One of the joys — and struggles — of working from home is the ability to control your own work day. As someone who does a great deal of work from home, I appreciate the benefits of setting my own schedule. I’m also very aware of the difficulties.
After much trial and error, I now have a work routine that actually works for me. The real breakthrough came when I finally figured out that when it comes to structuring my work day, energy management is just as important as time management.
I’m sharing a few of my best tips so you won’t have to learn that lesson the hard way!
1. Assess your natural rhythms.
Figure out your best working hours — the times of day when your head is clear and you can crank through the hard stuff. Then figure out when the sinking spells are likely to hit — the times of day when you feel like you need a nap (or maybe even take one!).
2. Block out your best thinking hours for creative work.
The first step is to figure out the difference between creative work and busy work for you, because this varies widely by industry and individual. (If you don’t consider yourself a creative type, think of “income-generating work”.)
The busy work — e-mails, invoicing, vendor calls — is obviously important, but shouldn’t get the best work hours of your day.
Schedule accordingly. My best thinking hours are in the morning, so that’s when I do serious writing. My worst thinking hours are between 2:00 and 3:30 every afternoon, so that time is devoted to reading, working out, and e-mail.
I know many new business owners work in whatever pockets of time they can find. I’ve been there, too. Please know that developing an awareness of your natural rhythms is helpful, even if you aren’t able to adjust your schedule to perfectly work around them.
3. Schedule breaks.
It took me too long to learn that breaks aren’t a luxury; they’re essential. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is walk your dog, even if — no, especially if — you’re in the middle of a tough project. Taking a break from a project gives your mind the chance to rest, and you might even find that you are able to easily think up fresh ideas that eluded you an hour earlier.
4. Tweak as necessary
While I’ve developed a consistent rhythm for my workdays, the details are constantly changing: my projects, my kids’ schedules, even the time of year all impact my work routine. (A 2:00 p.m. run sounds like a nice break right now, but I’ll feel differently about that in the summer heat. 😉 )
Keep experimenting to find a schedule that works for you — and when it stops working for you, don’t hesitate to change it up.