Schedule a Path to Success

18.10.2020 |

Episode #2 of the course How to work from home: From surviving to thriving by Jordan Thibodeau and Joe Ternasky


“I don’t think that scheduling is uncreative. I think that structure is required for creativity.”—Twyla Tharp

In this lesson, we’ll discuss how to develop a schedule that works for you as you balance your home life and your work from home career.


Do I Really Need a Schedule?

Yes! Even though you are working from home, it’s important that you take steps to ensure you remain productive without making yourself crazy. A schedule will get you there. You want to get enough done every day to make noticeable progress, but not fall into the trap of letting your work invade your personal life.

Before you begin making your schedule, learn the following:

What does your employer expect? Maybe your boss expects you to be online and available eight hours a day, or maybe you are a freelancer with a different “boss” each week. Perhaps you work for yourself and you get to completely define your own schedule. Whatever your situation, by knowing your employer’s expectations for your schedule, this can give you a bit of structure that will help you plan out your own best work week.

Who will hold you accountable? Depending on your unique situation, you might not have anyone checking on you throughout the workweek, or you might have coworkers holding you to set meeting times and deadlines. Recognize that no matter how many people there are in your work from home life trying to keep you on track, you are ultimately the only person who can truly hold yourself accountable. Figure out the finer details of your upcoming schedule before you set your due dates in stone, and, until you have a solid grasp on your timeline, opt to give yourself an excess of time to complete your assignments.

Once you know this information, you can begin formulating a schedule. Here are some tips to make the process easier.

Get the best calendar for you. Your employer might have a calendar that they expect you to use, but if not, it’s your party! Free electronic calendars are easily available, such as Google Calendar. Or, if you like an old-fashioned written schedule, then there are plenty that you can find at any office supply store. If scratching out your completed tasks with a pencil gives you joy, then you keep right on scratching.

Don’t be afraid to redefine yourself or your schedule. “I’m a morning person!” “I’m a night owl!” “I can do my work with the television on at the same time.” All of us have said these types of things about ourselves at some point or another. Now you’re working from home. This new arrangement won’t necessarily follow the same guidelines established by your past self or company. If you find yourself now consistently struggling to keep up with your workload or feeling dissatisfied with your performance, then it’s time to try something else. When something isn’t working, don’t get frustrated; just see if there is another solution. Lastly, don’t forget to give yourself some flexibility when you’re testing out a new work plan. It’s possible that your projected timeline may turn out to be a little different from reality.

Remember that not every day has to be the same. Think outside the box. Your schedule might be unpredictable to the point that it must be rewritten on a daily basis but keep one anyway. The point is to have a daily plan in mind to keep yourself on target.

Establish a routine and hold yourself accountable. Establish a routine and stick with it, and don’t let yourself act up—you know how cranky you can get! Have a consistent sleep schedule. Establish meals, naps, and playtime. Be good to yourself.

Know yourself. How disciplined are you? Be honest! If you’re the kid who always submitted their term paper three days early, then you might be perfectly capable of handling a more open-ended schedule. Commit to working six hours a day, tick the hours off as they go by, and then pat yourself on the back. On the other hand, if you need (or love) structure, then structure the heck out of your workday. Do what brings you joy and gets the job done.


Black Holes of Wasted Time

Now, let’s be honest. You can’t map out every moment of your life. Perhaps you can but do you really want to? You need time to daydream and relax—that’s part of maintaining good mental health. However, that’s not what we’re talking about when we describe the black holes of wasted time. What we’re discussing here is the time that gets away from you. When you’re working from home, it’s awfully easy for a half-hour break to become twice as long if you’re not keeping an eye on the clock. Four breaks later, you’re two hours behind.

Here are common black holes of wasted time:

1. How long was I in there? You’ll be amazed at how many minutes you can waste if you don’t account for your time. A 15-minute break can turn into half an hour because you got sucked into Reddit or you may get caught in a trivial political debate. Beware of these “black holes” in your day. Consider using the Pomodoro technique where you set 25-minute periods of sustained effort followed by 5-minute breaks.

2. I forgot what I was doing! This is a tough one because, by the very nature of the issue, you’ve stopped paying attention to what you were doing. Still, keep track of when your attention begins to wane or your productivity drops and try to deduce the causes. You might be hungry, need to stretch, or need to look at a real horizon instead of a computer screen. As you work on your schedule, try to notice if these times when you mentally check out arrive in a predictable pattern. That will help you create a schedule that works best with your own rhythms. You can circumvent wasting time by knowing when work needs to pause.

3. Your cellphone. It’s easy to habitually pick up your cellphone for amusement. There are so many distracting things available that it seems like a good idea to lock it in a drawer before you begin to work. Self-control may be possible, however. Before you pick up your phone, ask yourself, “Why?” If you can’t think of a justifiable work-related reason, put your phone down. If you don’t use your phone for work, then put it out of your reach. If you use your cell phone for work, keep the “for fun” apps closed.


To Do

Keep track of how you spend your time. For the next work week, make note of your superstar work times, your work availability, your personal time, and any black holes of wasted time in which you indulge.

That’s a wrap for this lesson. We look forward to having you join us for our next lesson.

Jordan and Joe

Work From Home Teachers


Recommended books

There’s No Place Like Working From Home: Get Organized, Stay Motivated, Get Things Done! by Elaine Quinn 

How to break up with your phone by Catherine Price


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