Like most entrepreneurs and small business owners, you probably started your business right in your home. The key question is: have you nailed how to manage your time and energy when you work from home?
Many employees displaced by the recent pandemic are also working from home – a phenomenon that is unlikely to change anytime soon. While working from home has given birth to a whole new industry (WFH), it also means making changes and adjustments, many of them geared toward creating a workspace that is a combination of comfortable, functional, and healthy.
When you work from home, it can be so easy to slip into working around the clock. When that happens, it can then lead to the slippery slope of scope creep – a habit that can be dangerous and expensive for any business. In addition, it can quickly sap your energy and strength right when you need it most. Here are a few ways you can manage your time and energy when you work from home.
Learn Effective Time Management Techniques
Unlike working in an office, you can usually decide on and control your own schedule when you work from home. One of the best ways to manage your time is to know yourself and your most productive hours.
Another good idea is to create a routine that works for you (leave a little room for flexibility, please) and take all the breaks you would take if you were in the office – lunch breaks, coffee breaks, and mental health breaks – do not deprive yourself of these now.
Set boundaries that allow you to maintain control of your working hours, use productivity apps and to-do lists, and make sure your days and your workspace are organized and optimized. Finally, avoid multitasking and instead focus your energy in one direction and on one task at a time.
Avoid Scope Creep At All Costs
Scope creep happens when a client continually adds to the boundaries of a project until it creeps far beyond the original intent. Scope creep leads to changes that are costly when they eat up more time than you budgeted for without additional compensation. It is called scope creep for a reason – because it usually sneaks up on you until all of a sudden, a simple project is overwhelming.
To avoid the energy-draining nature of scope creep, make sure you get project details in writing, create a plan for each client and project, and address change at the very first sign of it. The sooner your client knows what changes will cost and how they will alter delivery schedules, the better.
Create A Comfortable Space
Few things sap your energy and strength like fidgeting in an uncomfortable chair all day. Sitting at a desk or table that is the wrong height is a close second, though. Preserve your energy, posture, attitude, and mindset by creating a comfortable workspace. You might be surprised by how much of a difference it makes in your energy stores and in managing your time.
In addition to physical comfort, your home office space should also be aesthetically pleasing and practically equipped. Invest in an ergonomic chair that fits your body type and height, computer, printer, and other electronics that can handle your workload with ease, and photos and imagery that foster creativity and add to your peace of mind.
Avoid Spending All Your Time In Your Home or Home Office
It can be so tempting to stay inside and work in your pajamas all day when you work from home. Do not give in to the temptation! Instead, get out into the fresh air as much as possible. If you have a fitness center membership, exercise can help boost your adrenalin and endorphins.
Getting out can also mean you engage with other people which can be a respite from work. Join a walking club or running club. Take a spin class or locate a scenic walking trail. The goal is to ensure you get a breath of air and walk fully away from your home office.
Insist On Respect For Your WFH Setup
When you work from home, it can be difficult to separate home and work. In fact, many people work from home specifically so that they do not have to make this difficult choice. The key to minimizing stress and keeping your energy levels up is to treat your home office with respect – and insist on the other members of your household doing so as well.
A constant emotional tug of war, an office cluttered with non-work-related papers, a space with no clear focus – all these things sap your energy and make focusing on work much more difficult.
Create Cohesive Compartments
These might also be called time blocking. Start by identifying your energy ebbs and flows and learn how to work around them. Then identify critical versus important versus I-can-get-to-them-later tasks. Creating dedicated time blocks can help you focus, concentrate, and lock into the task at hand.
Be careful not to make your day so timed and restrictive, though, that it becomes frustrating because that will only lead to counterproductivity. Creating timed compartments helps you grasp the overall big picture, manage your calendar, and increase your output. Another advantage to compartmentalizing your day – power naps that help you refresh and reenergize.
Start Your Day Off Right
No, this is not a cliched pitch for a healthy breakfast. Instead, it is a pitch for a leisurely start to every day, not just the weekend. Instead of a hurried shower in the morning, take the time to indulge in a relaxing bath or a use-up-all-the-hot-water shower.
The point is to take your time and start your day at a workable pace rather than in a frenzied rush. You will preserve your energy and set the tone for the day. In other words, use the time you would normally spend making a commute to the office to slide more easily into the day.
Energy levels fluctuate and productivity fluctuates with it. When you learn to read your own signals and create a workspace that is comfortable and efficient, you also master your energy and master your time.