10 Steps to Effectively Schedule Your Home Office

If working at home is new for you, you’re not alone. More people than ever before are working from home due to the COVID-10 pandemic. After the pandemic is over, no one knows how many will continue to work from home. But whether working at home is temporary or permanent for you, it’s essential to have a practical schedule for your workday. 

Challenges of Working at Home

Working at home has its challenges just like working in an office. In your home, you may not have to deal with other employees constantly battling over the office thermostat, but you may have to deal with kids battling over the TV remote. Another challenge of working at home includes being interrupted. No one with kids at home is immune to this possibility. Remember the sophisticated Professor Robert Kelly being video-bombed by his adorable kiddos during a serious BBC interview online? As the Professor tries to hide a smile and maintain his composure, there’s no doubt the incident is rattling, to say the least. The world thought it was precious, but this kind of interruption doesn’t make working from home any easier for hard-working parents. There are a ton of other challenges of working from home. The following is a practical guide to creating a daily schedule that will help you to overcome most of them. 

10 Steps to Effectively Schedule Your Home Office
1. Hang Wall Calendars

Captain Obvious is here to say that hanging wall calendars will help you stay on schedule. Too many people rely on their phone calendars or calendar notebooks to simply track dates. Having one or two wall calendars around your home office lets you quickly glance up and judge how much time is left in the month, etc. without having to interrupt your current task. 

2. Use a Desk Blotter

Another traditional desk accessory item that can’t be replaced by technology is the desk blotter. Use this to quickly jot down reminders or notes without having to boot up a software application or even reach for scrap paper. The reminder is right there under your keyboard and all you have to do is read it. 

3. Let Family Members Know Your Schedule

One big mistake people make when starting to work from home is not letting family members know your schedule. It’s all well and good to decide that between ten and eleven you’re going to return phone calls; if your family doesn’t know that you’ll be on the phone, you’re liable to have those calls interrupted. Write up your daily schedule in general terms and then post it on your home office door, even if that home office is also your bedroom. Then, when a family member is ready to knock or burst in, they’ll see the schedule and be able to come back at a more convenient time. 

4. Know Your Weak Spots

The adage, “know thyself” is so helpful when it comes to creating a practical schedule for your home office. Think about where your weak spots are. Do your cell phone pings distract you? Do you feel the need to check Facebook every five minutes? Are you thinking about running the dishwasher when you’re supposed to be thinking up marketing ideas for a new client? Everyone has weak spots – things that get in the way of you being productive. Once you identify the weak spots you can go about preventing them from interfering with your goals. One way is to install a browser extension that prevents you from accessing sites like Facebook and YouTube during designated timeframes.

5. Start at a Specific Time

It’s great to not have to set your alarm so you can arrive at the office at a set time. But you should strive to begin your work at home day at the same time each day. Decide when you’ll start work and then make sure you’re ready to go at that time. Thankfully, you don’t necessarily have to be showered and dressed, but you should be ready to work; not just browse your favorite social media sites for an hour while you sip your cappuccino. One great benefit of working at home is that you can work when you are feeling most productive and alert. For some people, that means waking up extra early. Others may feel more alert at night. Depending upon your circadian rhythm, your work at home day may not start until after dinner and run into the wee hours of the morning. It doesn’t matter when you start; just that you commit to starting at the same time every day.

6. Finish at the Same Time Every Evening

Every person who’s ever worked for themselves will tell you the same thing: it’s very hard to not let work creep into your personal life. One way you can prevent this is to vow to finish up work by the same time every evening. This one tip will do wonders for your work-at-home schedule. When your family knows for sure that mom will be finished at five on the dot, they’ll be able to wait patiently for whatever they need. Otherwise they might knock incessantly on your door because they have no idea when you might be done. Also, when you know at 3:30 that you only have another hour and a half to get something done, you’ll be less inclined to procrastinate and more likely to be productive. 

7. Set Boundaries With Bosses and Colleagues

Another way to set your schedule in your home office is to set boundaries with those you work with. Let them know it’s not okay to set meetings for 4:45, just like it wouldn’t be okay if everyone was in the office. Let employees know you shouldn’t be interrupted for trivial matters that they can take care of themselves. Make sure you set a precedent so that co-workers don’t learn to expect an instant answer to every text they decide to send you during the day.

8. Implement the Block Method of Time Management

The time blocking method is simply a way of organizing your schedule so you don’t waste time. Essentially, all you need to do is to make blocks for your day and follow them. For instance:

  • 9 a.m. – 10 a.m.: Answer emails
  • 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.: Follow up on new client leads
  • 11 a.m. – noon: Virtual meetings
  • Noon – 1 p.m.: lunch
  • Etc.

Note that you don’t have to fill your entire time with blocks. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to do that for anyone with daily tasks that change frequently. But if you can outline one or two blocks for recurring tasks, that will significantly help you to organize your day and stay productive. 

9. Keep Calls on Track

Others can easily infringe on your time efficiency during phone calls if you aren’t careful. When scheduling phone calls, always have an agenda and a goal. After the agenda’s been covered and the goal of the call met, end the call. Don’t let others start to veer off onto new topics that really deserve a dedicated call of their own. This is redundant and inefficient. Just tell your boss or client that you have to go now and that you’ll be scheduling a new call soon to discuss the other topics.

10. Schedule Your Breaks

No one can (or should) work eight hours without taking breaks. Yet, those who work from home are more likely to work longer hours with no break than those in corporate offices. Why? Because time gets away from them and they forget to take breaks. This leads to burnout, fatigue, and—ultimately—to making unnecessary mistakes.  To ensure you’re operating at your maximum potential all day long, schedule your breaks. Decide when you’ll take at least two, 10-15 minute breaks and an hour or so for lunch or a mid-day break. You’ll be amazed at how much not working during breaks increases how much you’re able to get done when you are working.

Working from home is very much like being your own boss. You don’t have someone looking over your shoulder all day long. Most people like the idea of being autonomous at work, but few have the ability to stay productive all day long. Creating a schedule and using the tips noted above will help you and your loved ones to navigate through these times when so many are working from home. If you’re successful, you may have the option to continue working from home in the future. And with a nice, productive routine in place, it’s likely that you’ll want to!

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