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Working remotely is such a freeing experience. It lets you pick your hours, work anywhere in the world, and take control of your work-life balance. But all this freedom comes with serious challenges, since the responsibility falls on you to create your own work from home schedule.
Even though you’re not stuck in a 9 to 5 work day, crafting a work from home schedule will help you stay on task, beat procrastination, and avoid the temptation to sleep an extra hour or waste time with Netflix.
And since you work remotely, you can design a work from home schedule that suits you and your work style.
Creating a work from home schedule that works for you
Everyone’s work from home schedule might look different — it’s up to you to design a work from home routine that suits your needs. To help you crack the code, we’ve put together seven critical questions. Once you answer these questions, you’ll know how to make a work from home schedule that works for you.
1. What time do you want/need to start working?
Begin by determining when you want (or need) to start working. If you’re someone who prefers to sleep in, then saying you will start work at 6 am every day isn’t realistic. Pick a time that you can commit to every day.
If you’re working for a company that’s in multiple time zones, you may need to be available during certain times. Make sure you take that into consideration. For example, if you live on the East Coast but need to operate on West Coast time, you may choose to start your work much later in the morning.
2. How long will you work and what days?
One of the greatest benefits of remote work is flexibility. Unless the terms of your employment state specific hours, you can work three days a week or seven days a week, two hours a day or 15 hours a day — it’s up to you.
If you prefer to cram in hours of hyper-productivity to get a ton of work done in a short amount of time, you can do that. If you prefer to take your time and recharge with breaks and long lunches or yoga classes throughout the day, that works, too.
As long as you’re being mindful about your work days and meeting any expectations of your employer, you can choose when and how much you work based on your preferences.
3. What time will you eat?
Don’t forget to factor in your meal times. Some people prefer to work through lunch, while others like to set aside 30 minutes or an hour to eat and relax. Think about what time of day you tend to get hungry.
If you can work a lunch break into your work from home routine (rather than mixing it up every day), you might have an easier time sticking to your schedule.
4. What time do you want to stop working?
Figure out what time you plan to stop working for the day. You may need to be done by 4 pm so you can get to a 6 pm cross-fit class. Maybe you like to work until your favorite TV show is on.
It’s important to pick an ideal stop time, because this will also help reduce burnout. Without a schedule, it can be easy to get lost in our work and lose track of time, which could lead to stress and overwhelm.
So make sure to draw a boundary around your work hours and shut everything down when you’re done for the day. When you work from home, the lines between your personal and professional life can blur. But by setting a clear stop time, you’ll be able to enjoy your time off from work and be refreshed once the work day starts again in the morning.
5. What do you need to accomplish every day?
Depending on your scope of work, you may need to complete specific tasks every day before calling it quits. Some jobs require workers to make a certain number of calls or send so many emails a day. While it may be hard to initially pin down how long it takes you to complete these tasks, you can set an initial goal and adjust as needed.
Some workers prefer to tackle big tasks that require critical thinking in the morning and leave busy work or administrative tasks, such as answering emails, for the afternoon. Think about when you’re most clear-headed and use that time of day to take on your most challenging work.
6. What are your other time commitments, if any?
If you work multiple jobs or have other commitments outside of work, take those into consideration early on. Balancing multiple jobs, personal time, or other commitments can be difficult, so ensure your schedule is set up to help succeed, not hinder you.
7. Do you want/need to use a time-tracking app?
Even if you design an organized work from home schedule, actually sticking to it can be tough. That’s where a time tracker app can help.
Time trackers allow you to optimize your day by manually tracking each task you do. Not only do they reveal how you spend your time, but they also help you shape your work at home schedule and plan your days.
After a few weeks of time-tracking, trends will emerge, giving you a full-picture of how you spend your time. You can use that information to re-organize your schedule or switch around your tasks, as needed.
Harvest, RescueTime, or Toggl are all useful tools for tracking your time and boosting productivity (check out this list for additional suggestions!). Play around with them and see which one best suits your needs.
What’s your ideal work from home routine?
Once you’ve answered these seven questions, you should have a pretty good idea of your remote or freelance daily schedule. Consistency is key to establishing habits, so stick to this schedule as much as possible.
At the same time, don’t forget that life will sometimes get in the way, so it’s fine to be flexible when needed. Just make sure you’re regularly re-analyzing your work from home calendar to make sure it’s working for you.