Working from home seems like a great gig: You don’t have to factor a morning commute into your wake-up time, you can throw in a load of laundry during a conference call, and forget about wearing uncomfortable suits when you’re in a sweatpants mood.
All of those advantages, though, come with the caveat that it’s very easy to lose control of your time when you work from home. When I first began working from home, I found my work days stretching longer than they should because I wasn’t focusing as much as I needed to during the 9-5 block. It took a few months to find my stride. First, I needed to figure out some key strategies for managing my time. Here are three that work for me:
1. Focus on tasks, not time. “Face time” is not an issue in the home office. Instead, it becomes all about what you can produce and how well you can work with others over distance. Being very aware of deadlines, hyper-focused on high-quality deliverables, and concerned about timely and complete communication are all essential to your work-from-home success.
2. Become schedule-focused. Pay close attention to your calendar, so you can take advantage of gaps to attend to personal items but also focus intensely on work when that’s needed. Knowing that you’ve set aside time later to handle that pressing personal matter can help free your mind to be its most creative and dedicated on your work tasks. I find it helps to integrate my work and personal schedules into one calendar, so I can better balance both.
3. Make yourself visible to your coworkers. This might seem counter-intuitive–wouldn’t raising your virtual hand hurt your time management?–but it actually helps you use the time you spend at work more effectively. Strong relationships with coworkers help you communicate efficiently, work together smoothly, and receive recognition for your successes. It also helps remind your coworkers that you are a valuable and hard-working member of the team.
I also wrote about three other important time management strategies that are especially important when you work from home:
- Keep a separate personal email address, rather than using your work email for everything
- Have a distinct work area in your home; no laptops in bed!
- Set expectations appropriately with colleagues, both in terms of what you promise and through tools like Out of Office messages on your email.
If you’re also a work-from-home warrior, whether full-time or occasional, I’d love to know: What are your best time management strategies when your home is your office?