Working for home: Why routine matters

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Analog clock at 12 am

Manage your time

Now you are your own boss all those things in work that keep you honest are no longer there. If you want to sit with Facebook/WhatsApp open all day you can and no one would know. But this is also chance for disaster. If you don’t keep yourself in check then your work /life balance blurs into one big blob and either you’ll feel like all you do is work or nothing at all! One leads to burn out the other to demotivation (and on the extreme side losing your job).

You can also find yourself sitting in front of your screen for even longer periods than when in work. Those pesky in-person meetings, now on zoom, so and so asking your questions, now in slack, heading out for lunch with the work colleagues, just walk to the kitchen and back to your desk, random chats when heading to and from meetings/kitchen/loo all gone, need to chat to someone just fire up a video call. All of a sudden all those “distractions” in work have stopped and now your sitting hunched over your desk looking like Emma.

What do I do?

So what do I do? Well I use a time tracking app just to log my start and end times. This not only keep me in check that I’m working but also stops me over working now that no one else is managing my time for me.

I use Hours tracker for iOS which has a free and a one off £10 paid tier. Which makes it really easy for me to clock in and out. There are also additional features that allow you to automate that process based on location and time, but I just stick with start, stop and total times. There will be alternatives for android too just have a look around the app stores for one that stands out for you.

To make sure I’m getting up and moving regularly throughout the day I’ve started to make use of my smartwatch by using a 50 and 5 minute count down timers. Currently I’ve setup a shortcut as a complication so I can start and stop it easily by tapping on the centre timer link.

I also use my desktop calendar app with regular items coloured coded for easy scanning and todo list extensively as it makes it easier for me to see what I have to do and by when. Making my calendar open to work colleagues too means they can see when I’m free if they want to book things in with me which saves a lot of to and fro when organising meetings.

Why routines matter?

The great thing about doing the above to manage my time is that it builds routine into my daily work. Routines eventually become habits, which eventually become automatic and you spend even less time thinking about them and more time for things you do care about.

The key to success: Willpower

Road to success Photo by Vek Labs on Unsplash

The other potential advantage of offloading the work to these apps is that there is some evidence that doing this can help you be more productive as it can help limit decision fatigue and conserve willpower. This is when you have too many decisions to make which can lower your willpower at which point your more likely to take the course of least resistance. This can be whatever the default options are which have a tendency not to be the best ones for you.

For instance while you’re shopping you tend to be making lots of decisions (what colour, what size, what about this compared to that etc) so by the time you reach the tills your cognitive ability is pretty fatigued. This is generally when your offered upgrades, special offers and impulse buys. To which a lot of us simply say yes and out you go with a few extra things you didn’t even know you wanted.

Therefore doing things that help boost your willpower can be really beneficial such as exercise, other activities that help you stay positive and other routine building habits. Also knowing when your willpower is likely to be low is useful as you can switch up your default options towards things that are better for you e.g keeping fruit/veg snacks refillable water bottle nearby instead of sweets and sugary drinks

What makes willpower so important? Research suggests that it’s statistically the biggest contributor to academic success over intelligence , greater success overall and wealth. Willpower is your ability to do things even though there maybe no immediate or positive feedback but could result in a future gain.

Got any good tips for building routine and habits then let me know in the comments.

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