Looking for some time management tips for remote workers?
While working remotely comes with its share of perks, there are a few challenges as well — especially if you’ve only recently made the transition to a remote environment.
Without your boss or manager around, you’re entirely accountable for how you spend your work time. As such, having a solid grasp of how you use your time is essential.
However, time management isn’t a skill that comes naturally to everyone.
Whether you’re a manager or a remote team member, if you’re struggling to get through your daily task list, you may be a victim of poor time management.
In this detailed guide, we’ll go over ten tips to help a remote team improve their time management skills. We’ll also recommend a tool to take your time management techniques to the next level.
This Article Contains:
(Click on a link to jump to the specific section)
- 10 Time Management Tips For Remote Workers
- Some Challenges To Remote Time Management
Let’s get started.
10 Rock-Solid Time Management Tips For Remote Workers
Being in control of how you spend your time is crucial, not only in a work environment but for creating a healthy work life balance.
If you find yourself struggling to get through your to-do list, try out some of these time management and productivity tips:
1. Keep a schedule
While this may sound obvious, having a routine and to-do list is often one of the first things missing when transitioning to a remote worker.
Try to create a work schedule before sitting down and working. This will give you an overview of what you need to accomplish that day and help you settle into a routine.
Research has shown that planning your day results in increased work engagement.
Start with the basics: plan the time you’re going to wake up, start work, take lunch, breaks, and end each day.
It’s a good idea to capitalize on your more productive times by scheduling the challenging or time-consuming tasks to those hours.
Additionally, consider setting a weekly to-do list mapped out at the end of the week for the following Monday. This will take the pressure off of doing it on a Monday morning while giving you an overview of your week.
2. Have a dedicated workspace
When you’re at the office, you have a dedicated space for work.
However, it should be the same if you’re a remote worker. Ensure everything you need is within reach but without creating clutter.
It doesn’t need to be a dedicated office with a huge desk; it could be a little space in a room. The important thing is to use this space only for work.
Additionally, you should avoid working in areas like your living room and bedroom as this may make it more difficult to concentrate. Since your brain associates those rooms with non-work time, it could reduce your productivity levels.
So it’s best to separate your work area from your relaxation area. Doing so may help form the habit of ‘switching off’ when you sign out for the day.
Over time, your subconscious will associate that area with work, and you’ll find your productivity increasing.
3. Know how you spend your time
Good time management is a challenge that every company faces.
Employees, managers, and even leaders are always looking for ways to improve their efficiency — to ultimately increase overall productivity and profitability.
However, you can’t improve your time management skills if you aren’t aware of how you spend your time.
A practical method for this is to invest in a time tracking app to measure your productivity. You’ll be able to see the areas you’re wasting time on and avoid these.
Most time tracking software will show you exactly how long you spend writing an email, working on a document, or on a phone call. By tracking and collecting such workday data, you enable yourself with the information needed to make strategic improvements.
While there are many time tracking apps available, Time Doctor tracks all workday activities, giving you real-time, actionable insights to improve your time management.
Some of the data Time Doctor provides include:
- Total working hours.
- Start and end times.
- Productivity breakdowns by day, week, or month.
- Top used websites and applications.
- Top projects and tasks by hours worked.
- Daily timeline overview.
Are you interested in tracking your time today?
Visit the Time Doctor website to create a free account.
4. Minimize distractions
Most people would consider social media apps like Twitter and Facebook as major distractions.
However, remote workers can often feel like they need to prove their productivity by responding to communications from co-workers or managers immediately. In reality, this creates one of the biggest challenges to productivity — distractions.
Instead, prioritize your focus by avoiding personal tasks and blocking all except urgent notifications during times of deep work. Chances are that you don’t need to respond to that Slack message immediately.
Having said that, social media can still result in hours of lost time. Recent studies have shown that online distractions can cost workers 2.5 hours of work time every day!
The best way to avoid the distraction is to remove the temptation.
While you don’t have to go so far as to delete your Twitter account, consider signing out of your accounts or working in an incognito window to avoid automatically logging in.
Alternatively, if you use a time tracking tool like Time Doctor, you can add various productivity ratings to websites to make productivity monitoring more effective. Time Doctor will send you detailed reports highlighting how much time you’ve spent on productive and unproductive websites.
5. Determine your most productive times
Not everybody functions the same.
Some find they are at their most productive early in the mornings, while others prefer to work into the night.
Once you’ve figured out when you are at your most productive, you can start scheduling the most challenging task for those hours.
You can then allocate less important tasks like responding to emails and answering phone calls to less productive hours.
6. Take regular breaks
Studies have suggested that remote workers are 13% more productive than those who work in an office. Additionally, telecommuting employees take fewer sick and leave days.
