One of the biggest challenges for anyone who works remotely is time management.
It is easy to give in to the numerous distractions while working outside of an office. By contrast, the structure of the office tends to make it easier to stay on track when working in person.
If you are struggling with time management as a remote creative professional, these tips will help you get your time back on track.
Track Your Time
A great starting place for time management is to track your time for a few days or weeks.
This will give you a better idea of what you are spending your time on. It will let you know how much time to allocate to various tasks.
It can also give you a realistic idea of how much time you waste due to distractions. You can use an automated tool to do this or do it manually.
Create a Basic Routine – With Wiggle Room
Yes, one of the benefits of working from anywhere is the flexibility that comes with it. However, you may find yourself with better time management if you create a loose schedule or routine.
This can take several variations.
Maybe you’ll decide to start work every day between 8 and 10 am and finish between 4 and 6 pm.
Or maybe you’ll decide that you will work every day between 10 am and 2 pm plus another four hours you pick that day.
Some people will do best setting a stricter schedule than this.
Figure out what works best for you and follow it.
Create Transitions Before and After Work
Without a commute, it can be hard to mentally transition from fun to work and back to fun at the end of the workday.
You can get creative and incorporate transitions into your schedule.
For example, maybe have a cup of coffee every morning right before you start work and exercise every day right after you finish for the day.
You can also use podcasts, reading, meditation, or anything else that works for you.
Try the Pomodoro Technique
One popular time management method is the Pomodoro method.
Break your workday up into groups of 25 minutes, followed by 5 minutes. Work for the longer chunk before taking a short break.
You do this four times before taking a slightly longer break of about 15 to 30 minutes.
Many people find the Pomodoro technique to be incredibly effective.
It essentially helps you get your brain to focus and helps you minimize distractions and interruptions. You can use the breaks to refocus or grab a snack.
Try Time Blocking
Another time management method to try is time blocking.
With this method, you make a list of everything that you need to get done. Then, you divide your day into blocks of whatever amount of time makes sense for you, such as half hours or hours.
Assign each task to one or more time blocks.
Then, during each block, you only focus on the task you assigned yourself for that time.
This helps prevent distractions or trying to multitask in a way that reduces your productivity.
Wherever possible, group related activities together and work on them at the same time.
You can time block these groups into your calendar.
The advantage of this is that there will be less task switching since you're working on the same tasks.
For example, if for the week, you have to deliver some designs, respond to some emails, and prepare for presentations.
Group all the design activities on 2 days of the week. Group the emails and correspondences on one day. Group the presentations on the last 2 days.
This will allow you to complete these activities far more efficiently.
It is not realistic to work through the entire day without taking any breaks.
Not only will it be draining and stressful, but it can also reduce your productivity.
You ideally want at least a few-minute-long break once every hour.
Use this as the time to stretch and give your eyes a break from your computer screen. This also applies to taking a real lunch break instead of just eating while working.
One of the biggest obstacles preventing you from properly managing your time is the number of distractions associated with remote work. See what you can do to reduce these distractions.
For example, if you constantly check your social media pages while working, use a program to temporarily block them while you are working.
If you check them on your phone and don’t need your phone for work, switch it to airplane mode.
If you have pets that distract you, shut them out of the room you are working in. If other people are in the house while you work, put a “do not disturb” sign on the door.
You can also do some advance planning with this. For example, if messes or clutter distract you, take care of cleaning at night, so you can focus the next day.
When all else fails, try investing in some noise-canceling headphones to block out noises you can’t avoid. Those are great, for example, if you live by a busy intersection or your neighbor has a loud dog.
Make a Designated Workspace
Another great method of reducing distractions is to create a designated workspace.
Whenever you need to work, do it in that space. Don’t do anything that doesn't work in that space.
This will help you mentally associate the space with productivity and not being able to give in to distractions.