When you’re stuck at work for eight hours or more a day along with the daily commute, working at home seems like a dream come true. Yet, studies have shown that working from home often means working longer hours for less pay. That’s not a good thing. Instead, you should be able to work fewer hours and get more time back for your personal life.
If you start talking about the sudden shift to remote work during COVID-19, it’s even worse. In fact, many people are working non-stop. Instead of at least getting more time for themselves and loved ones due to the lack of a commute, they work through the commute and hours after the usual work day. It’s time to take back your time and find balance again.
Focus on the Right Tasks
Working from home means you’re on your own for the most part. You have to decide how to do things, when to do them, and what order to do them in. This applies whether you work for yourself or you’re just working remotely.
The key is to outline which tasks are the most important. Place your full focus on those tasks for a set period of time. Instead of trying to do everything at once, focus on those key tasks, and you’ll find your day getting shorter.
For remote workers who do this, one study showed a four-percent increase in time spent on those tasks, but an 18-percent decrease spent on communication. This equates to 58 more hours a year on the right tasks, but 256 less hours on communication. That’s 198 more hours a year that you save.
Stick to Set Hours
To work fewer hours, you have to set a strict schedule. This means refusing to work after those hours. If you’re working remotely, work with your employer to create a schedule. If you usually leave the office at 5 PM, you should be able to do the same at home. This may mean setting an away message on your phone and email, but it’s worth it.
When you know that the day will definitely be over at a set time, you’ll procrastinate less because you’ll know you have to finish by that time. As you get into that habit, you’ll find yourself finishing even earlier. While you may not be able to clock out earlier, you may have time to watch YouTube or do something fun while monitoring your email and phone.
As covered earlier, communications take up a large part of the average work day, even when working from home. You’ll easily work fewer hours by better managing communication time. Much like scheduling how many hours you’ll work, set times specifically for communications.
For instance, only check emails every thirty minutes to an hour at most. For harder tasks that often leave you working late, carve out an hour or two where you turn off all communications to focus on those tasks.
Try to eliminate as many meetings as possible. These eat up hours and usually don’t benefit you much. In fact, they often drag on far longer than necessary.
You want to work fewer hours right this minute. But, working less is like any other goal. It takes time to accomplish. You may be able to shave off only 10 to 15 minutes a day to start – that’s okay.
Look at your entire workday to determine what’s holding you back. Are you overloaded with work? Are you too distracted? Is time management an issue?
Whatever the biggest issue is, tackle that first. This will be where you’re able to shave off the most time. It may take several months before you start saving hours each week, but it will be worth it.
Take Frequent Breaks
Remote and telecommute workers can’t just clock out early. You still have to be available for the same hours you’d work in the office. But frequent breaks help cut time out of your day without the boss realizing you’re working fewer hours. You can also make use of the Pomodoro technique to get frequent breaks and still get more things done
For example, look at your schedule and see where you can fit in a 15-to-20-minute break to do something for yourself. This is in addition to your lunch break. If you fit in several twenty minute breaks a day, you’re saving five hours a week. Identify slower times of the day and use them to relax and de-stress. Or get your hardest tasks done then so that you’re not distracted later, leading you to finishing earlier.
It may take time, but working from home doesn’t have to mean working longer. Instead, start enjoying the extra time that you’re not commuting. And then, cut out an hour or two out of your workday to have a better balance with your personal life.