Working remotely can make it challenging to structure your time effectively and get the most out of your day. Completing project tasks in the midst of distractions requires good time management techniques, but if your team has recently transitioned to a remote work environment it may take some adjustment before everyone is able to return to their typical productivity levels. For project groups new to working outside the usual office environment, we’ve put together some time management tips to help keep you on track.
DO be realistic when assessing your availability. Team members with young children may have a difficult time getting work done first thing in the morning if they’re also trying to get their kids set up for a day of online school or other activities. Other employees are likely juggling their own personal responsibilities during certain times of the day or days of the week. By recognizing these issues and being realistic about when your team can focus on high-value project tasks, you’ll be better positioned to develop workable, achievable project plans.
DON’T plan back-to-back meetings. It may seem easy to jump from one online web conference or phone call to the next, but your team could be setting itself up for a time crunch if you don’t allow at least a few minutes between meetings. A small buffer will give you a chance to login and launch the right technology platform, as well as bring up your notes and review the agenda to be sure you’re ready to maximize your time with the right questions and discussion points.
DO be flexible. Normal working hours may need to be fluid from time to time to accommodate home schedules, the needs of stakeholders in different time zones, and onsite visits to project locations as conditions allow. If team members are in different regions, consider establishing a few days each week for early morning or late afternoon/evening work times. This enables everyone to come together for group meetings without overloading anyone’s schedule.
DON’T forget about administrative and managerial tasks. Even though your team may be working remotely, that doesn’t mean activities such as performance reviews aren’t just as important as ever. In fact, most groups benefit from additional guidance and support during times of transition, so be sure you’re allocating enough time to evaluate your team’s performance and offer meaningful advice, direction, and feedback.
DO maintain awareness of daily, weekly, and monthly goals. In the first few weeks when people are still adjusting to a work-from-home (WFH) routine, it’s not uncommon for the days to begin to run together. Help encourage structure around time commitments and expectations by continuing to emphasize the need for recurring goals—setting them, reviewing them, and meeting them. This keeps team members focused on priority items and ensures your project’s timeline continues to align with the targeted completion date.
DON’T underestimate how long project tasks will take. Task duration estimates are a central part of a strong project management methodology but determining how much time activities will require in a WFH environment can be difficult in the early stages. Whether you’re assessing the time needed to complete your own tasks or asking vendors for duration estimates to cover the activities they’ll be handling, consider if additional factors should be part of the equation. Will it take extra time to secure jobsite access if the team is working remotely? Are transportation schedules operating under reduced hours or requiring more lead time than usual? Evaluate your project task durations with fresh eyes to be sure you’ve accounted for any changes resulting from your team’s remote format.