Creating Your Personal Work From Home Schedule

Working Remotely

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Creating a work from home schedule gives remote employees the best chances of career success.

Following one puts you in the right headspace to crush your daily tasks, plan out your week, accomplish your goals, and take care of your physical and mental health.

Not having a set schedule or daily routine is one of the biggest fails people make when transitioning to remote work. 

Winging your work from home schedule makes it easier for distractions to creep in and leads to procrastination. Cue the frantic sprints to meet deadlines and catch-up.

So if you’re hoping to find more productivity and motivation, we’ll show you how to create a work from home schedule that keeps you on track and far from burning out.

How To Create Your Work From Home Schedule

Everyone has a different type of schedule that will work best for them and their company. While it’s okay to vary your work hours, establishing a daily framework gives your workdays structure, so you’re not aimlessly hopping from one task to the next.

Here’s a basic template to help you create your work from home schedule:

Check Your Company’s Remote Work Policy for “On” Hours

Before you get to customize your dream schedule, you must learn what’s expected of you as a remote employee. If you’re freelancing and living that gig life, you have a lot more flexibility than working as an employee with other team members.

Employees in remote customer support jobs, for example, often need to “clock in” at specific times of the day and week. This helps companies provide around-the-clock customer care, and working your own hours may not fit into their plan.

So see what hours you need to be available before starting from scratch on your own. If your hours are 100% flexible, take note of this next step.

Determine When You’re Most Productive

Working from home is all about efficiency. And working when you’re least productive is the least efficient way of grinding out your tasks.

If you’re a night owl, don’t force yourself into waking up and hitting your desk at 6 AM. You may not have the brainpower to knock out the high-level thinking required of your job, which will cause frustration, stress, and wasted time. 

A good rule of thumb: Save your “shallow” work tasks (like checking emails) for when you’re less focused; perform your “deep” work when your brain’s on fire and ready to go.
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Knowing your personal on/off windows is crucial here. That’s why it helps to:

  • Get a planner to organize your tasks, deadlines, appointments, and other things that pop up in your schedule. Find one with a monthly overview, week-at-a-glance, and daily breakdown of what’s on the docket. This is how you’ll fit everything in, no matter which work hours you choose.

  • Decide how you’ll structure your days. Do you need a strict hour-by-hour schedule, or do you crave the flexibility of working in morning/afternoon/evening chunks? You could even work a “split schedule,” which means you may spend four hours working in the AM, take a long break in the afternoon to pick up your kids from school, and work a few hours in the evening.

Once you nail down the basic start and end times of your work day, it will be easier to schedule everything else in and out of this window.

Wake Up Two Hours Before the Official Start of Your Remote Work Day

While you don’t have to worry about ironing your work clothes and clearing snow off your car to commute, you still need to get yourself in the right headspace to grind out your workday.

Most people don’t immediately jump out of bed and feel ready to hop on a Zoom call or dive into spreadsheets. That’s why a daily pre-work routine full of smart rituals like these helps:

1. Wake up at least two hours before you “clock in” remotely. Try to wake up around the same time every work day to get yourself in a steady habit. Two hours gives you enough time to tackle all or at least most of these “wake up” activities. 

2. Make your coffee, tea, or breakfast. The caffeine or food boost gives your body and brain the energizing fuel it needs to get going.
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3. Take an overview of your day. Check your planner while you’re eating or drinking your cuppa. Do you have a big presentation in the afternoon? A doctor’s appointment around lunch? A virtual movie date post-work? Knowing what’s on your plate will help you mentally organize and prepare your day. 

4. Set a positive intention. Think about what you most want to accomplish today. Completing this goal should inspire productive and accomplished feelings, making it easier to stop working at a reasonable hour instead of burning yourself out.

5. Tackle your pre-work rituals. You may need to straighten up your home or workspace, so the clutter and dirty dishes won’t become a distraction during your workday. You may also need to play with your cat (so she doesn’t bug you later). Or maybe you like reading the daily news or gossip to feel in the loop. Do what you need before work begins.

6. Grab a quick workout. Exercising counteracts all the sedentary time you’ll be spending at your desk. It also wakes up your body, boosts creativity, fires up your brain for deep thought, and adds a bit of momentum to help you conquer everything on your to-do list. Check YouTube for free yoga, HIIT, or other cardio workouts to get your blood pumping. 

7. Get “remote work ready.” You will never feel productive in your PJs. Shower, brush your teeth, and get ready as if you were going to a friend’s house (i.e., dress comfortable yet presentable).

Check these tasks off your list, and you’ll be ready to get to work. Look at how much you’ve accomplished so far!

Start Your Work Day with Easy Admin Tasks

Spend your first 30 minutes on the virtual clock being your own secretary. 

