More and more people are starting to work from home. Many of them are facing a completely new work environment which can be distracting or too relaxing. In this post, I want to talk about one specific habit, which will help stay focused and not overwork during the day.
There are many ways to have a healthy and productive time at home. And the internet is filled with tips on how to do that. Therefore, in this post, I am going to focus on only one topic that is usually talked about the least. And that's time-tracking.
So what's the actual problem?
Before diving into the benefits, lets quickly go through the difficulties we face when working from the comfort of our home.
We all experienced it, you wake up and realize — I don't have to rush to the office anymore, so why not spent some time and watch a few YouTube videos. At home, many distractions are just waiting to steal your attention. Things like doing the laundry, going to the fridge, your TV, PlayStation, and for some reason, you are also getting the urge to clean the room. By the time you get to your desk, you've wasted half a day, and... oh wait — there is the computer that has a lot more distractions in store for you.
It is really easy to lose track of time at home and that's because of the skewed perception of when work has to start and to end. In that case, overworking can become one of the problems which, in the end, can lead to a very unhealthy life.
Benefits of tracking time when working from home
Time-tracking solves that by explicitly telling you how much time you've worked on a given day. That will motivate you to get back to work when something takes your attention away.
Start by defining the number of hours you want to work during the day. Don't even try aiming to get 8 or 9 hours of work, especially at the beginning. It is a proven fact that people usually can't stay productive for such a long time. If you think back to how a usual workday is in an office, you will know that not all the 8-9 hours are productive. And that's great! But now, at home, without the usual office chit-chat, you can focus on your work. So set a 4-6 hour workday for yourself, which already sounds very approachable and doable.
As soon as you have this baseline, it's also good to set a starting point for yourself. That is a really good habit from the "real world" which we should bring into our daily routine. Establish a time when you want to start working and try to show up each day consistently.
All of the above can be done even without using any tools. Just built a habit and keep an eye on the clock — that's it. But if you want more control and be more specific with your time, then tools can be useful companions. Let's dive into some of those.
One of the first tools I want to talk about is the "Pomodoro"-technique. It is a great way to staying accountable and focused, while at the same time, not overwork. How it works is simple — you divide your work into a set of time intervals, that usually last for about 25 minutes, and in between, you can have short breaks.
It's a powerful tool for building out the habit of staying focused. Because our minds "get tricked" into thinking that it only has to work for a short period, which makes it easy to get started. I can't recommend it enough. You can find a lot of apps that help facilitate the "Pomodoro"-technique or you can simply use the timer on your phone.
The next useful tool that you can use is most likely already installed on your computer. It's the calendar. Yes, it can be used not only for scheduling meetings. 🙂
Simply list down all the tasks of your day and plan them in on the calendar "Today"-view. This approach will bring you a set of benefits:
- You know when you have to start working and when to end.
- You can get a clear feeling of how long one task will take.
- And therefore, plan just the right amount of tasks for the day.
- Calendars also usually provide the functionality to alert you about the upcoming event. Which is quite useful for staying aware of time.
Try to plan your day in the morning. That will help to better commit to the work ahead.
Of course, I can't leave out time-tracking apps when talking about keeping track of time. They make it easy to be very specific with how much time you've spent on a given task. Besides that, they give you the managing aspect of having projects, tasks, sessions. Which is a must-have when doing, i.e., freelance work, as it makes the client-billing process much simpler. On top of that, they also have a reports-functionality, which comes in handy when you want to look back and nail down those days when you might have slacked a little.
Some apps, like the one we develop (Klokki), also provide automatic time-tracking. That is super helpful with tracking down each second of your work while staying completely autonomous and giving you the freedom to focus on your work. So if in your case, tracking time equals billable hours, then an automatic time-tracking app is highly recommended. The investment in such an app is usually returned within a month because you will stop losing time that you haven't billed before.
You now have all the needed knowledge and tools to make the best out of time-tracking. Start small and try all the different ways to keep track of time. You can also combine various approaches to achieve the perfect workflow that fits your needs.
Just keep in mind to not overdo it. Stay healthy, stay mindful of the things you plan for the day. Working from home can be joyful. We just need to stay aware of our time. If done right, then we will find ourselves gaining precious moments that we can spend with our loved ones.
And until next time.