Friday, September 9, 2022

How Time Blocking and Time Tracking Can Keep You on Track While Working from Home

This academic year, I am back on campus and back in the office, but our adaptation to remote life means I have more work-from-home days than I did pre-COVID. The semester is just getting started, but it looks like I will have at least 3 days a week where I can work from home.

I love working from home, at least part-time. But, I also find that I can spend the entire day in front of my screen all day without feeling like I have gotten very much done. Somehow the whole day goes by, and I still haven’t gone for a walk, cleaned my kitchen, or responded to all the emails. To address this issue, I decided to pull out my toolkit and see what tools are most useful for my work-from-home days.

Drawing from the infinite wisdom of Kerry Ann Rockquemore, Raul Pacheco-Vega, and Cal Newport, I developed a system for working from home that involves a weekly template, time blocking, and time tracking.

The first step is to develop a weekly template, which I explain in more detail in this post.

This semester, I am teaching just one class, but I have a fair number of commitments and thus have a lot of meetings. Thus, my afternoons are generally blocked off for teaching and meetings. My mornings are my prime time, so that’s when I write.

Here is my weekly template for this Fall semester.

This is just a template. I can copy and paste it into a new Excel tab and adjust it according to the time I wake up and the actual meetings and tasks I have for that day. For example, on Thursday, I woke up very early (thanks to jet lag) and had two meetings planned – one at noon and one at 3pm. Before doing my meditation, I made a plan for the day based on my commitments and aspirations (which included going for a walk and doing some virtual yoga).

I pretty much never do exactly what I say I am going to do. However, I more or less stay on track by time-tracking in 30-minute increments. On Thursday, I did write for two hours as planned, but not exactly in the time slots I had planned. When it came time to do yoga, a nap seemed more appealing. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, I had written for two hours and completed a pending review. I also responded to all the emails I needed to answer and went to my meetings.

At 4:30pm, when my last meeting was over, I felt empowered to shut down my computer and go for a swim.

If I hadn’t done the time tracking and time blocking, this kind of day – which started at 4:45am and ended at 4:30pm – could feel like a 12-hour work day. But, the data make it clear that I in fact worked for 7 and a half hours, and the rest of the time was spent napping, exercising, and taking care of my basic needs. The time tracking also made it clear that I could stop working at 4:30pm as I had a very productive day.

This system may seem a little extra to some of you. But, if you find yourself floundering while working from home or not getting the self-care you hope to get, I encourage you to try a version of this system of creating a weekly template, time blocking, and time tracking.