Tackle administrative tasks such as checking emails, replying to comments in your project manager, touching base with coworkers in Slack, letting supervisors know what you’ll be working on, etc.image source

This “shallow” work doesn’t require much focus, so it acts as a decent transition from your pre-work rituals to the meat and potatoes of your high-level job duties.

Consider using visual time-tracking tools (such as Toggl) to prevent low-level tasks from eating up too much of your day. You’ll be able to see where you’re devoting your time and if you need to adjust this moving forward.

Dive Into Your Most Important Deep Work

Once you complete your admin tasks, your brain will feel ready to dive into distraction-free deep work. 

Try to knock out the most pressing or important assignments first, since your brainpower should be highest and most focused during this time. Completing these goals early also makes it less likely that distractions or other surprise issues will crop up and get in the way. 

Set your notifications to silentand tell others you’re in do-not-disturb mode. Just hearing or seeing a notification can distract you, so keep your phone and email alerts far away. If you’re working at home with a spouse, roommate, or kids, make sure they know not to interrupt. Let them know when you’ll be available so they don’t feel ignored.
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Create a focused atmosphere. Tune into something that will help you minimize wandering thoughts so you can focus. Online tools like A Soft Murmur let you customize various ambient noises (such as thunderstorms, coffee shop sounds, or white noise) to wash away distractions. 

You can also search for streaming low-fi beats on YouTube, perfect for reading, writing, coding, and more. Or check Spotify for your favorite video game soundtracks, which are designed to fade into the background while keeping your brain on high alert for task-crushing.

Take a Break for Human Interaction

Don’t skip breaks when you’re working from home! This constant slog will lead to feeling added pressure, stress, and other signs of burnout. Plus, science says you actually have to take more breaks to be more productive

So use a tool like Tomato Timer, which utilizes the Pomodoro method, to remind yourself to take 5-, 10-, or 15-minute breaks throughout the day. Stretch, go for a walk, or get social to disconnect from work.

Having a remote job can feel isolating at times. So try to use your first break to connect with friends, family, or coworkers, even if it's just a quick hello. Or check in on social media -- but set a timer to avoid wasting too much time there. 

Get Back to Work with a Quick Admin Check-In

If any emails or messages came in while you were focused on deep work or socializing on your first break, use this transition time to answer them or add these new tasks to your planner. You may need to reassess your priorities for your afternoon work chunks as well.image source

This part of the day is also the best time to schedule your virtual work meetings. You should have already accomplished a bit of your own work, and you’ll have an exit plan to break for lunch, so your calls or meetings won’t drag on forever. After all, we all know Zoom fatigue is real.

Always Take a Lunch

Many remote employees work through their lunch break because they don’t have coworkers to break them out of their focus and grab a bite to eat. But lunch gives you time to nourish your body and fuel up, so you’re better prepared to tackle your afternoon tasks.

Cooking lunch at home saves money, helps you eat healthier, and adds another to-do you can feel good about completing (which boosts motivation during a potential afternoon slump).

But you may also want to meet up with a fellow WFH employee and eat together outside at a local lunch spot. You’ll have the opportunity to support local businesses, some of which may be hurting due to COVID-19, and sneak in some much-needed social time.

Work Outside Your Office and End Your Day with Three Tasks for Tomorrow

Even though you may have created the perfect flexible workspace at home, changing up where you work can fire up new ways of thinking. If it’s a nice day, consider working outside. Or head to your fave local coffee shop for an hour to feel the buzz of other productive people.
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Use this time working somewhere new to power through the remainder of your deep work. But try to end your day back at your home office, where you’re probably most productive, to put the final touches on the day’s tasks.

To avoid the nagging feeling like you still have loads of work to do, give yourself three tasks you want to accomplish the next day. Knowing you have everything sorted out will make it easier to disconnect.

Start the Wind Down Process and Disconnect

Remote employees tend to work longer hours than their in-office counterparts. So give yourself a routine to wind down for the day and set a firm line between your on and off time.

Check your emails, messages, and project management tools one last time. Reply to those that only need a quick response; anything that will open a new can of worms can wait until tomorrow.

Finish with a mediation on all you’ve accomplished today. Incorporating a daily meditation practice will help you keep your mental health in check and combat stress and anxiety.
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After this quick reflection time, consider meeting up with coworkers for a virtual happy hour, cooking dinner with your spouse, roommate, or kids, or catching up on your fave TV show.

There’s more to life than the daily grind, and giving yourself this fun time will make it easier to hit the ground running tomorrow. 

Now You’re Ready to Create Your Personal Remote Work Schedule

This template for creating your personal work from home schedule gives you an idea of how to structure your remote workday for max productivity. It contains a healthy balance of shallow and deep work combined with mental and social breaks to avoid burnout.

It takes time to settle into new rituals and adopt new habits, so you should experiment with a few different options to find the routine that works best for you. 

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