Being a developer often means that you can work at any time, from any place. It’s a great convenience that could also surprise you with some challenges. If you don’t have a proper plan or routine of work for yourself, that could backfire on you and cause troubles in terms of your productivity and work life balance. According to research, the number of burnt-out employees has risen to 73% in the US (in comparison to 61% pre-pandemic), partially because of the lack of division between work and private life.
In this article, we will show you that effective remote work is possible and some tips and tricks on how to set up your day to be productive and to maintain your work-life balance.
Prepare task lists
Writing down every task you have to do may bring two main advantages:
- You won’t forget what you have to do
- You can plan your time more efficiently
There are different approaches to using task lists. Some people start doing them one after another, some plan a specific number of them for a period of time to fulfill and if they reach the goal they stop working and have some spare time. Another option is to set yourself a number of tasks from your list that you have to achieve. If you manage to do more than the bar you have set – that’s amazing, if not – it’s fine. It’s a great method because it doesn’t limit you and put you in a stiff frame, but at the same time helps you get organized better and to remember all the important tasks.
Remember that your task list doesn’t have to be only a number of assignments to do. You can divide your tasks depending on their importance, deadline, place of fulfillment, or any other metric. Based on the right division, you can build yourself a proper schedule for the upcoming week or day and help yourself organize it and make the most of it, and therefore – save some time for your growth and hobbies.
Task lists may be a great solution for people who have a lot of work to do. They help you organize your work and plan your days and weeks according to your needs.
Plan your day
Once you have a task list, you are ready to plan your day or week. Give yourself a rough estimate of what you want to accomplish. Estimate how long it will take and add it to your timetable. You may not be able to win and complete all items every day. It’s all ok. Make sure to prioritize and start with the most important/difficult things, just as you prioritize them on your list.
Divide a space only for work
If you are a programmer, there’s a big chance that you work from home. It might mean that you work, sleep and spend your free time in the same space. Experts say that it negatively influences your work-life balance if you don’t separate your work and everyday life spaces. We are aware that not everyone has a huge house, so you might not have enough space to sacrifice a whole room to be your working space.
Remember that your working space might be just a piece of space in a corner of the room, where you only work. If that’s not possible, it could be the same place you live in and spend your free time in, but after working hours, you clean up your working station and hide your workspace utensils, like your laptop, so it is not visible and it doesn’t remind you of your work at all times. Let your mind take a rest and not worry about the coming days’ work.
Set yourself a timetable for work/ finish your work
It’s easy to forget how long you should work, while working from home. Who hasn’t focused so much on work that they stayed up late, or forgot to eat dinner? That’s why setting yourself a timetable is so important. You should have specified periods during the day when you dedicate yourself only to work. During this time, you keep your mind on track. You do your best to forget about your daily life.
Afterwards, you simply leave your workstation and come back to your home life.
We know that different situations happen, so it doesn’t have to be 6 pm sharp, you can finish the task you are doing first.
Once you’ve managed to do your work for the day, you need to close your laptop and put it away. Let your brain rest!
Keep a routine
Don’t start your workday from your bed. Wash your face, brush your teeth, and eat breakfast. Walk your dog or do yoga. It doesn’t matter what you are going to do, as long as you are doing something. Before the pandemic most of us had some routines. When we woke up, we cooked scrambled eggs or went out onto the balcony to take a breath. COVID has interrupted our routines, especially for those who started to work from home. We didn’t have to suit up for work and therefore washed in the morning. We stayed in our pyjamas late and disrupted our daily routine.
So try to live life like before. Introduce yourself to some routines. Wake up at a specific time, take a shower and eat breakfast. Go for a walk each day at 1 pm and have lunch at 2 pm.
For sure this schedule will be different than the previous one, but believe me it will ease your mind. Our minds love schemes – they have a soothing effect on us.
Working on problems and challenges as long as it takes to solve them might not always be a good idea. Sometimes, we need to come back with a fresh mindset. Take breaks. Don’t burn yourself out trying to solve a problem. Maybe go for a walk. Disconnecting will help your brain to rest. It will give you a proper boost once you are back and you will find the right solution faster and without annoyance. If you tend to forget about taking breaks, use some tools like the Pomodoro technique. Here are some tips on how you can implement Pomodoro in your work.
Move your body
While working from home, there’s a big chance you sit by your desk for the whole day. In the office, you at least take a walk for lunch, or to the kitchen to make a coffee. At home it doesn’t happen. The furthest you go is often the bathroom or the kitchen. So move!
Keeping our focus for longer is a big challenge, especially if you do long, repetitive tasks. According to research, even as much as 20 minutes of exercise or walking can benefit your concentration and help you do your work better. If you have finances for that, you can try out adjustable desks. You can change the height of these desks, enabling you to work while standing. Change your position, sometimes sit, sometimes stand, and your mind and body will thank you. Your boss might, too!
If you have trouble with systematic breaks, set up an alarm on your phone or smartwatch to remind you to stand up and move around from time to time.
It’s hardly news that music has an influence on how we perceive the world and therefore on how we work. So use it to your advantage. Listen to some music while you work. Music can help you to focus. According to Cambridge Brain Sciences research, certain types of music can help you concentrate and achieve better results. You want to achieve a state of being “wired in” like Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) in The Social Network, so use music to help you. But remember that it doesn’t work for everyone. Test it out, trying different genres, with vocals and without. It definitely won’t hurt to try.
Make sure you understand your work
You can psychically burn yourself out simply by not knowing what to do. Make sure to communicate and ask as many questions as you want until you are clear about your tasks and goals. Spending too much time trying to figure stuff out on your own is not productive. Be aware that you can be too active with your questions, too. Try not to ask for obvious stuff. Instead, use the rule of 15 minutes. If you come across a problem and cannot find a solution by yourself in 15 minutes, ask for help.
Automate boring stuff. There is nothing more discouraging than having to keep doing the same thing over and over again. You can automate a lot of work. Try to learn some bash and vim (or your idea of a tool, just look for features like multiple cursors macros), for example. You’ll be able to automatically handle a lot of repetitive work just with these two. In terms of vim, you can find some advice here.
As you can see, there are many ways to make sure your remote work is both productive and balanced with your home life. Nowadays, it is more important than ever to remember about keeping the right balance. Many people started to struggle with it due to the pandemic. Let us know if you have any more good methods to maintain work-life balance.