10 Time Management Tips Our Remote Team Lives By
by Thom Brown
If you strive for a work-life balance, then it’s important to manage your time effectively. Despite this, 82% of people don’t have a time management system in place. Most people rely on a simple to-do list or merely dealing with tasks as they come up. This will eventually lead to you becoming overwhelmed and is regarded as a poor strategy.
If you work from home, then time management is everything. The more you get done—and the less time you do it in—the more time you have to yourself. It’s as simple as that. At Anyplace, we’re a fully distributed team. We’re experts at time management working from home. With that in mind, here are 10 time management tips our remote team swears by.
- Learn the Eisenhower Matrix
There are many highly-rated time management systems but the one that consistently comes out on top is the Eisenhower Matrix. If you can learn this and stick by it, then you’re giving yourself the most productive time working from home. It starts by categorizing your tasks: urgent or not urgent; important or not important.
Urgent and important? Do it.
These tasks are your priority. They have deadlines and serious consequences if they’re not completed on time. These go straight to the top of your to-do list. They’re non-negotiable. This includes completing a project or attending a hospital appointment.
Urgent but not important? Delegate it.
Outsourcing is a great way to free yourself up to focus on more critical tasks. If something needs doing quickly but doesn’t require special skills, then hire someone else to do it. That could mean picking up laundry or sending simple emails.
Not urgent but important? Schedule it.
These are the tasks that need doing and have serious consequences but don’t have any strict deadlines. They’re the tasks we all procrastinate on because they’re daunting and there’s nothing pushing us to do them now. Therefore, schedule them in for a time when you’re not busy to ensure they get done. This includes things like working out, completing an online course, networking, and finding new clients.
Not urgent and not important? Delete it.
These tasks aren’t really tasks at all. They’re distractions from what you really need to be doing. They’re often the things we enjoy—watching TV, scrolling Instagram, drinking beer—but they get in the way of other things. They’re fine to do on occasion, but if you’re running out of time, then drop these tasks and reallocate your time towards something more productive.
- List Your Top Three Daily Goals
If you start each day with a few crucial tasks, then you’ll always make progress. Rafael Ayala Lopez, Operations Manager at Anyplace, says “I usually write up something I call my ‘Top Three Things’ first thing in the morning. The top three things are the most important tasks I must accomplish for the day no matter where I am. This practice helps me stay on track with my goals while supporting my colleagues and staying balanced with my personal life.”
No matter how you’re feeling, get these three things done. Anything else is then a bonus. If you just do the tasks that you feel like doing, you’ll skip the bigger ones for the easy ones. Then, if you get sick, tired, distracted, or busy with something else, the big stuff doesn’t get done.
- Schedule Personal Tasks
Rafael also likes to schedule his personal tasks. The things you do outside of work are often just as important. They include date night with your significant other, exercising, studying, and doing charitable work. These all contribute to a better life so they need to be scheduled as well. You can also apply the Eisenhower Matrix and the Top Three Daily Goals strategy to personal errands.
- Work on Finding Your Flow State
Flow is a psychological concept that explains the feeling of being deeply focused on and totally absorbed in a task. It’s a magical state. Time feels slower, senses are heightened, and you effortlessly power through your work. This is the optimal state for getting things done.
It’s not easy to achieve, though, and takes practice. You achieve your flow state by doing the right tasks at the right time. The task has to be:
- Interesting enough to fully capture your attention.
- Difficult enough to fully demand your attention.
A task that’s too easy is boring. One that’s too difficult is overwhelming. Try to find work that hits the sweet spot. Next, you need to make sure all your other physiological needs are met. You can’t get in the zone if you’re hungry, anxious, or tired. So eat properly, sleep properly, meditate until you’re fully relaxed. Then, remove all distractions and try to enter that flow state.
- Block Off Time for Important Tasks
Time blocking is another powerful time management skill. Your brain loves repetition. Once you do the same thing over and over, muscle memory makes it effortless. I try to dedicate each day to a single task. There are days when I write articles like this one, days that are focused on editing, days dedicated to pitching article ideas, and days for invoicing and admin. By focusing fully on one task at a time, rather than trying to multitask, I get through things a lot quicker.
Joe Frabotta, Director of Marketing at Anyplace, has the same strategy. He advises remote workers to “be diligent about blocking off time for executing – put up an away message on Slack, create a ‘busy’ event on your calendar. Limit distractions and focus on doing.” Don’t be afraid to block off time and commit to the task at hand.
- Create a Physical To-Do List
A to-do list is a minimum requirement for having a productive workday. However, don’t just try and remember it. Trust me, that never works. The act of writing something down reinforces it in your memory and allows you to go back and check what needs doing. Plus, it’s so satisfying when you cross a task off.
Joe says “I like to put together a little checklist with pencil and paper,” which is an old-school method but very effective. In fact, writing something down by hand takes more effort, causing you to think about it more and burning it more securely into your mind. Despite this, I prefer to use a tool called Teux-Deux. It’s very inexpensive, intuitive, and has helped me be consistent with writing down my tasks and getting them done in good time.
- Simplify Your Life
If you’re serious about time management while working from home or working remotely, then you might consider some major life changes. Every decision you make each day requires mental energy, which leads to decision fatigue. If you’re spending too much energy deciding what to wear and what to eat, then you’ll have less time and energy for the more important decisions. Give yourself fewer decisions to make each day.
- Do Your Meal Prep
Talking of deciding what to eat, meal prep can remove this decision from the equation. If your meals are already prepped and ready to eat, then that’s one less thing to think about. This is the strategy adopted by Arpit Agarwal, Software Engineer at Anyplace, who says “I am doing weekly meal-planning with my wife for our three daily meals since it was getting complicated during the week. We plan it for the whole week at once and buy things — this practice is saving us a lot of time and energy during a hectic week.”
- Schedule Breaks
Breaks are crucial for productivity but most people don’t take enough of them. The assumption is that a break means doing nothing and doing nothing means nothing gets done. On the contrary, research suggests that regular breaks make your work time more productive. You’ll want to experiment and find how many breaks make you the most productive. However, one study has revealed that the optimal ratio is 52 minutes of work followed by a 17-minute break.
Participants following this schedule were able to offer 100% focus for the duration of their 52 working minutes. They suffered minimal fatigue when the workday was over. During your break, make sure to rest your eyes and allow your body to regain energy ready to tackle the next set of tasks.
- Organize Your Digital Files
Documents and folders can quickly build up, making it impossible to find the right file when you need it. You can improve your time management by finding time to sort these files. Delete what you don’t need and put everything else into folders.
For every website and business tool I need for my job, I have a browser bookmark. These bookmarks are then divided into folders, meaning I can always find exactly what I need in no time at all. I do the same thing for my emails, regularly deleting what I don’t need and organizing everything else by the client.
We use these tried and trusted time management working from home strategies every day, but we recommend that you experiment until you find a system that works.
Where to next? Find flexible month-to-month rentals across the globe on Anyplace.
Born in Oxford, UK, Thom has been a digital nomad since graduating from the University of Sheffield in 2016. He’s a freelance writer and founder of Thom Brown Travel. Thom specializes in minimalist, ethical, and meaningful travel writing.