When you first decide to work from home, it seems like a dream come true. You can write your own hours. If you want to, you can work for a few hours in the morning, head to the park for a couple of hours in the afternoon, and then work a couple of hours in the evening. And there’s no more staring at your computer and pretending to work when you finished up hours ago: As soon as you’re done working, you can go do something else. Soon after you leave your 9-5 to pursue your home career, however, you realize that it’s not all sunshine and daisies.
One of the hardest parts of working from home is organizing your schedule. Without the need to fill your hours, 9-5, every day, it’s easy to become distracted. While there were always days you didn’t want to show up to work, now those days are accompanied by the ability to lounge in your pajamas and binge BoJack Horseman. Without a supervisor hanging over your shoulder, it can be hard to even know where to start. That’s why it’s important to have an organizational system in place. Keeping your work organized and on some sort of schedule can keep procrastination at bay and ensure you get your work done on time.
Of course, everyone’s workflow is a little different. If you’re trying to figure out how to organize your work from home schedule, here are a few different ways that you can organize it. Try them out to determine what works best for you.
Think about when you were in high school. Your day was broken not into hours, but into blocks. You had the start of your day, when you got ready for school and ate breakfast. Then you had small chunks of time when you would attend each class, after which you would pack up all your stuff and physically move to the next class. If you didn’t get your math work done in math class, it didn’t bleed into science class—you just picked it back up next time you had math class.
That’s the idea behind block scheduling. Perfect for the work-at-home parent who’s also trying to get the house cleaned and run children to after school activities, block scheduling allows you to focus on one type of activity for a period of time and then let it go after. If your kitchen doesn’t get cleaned during your “clean the house block,” it’s okay—you’ll do it tomorrow. Block scheduling allows you to get stuff done in all aspects of your life, and can help you figure out work/life balance and let go of some of your anxiety. For more information about block scheduling, check out this video.
Another way to organize your schedule is to set yourself daily goals. The best way to do this is to keep a notebook on your end table. Each night before bed, write down the three most important things for you to accomplish the next day. Limit yourself to three, because three is always doable. If you start making a list of 15 things and only accomplish 5 of them, you’ll end your day thinking you didn’t do good enough. You’re also more likely to focus on quickly doing things that matter less so that you can check “more” off your to-do list.
If you have just three items on your to-do list, you’re likely to buckle down and focus on doing those three things correctly. The best rule is to not put things on your to-do list that are going to get done anyway. If you always make your bed in the morning, that doesn’t need to make your list of 3 items. If your kid has a piano recital that you’re definitely not going to miss, that doesn’t need to go on, either. Your three items should be items that have upcoming due dates or that you’ve been avoiding. Keeping a list of daily goals doesn’t mean that you have to stop after you do those three things, but it means that, no matter what else happens with your day, if you get those three items done, you feel accomplished.
Keep Deadlines Visible
If sticking to or remembering your deadlines is your biggest issue, then the best organizational system for you might be one that keeps all of your deadlines visible. Get a giant whiteboard calendar that you can write your deadlines on. This can help you stay focused throughout the day. When you finish one task, you can glance up and see what the next upcoming due date is. If you don’t have many upcoming deadlines, then you know it’s a good time to run errands or clean the house.
You can also set yourself fake deadlines. For example, maybe you have an article due on Friday, but you want to build some cushion into your life. In that case, you can write yourself a Wednesday due date on your calendar to ensure you get to the project early. That way, if some sort of emergency comes up, you have a little extra room in your schedule to get things done.
Organizing your schedule is a challenge when you work from home, but there are ways to tackle it that will help you stay on track with your deadlines and lead a more stress-free life. Get back to being able to head to the park for a warm afternoon by knowing exactly how much you need to accomplish and exactly when it needs to get accomplished by!