Anthony Haynes writes: The first post in this series suggested that, for all its advantages, working from home (wfh) entails some challenges too — of four types, namely those concerning:
Today we conclude the series by considering the last of these.
There are a host of specific challenges concerning time management for home/remote workers — such matters as how avoid procrastination and get started, how to avoid distraction and keep going, and when to take a break or end the working day.
We’ll attempt to deal with such challenges through a series of short, practical, posts throughout the day, drawing on reflection and advice from FJ Wilson Talent Services staff and associates and also from third parties.
In addition to specific challenges are some general. Two inter-related challenges concern the need for appropriate rhythms and rituals.
A) RHYTHM: I don’t know that I’ve met anyone, certainly not anyone I’ve worked closely with, who works equally well all through the day.
For example: I’m really not bad in the morning but achieve very little in the first half of the afternoon. Recently I’ve given up even attempting the latter: I go for a swim instead. My overall productivity hasn’t suffered. In contrast, one assistant I hired was dire in the morning: she’d come in to the office with face reminiscent of a dark cloud and often failed to muster even a ‘hello’ in response to my cheery greeting. Yet, overall, she was one of the best colleagues I ever had — and she typically performed well during my early p.m. downturn. I guess that made us an effective team.
What follows from all this? The importance of knowing one’s rhythms and accommodating them as much as possible when formulating the schedule for the working day. That way you can maximise the use you make of your biological prime times, rather than beat yourself up about the troughs.
Josephine Grant has a good post on this — Biological prime time: when are you at your most productive? — on her HR blog.
B) RiTUALS: In the West, especially in contrast to Confucian cultures, rituals are apt to get a bad press. ‘Ritual’ often collocates with ‘mere’, ’empty’, ‘hidebound’; rituals are often seen as irrational, (superstitious, even), cumbersome, and constraining. Talk about rituals for any length of time and chances are that someone will say ‘OCD’.
Yet individuals’ practices relating to creative and productive activities are full of rituals. A footballer might insist on tying the laces of the boot on the left foot before that on the right. In cricket, a batsman occupies the time between one ball and another with a sequence of movements, such as checking one’s gloves and touching one’s cap.
In a previous post I mentioned a man who works in an office in his garden, yet begins each day by donning a suit and driving to the local garage to buy a coffee and a newspaper.
The point is, if it works, it works. End of. Who cares what the basis in rationality is? We’re trying to get some work done here, not create a philosophy!
In fact, rituals turn out to be paradoxical: they re rational precisely because they’re irrational. This is because they provide a means of patterning time. If a ritual dictates that you will follow a prescribed sequence of actions — first action A, then B, then C, then D, then E — if the the ‘E’ (that is, the final action in the sequence) consists of getting started with work — then blind, unquestioning adherence to the sequence turns out to be rational because it produces the desired outcome — commencement of productive activity.
The point is, if you work at home or remotely, and haven’t developed any rituals yet, you probably ought to start designing some.