A lot of remote working people I talk to find it difficult to stop working at the end of each workday. When you work from an office and everyone is packing their stuff to go home, it's time to finish your task and head home yourself. However, if you work remotely, you are already home and do not have a clear indicator for when it's time to leave the digital office.
It's essential to discuss topic this with your team or set rules for yourself if you are your own boss. How many hours are you expected to put in? Most of the time this is 8 hours a day, sometimes 6.
Because if life uses burn-out, it will be super effective (a Pokémon reference).
In this post, I want to go over different methods to help you and your team manage healthy hours. Just keep in mind that some overtime to make a deadline is okay once in a while, but also to stop a little earlier when it's a beautiful day to go out.
Time tracking method
This is probably the easiest method to keep your hours in check and a handy method for people that work flexible hours.
Use a tool like Toggl to keep track of your worked hours. If the timer says that you are close to the 8 hours that you want to work, wrap up your work and think about what you are going to make for dinner.
Another benefit of using a time tracker is that you are gathering data about how long specific tasks take and how many hours you should bill a customer. If you are not using a time tracker, you are letting you and your (companies) wallet down.
End of day check-ins
If you use daily check-ins, you already have a great tool to manage the end of the workday. At Moij, the company I work for, we use Basecamp's check-ins tool to send out a question at the end of the day around 5:30 pm.
I usually start between 9 and 9:30 am, so I put in around 8 hours of work. The daily check-in for me is always a cue that I need to wrap up work for the day.
A benefit from having a day closing check-in is that everyone in the team sees that you signed off for the day. No more "are you still here" messages.
If you are your own boss, maybe you want to do check-ins yourself. A way to do this is by setting a daily alarm around a specific time you want to stop working and write the update for yourself. It's always fun to read back and reflect on your daily updates. I can highly recommend day one journal for this. Maybe you can start keeping a fully fledged daily journal when you're at it.
Set to-dos, not work hours
Don't Focus on any work hours, but rather on finishing to-dos. This probably won't scale that well within large teams, because it's heavily personalized, but can be a useful method for the self-employed.
The goal is not to work fewer hours, but rather to optimize the time you have in the week. The difference with a normal work week is that you don't worry about putting in the 8 hours every day, but rather about the to-dos that are in front of you. You worry about the 40 hours when you are setting the to-dos for the coming week(s).
Like many things in life, it's important to have a balance with this. Use a time tracking tool to see if indeed the lower hour weeks are in check with your overwork weeks. Is this not the case? Optimize the coming week.
Make sure the to-dos are planned in by day, so when you check off the last to-do for the day you can close your laptop with a fresh shot of dopamine.
Daily routine method
I follow this method myself and use the Basecamp check-ins as a "is it that time already?" reminder. I work from 9:30 am until 5:30 pm. Doing this every day I know that I put in a sufficient amount of hours every week. So after a couple of days the awkwardness of "can I call it a day' will be gone.
It's important to always keep time in your schedule for unexpected overtime, do this and you will be able to make the 6:30 pm dinner appointment with your family.
What to do if you simply can't stop working
- If you are in the "flow", continue. With all the distractions it's difficult these days to get in a flow state, so cherish it! If you are a flow guru, then you'll maybe want to try some of the things below.
- Make a dinner appointment with friends. You don't want to keep your friends waiting, do you?
- Sign-up for a team sport. I have never seen someone skip practice and matches because of work more than a few times per year.
- Create a side-project. I am writing this blog for fun and because I want to get better at writing. Maybe you can find a passion that you can do during the evening hours. Just to get your mind off work, as awesome as your job may be.
- Have a date night with your partner. You will do everything in your power to not have to reschedule that (for obvious reasons).
- Start watching a Netflix serie with lots of cliffhangers and don't binge it.
Now balance everything above, and you will never feel awkward again about calling it a day. Just make sure that you make time after work to spend time with friends and family, at least a few times a week, because when you work day and night you will get lonely pretty fast in the home office.