Working from home has many benefits. It gives us the freedom to have greater flexibility over our working day. However, there are also negative aspects to this. Our research has shown that many people are working longer hours, taking fewer breaks and spending longer on each task. There is now a less formal structure to the day.
This is because, in the office, the rhythm of your day is influenced by other people. For example, when your colleague takes a lunch break it reminds you to do the same. Similarily getting up from your desk to visit people in different departments means stretching your legs and spending 5 minutes chatting with them. All of this adds up to positive breaks in the day.
When working from home you need to engineer these types of breaks and activities into your day. Time management at home is an essential skill to develop if you are to ensure both your own and your team’s continued performance and a healthy work-life balance.
Scientific research says that to stay focused and to concentrate on tasks we need breaks both for our well-being and our work effectiveness. A study published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity showed that a 5-minute walk or even simply standing up every hour throughout the day had a positive effect on mood, energy levels and even a decrease in food cravings. In addition, the study found that laughing releases endorphins which lowers stress levels, so spend a minute looking at funny cat videos!
Breaks also help our decision-making ability. Studies show that as we get tired, we may experience decision fatigue which results in either bad decisions or decision avoidance. One study looked at how physical tiredness impacted the quality of decisions made by sportspeople. Another interesting study, that looked at mental tiredness, found that parole judges were more likely to grant parole early in the day or after a break.
Decision fatigue isn’t always obvious, but if you find yourself putting off or avoiding things, just saying no because it’s easier, or making snap decisions, be aware this could be decision fatigue. It’s better to make important decisions earlier in the day.
It’s important to look after yourself if you are to perform at your optimum level. Your brain needs fuel, so make sure you have nutritious snacks at hand rather than sweets – mind you the benefits of dark chocolate make it a great snack! Nutritionists recommend that blueberries, broccoli, and pumpkin seeds may boost memory. Staying hydrated also increases alertness levels.
Get started today actively managing your time working from home! Keep a timesheet of your day, the time you start, how long you spend on tasks, what you eat, when you have breaks, and for how long. The results may just surprise you!
5 Tips for Effective Time Management
- Make important decisions earlier in the day
- Take short, frequent breaks
- Feed your brain
- Keep a timesheet