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How to structure your working from home time

Here's how to get the most out of your day. Image: Getty

Whilst telecommuting has been around for decades now, two thirds of us still regularly head into an office or a workplace, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Many of us might take a day here and there to play catch ups, but unless you are a sole practitioner, regular, ongoing or longer-term working from home arrangements are still pretty new.

If the coronavirus situation has now created a need for you to work from home, and you are not accustomed to this, there are some ways in which you can structure your day so that you don’t fall into the trap of over or under work.

Routine

Try to stick to your routine. Image: Getty

Having a routine is imperative to successfully managing a working from home lifestyle.  Whilst you might think that you can roll out of bed at 8.55am to start the day at 9.00am, it’s unlikely that you will hit the ground running productively.

If you already have a “going to the office” routine, then keep it for when you are working from home.  For example, get out of bed at the same time, go to the gym, get the kids off to school. Whatever it is for you, try to maintain that routine.  

Your body is already in a well-practiced cycle from years of repetition.  It will only make it harder if you try and fight that.  

This might mean you are able to start the day earlier, given you won’t have the commute.  Make sure, though that you have a clear start and knock off time otherwise you will end up spending more time working than you would if you were in the office.

If you do start earlier, because you can, knock off earlier.  Try to limit yourself to your usual working hours. 

Don’t skip the good bits

Enjoy the normal parts of your day. Image: Getty

During your commute, did you normally read a book, or the paper?  Did you listen to podcasts or the radio? If that’s the case, continue to do so as part of your work from home routine.  Just because you are not in the car or not on public transport, doesn’t mean you have to skip those things.  

Now that you don’t have the commute, you can take a slightly longer breakfast, whilst engaging in those activities.

Moreover, you now have the time to do some exercise at the beginning or end of the day in place of the commute.  Why not take yourself off for a nice 30-minute walk between breakfast and sitting down at the computer?

Your daily routine - hour by hour

We all work in different ways. Image: Getty

Most of us work an average of eight hours per day (or at least would like to) so that’s what we’re aiming for when working from home too. Carving up our day into 4 x 2 hour chunks can help us to work at the right time, depending on our levels of  intensity (energy and focus) and impact (importance and return on time investment).

  • The first two hours: High intensity/high impact tasks that directly and positively affect results and require a lot of attention, energy and focus. 

  • The second two hours: High intensity/low impact tasks that require being in the service of others. Giving time to someone in your team to ‘bounce an idea off’ or something similar. 

  • The third two hours: Low intensity/low impact tasks that can be done while metaphorically sleeping because they are easy and the stakes are low. These are things that are repetitive and routine in nature – like responding to email. 

  • The fourth two hours: Low intensity/high impact tasks that don’t require a lot of ‘heavy lifting’ brain-wise, but will have a positive impact: planning, maintenance, preparation.

Irrespective of whether you are a morning (early bird) or evening (night owl), your body clock is designed to do work that requires mental agility in the morning, and physical agility in the afternoon.  

When working from home, dedicate at least two hours in the morning to work that requires high levels of focus and intensity and do your more mundane or routine tasks in the afternoon.  

DONNA McGEORGE is a speaker, author and mentor who helps people make their work work. Using a creative, practical approach, she improves workplace effectiveness while challenging thinking on leadership, productivity and virtual work. She is the author of 3 books, ‘Making Work Work’ published by the author, and ‘The 25-Minute Meeting: Half the Time, Double the Impact’ and ‘The First 2 Hours: Making Better Use of Your Most Valuable Time’ are published by John Wiley.

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