to be more productive.
Mastering Time Management
Time management is undoubtedly a difficult skill to master, but it’s an essential tool for any self-employed person or remote worker. Experiment with different time management strategies. Set reminders on your phone if you need to, place your to-do list somewhere visible, or separate your to-do list with sticky notes. Adjust to these tips for time management as you go along until you find a system that truly works for you. With great time management skills, you’ll notice improved mental health and less stress about work. You’ll end up having more time to relax once you master time management. Remember that the art of scheduling and organizing isn’t just for your employer, it’s also for you. It may not be in your genes to be a super-organized, managed person. However, now you know that time management can be learned and eventually mastered.