There are many ways to stay productive within a predictable working schedule that involves working from a designated office, a designated spot, and within designated working hours. All the tips, however, focus on the traditional working environment where there was a structured schedule of work. However, the workplace is changing fast and the traditional rules might just not cut it.
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the gig economy and the opportunity to work from home, creating a shift in the regular working hours. These changes are likely to contribute to a new norm in the world of work. Despite these shifts, the goal still remains that one must deliver on their work, and do it well. There are no shortcuts to this. The irregular working schedule is based on the realization that what matters the most is productivity and not necessarily where one works from or how one works.
The irregular working schedules can, however, make it difficult for one to concentrate on the task at hand. First, the human brain works best with routine. The best part about routine is that your brain automatically adjusts itself and this makes it easy for you to work. Some of the most successful people in the world have routines that help them stay productive, from scheduled times for waking up, to having specific dress codes, as is the case for Mark Zuckerberg. Secondly, routines will help you make good use of limited resources such as time, which can significantly boost your productivity. Thus, it is totally normal to have problems being at your best with an irregular working schedule.
Here are helpful tips to keep you productive despite a non-traditional working schedule.
Create a Structure Around Your Work
As noted, the human brain works best while in a routine. This is because it does not take any effort to do what is within your routine. You can engage the auto-pilot gear and simply get going. This same concept can be applied to the irregular working schedule in which you work around a certain structure that tells your brain it is time for work.
For example, you can work from the same spot every day, or work schedule your time such that you focus on work for certain periods then take breaks for a few minutes in between. This gets your brain into a routine that makes it possible to remain productive even in the most difficult environments. For example, as a freelancer, you can create a schedule in which you work for one hour non-stop then take a break of 15 minutes then get back to work. This helps you create a system that helps you stay productive, despite the irregular schedule of your work.
2. Create a Routine Around Your Day
As a person working with no routine, it is crucial to have a schedule around all parts of your day. This is the equivalent of schedules around the day of a person who works in the traditional work set up. Things like waking up at the same time every day, taking a shower in the morning, having scheduled rest times, and doing other tasks such as cooking and cleaning at certain times helps you in structuring your day.
These practices will help you carve out time for work and other activities, which will significantly help you stay focused on your work. Notably, when you have a structure around your day, it becomes possible to schedule work in the course of the day, such that you will not need to make significant adjustments to your life when work comes up. In the event that the time created for work has no actual work to be done, you can choose to do other things like taking short walks or reading your emails, which will be important in ensuring that you do not slack when there is no work to be done.
3. Learn to Say No
Part of the irregular working schedule is not knowing when you will be having work and when your time will be absolutely free. This can cause you to take on as much work as possible when the work finally comes around. This is especially so for people who work as freelancers and want to make the most money when work is available. Take the example of academic writers, who work with high and low seasons. In such cases, one can be tempted to take on as much work as possible during the high season, to cover for low seasons.
However, this can be detrimental to your productivity, as your body can only take on so much work. Burnout is a reality so learn to say no to avoid ruining your workflow and your productivity. Besides, taking on more work than you can handle will often mean messing up with your schedule, which leads to confusion and lowered productivity in the long run. So, make use of the word ‘no’ if you want to stay productive despite the unique working circumstances that you find yourself in.
4. Practice Task Scheduling
Granted, there are days you will definitely have more work than others. Unfortunately, you may not have the luxury of turning some jobs down. However, this does not mean that everything has to be done at once. Like stated, the brain works with routine and if you try to do everything at once, you are likely to fail and fail miserably. Forget about multi-tasking because as numerous studies have proven, there is no such thing as perfect multitasking. Eventually, one thing will not be done as perfectly as it ought to be done.
When you find yourself overwhelmed by tasks, schedule the work at hand based on the order of importance. This will help you allocate sufficient time, resources, and energy to each task, leading to productivity. Such a schedule helps your brain settle into each task and focus on it as you will only be worrying about that task at hand at that particular time.
5. Do Not Forget to Eat Well
This might sound strange but the problem with irregular working schedules is that people often neglect the basics. One good thing about the traditional work set up is that there are systems that ensure people have time for everything, including meal times. However, with an irregular working schedule, that can easily be a challenge, where you either eat all the time, which happens to be just snacks, or you simply eat poorly. This will affect your productivity as your energy levels will fall.
If you want to ensure that you are eating well, have scheduled meal times just as though you were working in a traditional office. This will also reduce distractions caused by the need to go look for snacks every other time. It will further help you take food breaks which are essential in keeping your mind rejuvenated.
6. Stay Connected with Loved Ones
The partial lock down and restricted movement has seen a drop in social gatherings among friends and family. The constant flow of negative information and lack of physical contact with loved ones can increase stress levels. Ensure that you are in constant connection with the people who matter in your life. Technology has made many things easier, including communication and staying connected. Use it to your advantage and stay plugged to your source of encouragement and good vibes during these times.
The nature of the workplace is changing and the traditional office set up is quickly giving way to the gig economy, the shift kind of work, and working situations such as working from home. All these require a different approach from the norm and it is in your best interest to create a system that works for you. An irregular working schedule gives you the freedom to create a personalized system which will help you stay productive despite the odds against you.
How have you been able to stay productive with an irregular working schedule? Please share your ideas in the comments section.