Here’s a summary of the six concrete, research-backed actions from an article in Harvard Business Review (HBR) entitled “How to (Actually) Save Time When You’re Working Remotely” by Lauren C. Howe,Ashley Whillans, and Jochen I. Menges. These actions are really helpful to me as I am working remotely for more than a year now. For the complete article, you can visit https://hbr.org/2020/08/how-to-actually-save-time-when-youre-working-remotely. I think this is also helpful to students who are having their online classes.
1. Create your own commute.
According to a recent study, the happiest commuters are those who use their commutes to plan their workdays. Try starting your remote workday with 15 minutes to plan your day either at home or walking around. In fact, walking is proven to reduce stress, so get some time to walk around before you start your walk day!
My usual routine before starting my work aside from the usual morning ritual are to read my bible, go to my balcony to breathe fresh air, water my plants, feed my fishes and work around inside my house. 🙂
2. Give yourself a Feierabend.
In Germany, the Feierabend is a daily evening celebration marking the moment when work is switched off for the day. Find a routine that can mark the end of your workday and gives you something to look forward to. Celebrate what you have accomplished during the day. What is your Feierabend?
For me, I usually shout “Time’s up! Time to go home!” even I am just at home, to mark the end of my workday. 🙂
3. Focus your workload on a daily “must win”.
To avoid drowning in work, identify a “must win” for each day – one thing you need to achieve no matter what – and then pursue it at full steam.
Most of the time, I think of one thing that I must accomplish for the day, But it doesn’t mean that it is the only thing I need to accomplish. 🙂 It is difficult to avoid disturbance at work, but focusing to accomplish at least this “one thing” gives me a sense of accomplishment which lightens up my day.
4. Put “proactive time” on your calendar.
Is your work day full of meetings that you aren’t able to accomplish important tasks within it?
Protect your calendar from never-ending Zoom meetings by blocking out “pro time” or time reserved for work that is highly important, but not urgent. Studies shown that scheduling a daily pro-time block, in which you turn off all distractions and focus on specific tasks, helps employees feel more effective and less overwhelmed.
5. Reclaim the social in social distancing.
More than a year of lockdown and limited social activities? Nothing beats meeting our family, friends, relatives and colleagues face-to-face but with the restrictions that we have, it’s better to reclaim the social in social distancing. Just like scheduling a pro-time during workday, HBR recommends being proactive about scheduling active leisure activities after work. Research suggests that short informal social interactions (whether in person or digital), as well as just 10 or 20 minutes of active leisure, boosts well-being. You can include in your end-of-day routine chatting with your family or friends.
I like to have a chit-chat with my team. I have a weekly catch-up with them talking anything except work. 🙂 I also have one-on-one session with each of them if our time permits to catch-up on where and how they are.
After work, I usually connect online with my family and friends and my clients.
6. Run Time-Management Experiments
It is okay to keep on trying out things in order to manage your time while working remotely. Different situations might need different response. Don’t be afraid to try it out and see which works best for you. There are some who struggle juggling between their household chores and remote work; and resolved to have 1-2 hours break in between and extend the time they end their work. Take courage to talk to your manager to explore things and come up with a working arrangement that works both for you and for your team.
I made a number of iterations to my routine depending on the situation. I also tried having some breaks in between my working hours and just extend as needed to suit my needs. Good thing, my manager sees the value of it to our wellbeing and is fine for me to work the way that is best for me.
Give these six tips/actions a try and let me know the results!
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