Join Dave Crenshaw for an in-depth discussion in this video Keep work hours in balance, part of Time Management: Working from Home.
- While creating this course, I asked my LinkedIn network, what is the number one challenge you experience while working from home? This question received tens of thousands of views and hundreds of replies. The most common issue that people experienced? An inability to disconnect themselves mentally and emotionally and, occasionally, physically from work. Many people who work from home feel they have no boundary. Rather than working less hours while at home, they work more.
Working endlessly like this is a bit like being a hamster running on a continuous treadmill. Let's get you off that treadmill and get you into the mindset of a race. Unlike a treadmill, a race has a starting line and a finish line. There is a clear beginning point and a clear endpoint. You also want to create a clear starting line and a clear finish line to your day. Many people who work from home are not given established work hours by their employer.
Typically, there's a great deal of freedom and flexibility. You want to take that freedom and flexibility and make a conscious choice about your working hours and then stick to them. Let's start at the beginning of the race. What is your starting line? To answer this question, think about your sleep and health needs. The average person needs about seven to nine hours per night to function in a healthy manner each day. The more consistent you can be at when you get these hours of sleep, the better the benefit of sleep will be to you.
Let's assume you're in the middle, that you need eight hours of sleep each day. Let's say that you can fairly consistently go to sleep at a reasonable hour of 10:30 each night. That means you'll need to wake up at 6:30 each day. From there, consider how much time it's going to take for you to get ready, to eat breakfast, to do whatever it is you need to do in the morning. After considering all that, let's say that you determine your starting line for each day is going to be two hours after you wake up, so 8:30 a.m.
You want to create an appointment in your calendar every single workday just before 8:30. So 8:25 titled Starting Line. This establishes when your workday begins. Now, let's consider the more challenging step, creating your finish line. At what time each day are you going to turn your brain off about thinking about work? What is the point at which you're going to say I'm finished, I won the race for today, and I won't start it up until tomorrow? For example, personally, my finish line is at 5:00 each day.
At 5:00, I no longer check email messages or do work-related activities. That may be unrealistic for you, so start somewhere. If you've been in the habit of working until 8:00 every night, then perhaps establish your finish line at 7:30 p.m. And, that way, it helps you stretch just a little bit, but is a reasonable expectation. Whatever finish line you want to establish, create a brief, recurring appointment in your calendar that work ends at that time.
We're not done yet though. I've found those who work from home find it difficult to make the mental transition from work to personal or family life. When you work from home, you lack the natural transition that those who travel to work have, a commute. The travel time from the office to home gives you the ability to decompress and stop thinking about work. So you'll likely want to create your own mental commute.
I call it transition time. So, for my personal example, since my finish line is at 5:00 p.m. each day, then I also schedule transition time at 4:30 each day, giving me a half an hour to decompress from work. For my transition time, I play video games. It helps clear my mind. Find something that works for you and clears your mind, like listening to an audiobook or watching a Netflix show, or going for a jog, whatever works for you.
Find an activity that signals to your mind and body it's time to stop work and it's time for your brain to calm down. Sometimes, you'll want to have start and finish times not just to your day, but to your weeks and your months. For instance, you might say that your finish time on Friday starts at 5:00 p.m. and extends all the way until your start time on Monday at 8:30, meaning you won't allow yourself to do any kind of work over the weekend.
Or, if you're someone who travels frequently and has some control over your schedule, you might create a maximum amount of time that you're going to be away from home. As a public speaker, I limit the number of days that I travel a month to no more than eight. Create a plan that makes sense for you. The point is you have control over your schedule. You can create the boundaries for yourself. Once you create those boundaries, respect them. As you do that, you will find that you have greater focus and greater ability to be productive during your daily race.
- Create a productive environment by limiting distractions.
- Evaluate and choose the best technology to increase your productivity.
- Differentiate between constant effort and a healthy working rhythm.
- Define expectations around communication while remaining responsive.
- Identify the benefits of relationship building.
- Learn how to manage interruptions and emergencies at home.