Time management skills are no longer just a buzzword or a skill you say you possess during an interview. It’s become an increasingly important focus area for everyone in 2021, as the lull of the pandemic has shown. Whether you freelance or work a traditional 9-5, chances are, you’re bogged down by the lack of distinction between work and play.
Many freelancers, small business owners, and even employees work in the same place where they live. This could be the dining table, a make-shift kitchen counter, or even an office in your bedroom. These numbers are only increasing: by the end of 2021, Global Workplace Analytics anticipates that “25% to 30% of the workforce will be working from home multiple days a week.”
Companies are responding to this as well all thanks to the pandemic. A global survey conducted by Gartner found that 88% of business organizations all over the world mandated or encouraged all their employees to work from home as the virus started to spread at exponential rates.
We’ve rounded up 3 essential time management tips to improve your time management skills in a “WFH” setting, with the goal to increase productivity and make work/life more bearable. Here’s how!
1. Craft a workspace sanctuary
A sanctuary is a place where you feel safe, calm, and sheltered. Only when your mind and body are in that state of mind can you truly focus on tasks and reach maximum productivity. That’s why creating a workspace sanctuary is so important, both for time management and productivity.
After all, a happy, calm mind is a productive one. A few ways to start crafting your unique sanctuary:
What’s your ideal workspace?
Comfortability is key here. Design your desk, seating arrangement, and surrounding area in a way that makes you feel good. Lighting matters a lot more than you think. Whether it’s positioning your workspace near a window to bring in natural light, or adding lamps where it should light up your workspace (hear from a designer on tips for lighting a modern workspace).
Besides your counter-space and chair, invest in an ergonomic mouse and keyboard to prevent straining while you manage your time and tasks. If you’re going to spend hours here, you might as well make it enjoyable and good for your body!
Be creative with it
Even prior to the pandemic, apartments, condos, and dorm rooms were all places that people lived and worked. Many live within small spaces that often don’t allow for a dedicated workspace sanctuary. In the United States alone in 2020, roughly 1 in 5 Americans relocated due to the pandemic or know someone who has. But that still leaves 4 out of 5 Americans who haven’t or perhaps, don’t have the means to.
And that’s okay.
As a freelancer or small business owner, you could be sending emails or invoicing in your bedroom, kitchen or dining room. At the end of the day, it’s all about being creative with your workspace. Section your bedroom between work and play. For example, if you have a desk on one side, dedicate that space to productivity and your bed to relax. If you need to work in your kitchen or dining area, consider using a foldable desk (like these ones from Amazon). Put it in the same place every day, and take it out only when you plan to work.
Distractions can come in many forms. Sounds and necessary thoughts are some that can have a significant impact on your productivity. Just like leaving a white noise on improves sleep, a study from the Stanford University School of Medicine has shown that music—specifically classical music—can help your brain absorb and interpret new information more easily. What’s more, research also suggests that a good mood generally improves learning outcomes.
Decluttered space, decluttered mind
Have you ever felt like a messy surrounding compounds in your mind? Whenever we’re stressed—whether that’s running into an issue with a client or inability to solve a problem at work. Dealing with an uncleaned apartment, unmade bed, or even a mess on your desk can triple those feelings, making time management and productivity decrease.
Make your bed (especially if you work in your bedroom) and declutter your desk. That’s what folders, cubbies, and pen holders are for!
2. Create rituals to improve productivity
Mastering your habits and rituals is life-changing. It could be as small as making your bed every morning or as massively impactful as quitting smoking after being a smoker for decades. These things all have a thing in common: they achieved success by focusing on patterns that shape a key aspect of their lives.
And you can too when it comes to time management and productivity.
Ritual — a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.
Create daily rituals that give you peace (or bring you joy)
Instead of starting your day right at your computer, take 30 minutes to yourself. It could be as simple as waking up 15 minutes early to spend making a fancy cup of coffee or going for a walk with your dog around the city.
If you’re someone that finds it hard to tear yourself away from work once you’ve gotten into a flow, try working out in the morning.
Fearne Cotton and Miranda Kerr both start their day with a freezing cold shower, which provides improved immunity and circulation, stress relief, better mood, and relief of muscle soreness.
Whatever daily ritual you choose, find one that gives you peace and most importantly, brings you joy. This is key to making it a ritual: you won’t continue with it if your mind and body resist it.
3. Use a calendar system that you trust
Once you have your workspace and routines down pat, the next step is to set up a calendar system that you trust.
Review goals and priorities often
Working heads down all the time is detrimental to you in the long run. Just like companies set goals every quarter to plan out what they aim to achieve in the following 3 months, so should you!
Make goals to plan in a three-month, 6-month, and annual cadence. Put these goals in your calendar and don’t forget to create a reminder to review them in your calendar. This practice will remind you to look up often enough (even during busy months) so that you’re aligned on what you hope to achieve. This is key because it’s far too easy to get. swept away in the “busy-ness” of client deadlines, the client asks, and even your employer’s goals.
Use the Pomodoro Technique for time management
Improving attention span is hard in this day and age where distractions come far too easily. Developed in the late 1980s, the Pomodoro Technique is an infamous time management method that encourages you to incorporate breaks throughout your workday. It breaks down work into intervals (25 minutes in length) so that you can spend breaks to refresh your mind. Taking breaks is key to time management—after all, creating a back-to-back calendar every day is far too stressful.