Top 6 Tips for Managing Your Time When You Work From Home

Guest post by Christopher Bernal

 

The ability to work without someone telling you what to do and when is a crucial skillset to develop. Working with a team that has a producer, project manager, or lead is familiar with the process of estimating time and creating a project schedule. When it comes to the individual tasks that need to be accomplished, there is often alchemy involved in how long an assignment will take. Demystifying the correlation between your creative process and how you structure your day is essential to being successful.  Which is so important now that you work from home.

The below lists our 6 top tips for planning your time more effectively when you are working from home.

 

1. Inventory how you spend your time then identify where you should be spending it

This is a short-term exercise to create awareness of your time, intentional interruptions are meant to give you a chance to practice evaluating if what you are working on right now is essential. The Pomodoro Technique is one approach to try, which involves regular interval breaks every 15-25 minutes, you stop what you are doing and write it down.

Are you doing what you are supposed to be doing, or have you deviated from your schedule? 

If you find yourself regularly noodling with an aspect of the project or get tripped up by perfectionism, this should immediately yield results.

 

2. Start tracking your time like you are an hourly freelancer

Harvest or Toggl

Logging your time in fifteen to one-hour increments can feel like a hassle, but if you add a note or two about what you did at a glance weeks later, you can glean some fantastic insights into what you actually were working on.

 

3. Create an ideal schedule

Now that you have some idea of how you spend your time. You need to have the space to have uninterrupted focus time to get into the project. This can only be done after you've cleared away the clutter. Sometimes you need several hours to get into the rhythm with the project.

Not everything requires you to be responsive, constant external interruptions will result in waste overall. This happens to most of us who works from home. Set your phone and computer to ‘do not disturb.' Attempt to be consistent declaring when you are free. Take your lunch at the same time every day, the same ritual with your coffee time. Schedule calls with clients and teams ahead of time to avoid impromptu interruptions that can result from folks wandering to your desk or sending you check-in emails or messages.

A few things will be revealed in this process, one of which is your ability to estimate how much time tasks take. If there are holes in your process, giving yourself specific timelines and listing steps is going to reveal that.

4. Schedule your entire day not just your working time

During the summer, I have a full schedule. Hustle is engaged. Winter. Not so much.

  • 5am I will wake up and take a shower or walk straight to Starbucks
  • 6-9am emails, training videos, or maybe open c4d/ae to practice something I'll need for the day.
  • 10-6pm is usually the day job, but recently has become 9-4pm
  • 7-10pm is the window I have reserved for hosting/attending events, but is also the time I freelance if I didn't do that in the morning.

An example of how I have broken down my freelance availability in blocks: part-time 6-9am 3-hour block; day job 10am to 6pm 8-hour block; part-time 7-10pm 3-hour block.

This allocation of three-hour blocks of time and the eight hours was considered based on the need for a 40 hour work week with at most 20 hours for a part-time job.

If you work from home, it's not possible to work all three blocks of time in a sustained fashion, but over a few weeks with support and a clear schedule, it's possible to log sixty hours without touching the weekend and hating your life.

The first shop I freelanced at worked ten-hour days. For those with math skills, this meant we got an extra day of work out of the Monday to Friday workweek. Fifty hours was the norm with animation or production work; it wasn't uncommon to occasionally put in a twelve to sixteen hour day during the crunch before delivery or launch.

The times this was self-inflicted, you'd be forgiven to drawing the conclusion we were all masochists.

Motion Makes a Masochist by Ravensbourne (Official account)

5. Your working stamina in your early 20's will not match your 30's

The same occasional late night out, heavy drinks, or the all-nighter will need more planned recovery time. In your '40s and '50s, you will have other interests, hobbies, and commitments that will reinforce the preference to keep your working hours shorter and focused. This mindfulness of how you spend your time is best cultivated now.

 

6. If you build a schedule and routing without any flexibility, you will not be able to adapt when life throws curveballs at you.

Birthday parties, social events, and the myriad of holiday season commitments don't care about your deadlines or your dedication to the craft.

Identify the different blocks of time, such as family exercise and errands.

Life has seasons, tires need replacing, or work get's a bit extra.

In a given year, you'll recognize seasons across client work, holidays, and your own energy level. The winter has been a good time of year to hunker down and catch up on anything I missed earlier in the year. While there can be exciting projects going on, I find their production schedules to often conflict with the needs of family and holiday commitments.

Being mindful of time doesn't need to make you a slave to it, but not being aware of how to manage your time or estimate will lead to missed deadlines, rushed projects, and all that culminates in stress.

So there are our top tips for managing your time better when you work from home.  Set yourself a schedule, but don’t get too stressed if life happens and things need to change.

 

Written By: Christopher Bernal who is a motion designer from San Francisco and a mentor for our Mograph Mastermind. If you would like support and accountability for your career join our next session.  

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