While remote work is ideal for those tasks requiring deep concentration since fewer people are around, the downside is often employee burnout.
As part of a virtual team, it’s essential to understand that time management isn’t about getting as much done as quickly as possible. It’s about working consistently throughout the day.
Make sure you aren’t working intensely for more than 90 minutes at a time. The breaks don’t have to be incredibly long; even just taking a two-minute “microbreak” has shown to be effective at improving cognitive performance.
7. Try the Pomodoro technique
One of the most popular time management approaches is the Pomodoro technique.
Remarkably simple, this time management technique involves breaking down your work time into 25-minute chunks. After each 25-minute interval, take a five-minute break.
Then, after completing four 25-minute sessions, you take a longer 20-minute break.
The Pomodoro technique also includes three rules:
- Break down complex projects: If a specific task requires more than four pomodoros (i.e., 25-minute intervals), you need to divide it into smaller, more manageable steps.
- Group the smaller tasks together: If a task takes less than one pomodoro, group it with similar tasks.
- Don’t get distracted until the timer rings: Take note of any ideas, tasks, or requests you have while the timer is going and come back to it later. It’s crucial to remain focused during those 25-minute sessions.
This technique aims to minimize the effects of disruptions on your focus and workflow.
8. Acknowledge that there will be more meetings
Without the availability of in-person discussions that the office allows, virtual meeting sessions will likely become more frequent.
As a result, the time you’d generally allocate to completing a task may now be occupied with a team meeting.
Fortunately, you should have ample time to plan for those video calls and allocate that task to a different time. Before you sign out for the day, check your schedule for the following day to ensure any early-morning meetings don’t creep up on you.
If you’re one of the remote managers in charge of scheduling meetings, consider if the meeting is needed. Too much video conferencing can be detrimental to productivity.
9. Set clear boundaries
For working parents or those sharing a living space, you’re going to need some boundaries during your work hours.
It’s also important that friends and family understand that it doesn’t mean you aren’t working just because you’re at home. Communicate your work situation so they know they can’t drop by unannounced.
Consider doing the same with your colleagues.
Have a discussion with your manager and team members about which hours should be dedicated to working and which are available for meetings and work calls.
10. Dress like you’re going to work
Wearing your pajamas or yoga pants is arguably one of the unspoken rules of working from home.
While these may be the epitome of comfort, getting dressed for work has several benefits.
Keeping to roughly the same routine you had while working onsite will ease the transition to remote work and help you get in the right frame of mind.
Set your alarm and start your day with a cup of coffee before changing into your work clothes. You might be surprised at how your time management improves.
Some Challenges To Remote Time Management
Switching from working onsite to working from home can be a huge change, one that comes with some unique challenges.
Keep the below points in mind when switching to remote working:
1. Your work is less visible
There are several opportunities to make yourself and your work visible to senior members in an office setting.
When working remotely, it may be challenging to find opportunities to promote yourself and what you do at the company. This can lead to feeling underappreciated and result in lower morale.
2. You may feel guilty
A major concern companies face when switching to a remote workforce is how to ensure employees aren’t abusing the system.
However, most employees tend to work for far more hours than they did in the office.
You may feel like you always need to be present to your bosses, resulting in a remote employee working longer to emphasize their usefulness. In reality, this is an easy way of burning out.
Avoid this with clear communication. Talk to your boss about available work hours and ensure they know your usefulness by the quality of work you produce.
3. No one is going to structure your time for you
While this is often one of the most appealing aspects of working from home, it can be challenging to be in charge of every minute of your day. An excellent way to tackle this is by keeping a daily schedule.
4. You may struggle with unplugging
While remote work flexibility is an undeniable perk, it can also make it difficult to switch off after signing out for the day.
According to a survey by Buffer, one of the biggest struggles for members of a distributed team is not being able to unplug.
Typically, your work is done for the day when you leave the office.
However, you can’t say the same for telecommuting employees.
To combat this, experiment with different ideas, such as working in other locations. Consider working at a coffee shop for a few hours a day or in different rooms in your house.
While the switch to remote work can be challenging initially, it’s important to balance work with downtime. To begin, try making a simple schedule that factors in regular breaks.
Remember that not all of these management tips will work for everybody. The best way to find the most effective method for you is experimenting by picking and choosing from the list.
Ultimately, time is our most valuable resource, and how you spend it affects more than your productivity. Effective time management can create a feeling of empowerment and stability.
If you’re serious about improving your time management skills, consider using a productivity management tool like Time Doctor to understand where your time wasters are and how to avoid them.
Liam Martin is the co-founder of Time Doctor—one of the world’s leading time tracking software for remote teams. He is also the co-organizer of Running Remote, the world’s largest remote work conference.