4 Time Management Tips when Work and Life Overlap

Rachel Caldwell
6 min readAug 21, 2020
Working from home and parenting from home is challenging — these four tips can help create better balance.

A lot has changed this year.

Suddenly, we’re giving elbow bumps instead of hugs, grabbing a mask before leaving the house, and holding those ‘mandatory in person’ work meetings over Zoom.

Many of us, including myself, are adjusting to the work-from-home life — but it’s not as simple as just setting up a desk in the guest room, is it?

Working from home right now can mean working while taking care of toddlers or helping older kids with remote learning. Nothing like trying to juggle two (or more) full-time jobs at once!

And whether you have kids or don’t, if you’re working from home you’re probably also managing new expectations at work while everyone adjusts, or having a hard time sticking to your old work schedule.

Do you find yourself sending work emails at 7am, only to be behind by 4pm? Or doing the laundry late at night wondering how you’re getting so little done when you feel like you should be more productive than ever?

Whatever working from home looks like for you these days, chances are you’re feeling the stress that balancing work and home life together can bring.

Managing your time looks different now — is it time for a time management reset?

While working from home might take some adjusting, you can master your new set up and schedule with a few changes to your planning and organizing processes.

Are you ready to make working from home while balancing home life (a little more) simple, (a bit more) stress-free, and (mostly) efficient? Let’s be real — this balancing act is hard. But it can be easier!

Here are four tips for managing your time while working from — and living from — home.

1. TASKS NOT TIMELINES

Maybe your old daily planning system looked like this:

  • 6:30: Up
  • 7:00: Work out
  • 7:45: Shower
  • 8:30: Work
  • 5:00: Leave the office
  • 5:30: Cook dinner
  • 6:00: Eat dinner, clean up
  • 7:00: Read, Homework time, chores, TV time
  • 9:00: Kids’ bedtime
  • 10:00: Bed

Now, if you’re working from home, child-caring from home, and trying to support remote school from home, this kind of schedule just won’t work.

Ditch the plan and focus on tasks instead of timelines.

Instead of trying to plan out your day — because, let’s be honest: that schedule would have probably fallen to pieces by 7:00am — plan each day based on the tasks you need to get done.

Using this tip, your new daily plan might look like this:

  • Work out
  • Cook dinner
  • Budget meeting (10am)
  • Staff meeting (2pm)
  • Write report
  • Vacuum upstairs

Instead of trying to control every hour of your day, this approach allows you to (for the most part) do things when they can get done.

That budget meeting isn’t flexible, and neither is the staff meeting, but maybe you can vacuum before your morning meeting starts. And sure, you may be working before 9am or past 5pm these days, but if you can prep dinner in the afternoon, you can still (probably) have dinner on the table by 6:00.

Letting go of control over your schedule can be hard, but focusing on tasks not timelines may be the stress reducer you need right now.

2. UTILIZE TIME BLOCKING

If you thrive with a little more control during the day, time blocking might be just the thing you need to create both structure and flexibility.

Time blocking is like a middle ground between a traditional daily schedule and flexible task-based planning.

With time blocking you create blocks of time dedicated to a specific task or focus area.

Time blocking is perfect for up-ended work-from-home routines, because you can create time blocks that are as short or as long as needed to make your available hours work for you.

Maybe you can block off 6:00am-8:00am for emails and checking in with your team. Then 8:00am-9:30am can be spent getting the kids organized and set up with lessons for the morning. From 9:30am-11:30am you can get more work done, then spend 11:30am-12:00pm setting up the kids’ lunches.

Time blocking is a great way to create a bit of structure without pitting yourself against an unrealistic or unsustainable schedule that falls apart as soon as you start running late.

3. MAKE A PRIORITY TASK LIST

Priority task lists are like to do lists, but elevated.

A priority task list outlines all the tasks you need to get done, and — here’s the important partthe time it will take to do each task.

While scheduled tasks like that budget meeting can’t be completed at your leisure, creating a priority task list for anything that can be done at any time of day will help you maximize any blocks of free time you have between those scheduled tasks.

So how does it work? With a priority task list, your to do list might look like this:

  • Fold laundry (20 minutes)
  • Schedule marketing meeting (1 minute)
  • Grocery store (45 minutes)
  • Call the vet (2 minutes)
  • Finish quarterly report (2 hours)
  • Fix accounting spreadsheet (1 hour)

Now it’s easy to see what you can get done while you’re reheating your coffee (schedule that meeting!) and if there are any tasks you need to set aside focused time to complete (like that report you really need to get done).

Tip: Take the time to plan your priority task list every morning, or prepare it the night before, so you have a list ready to reference when you find yourself with 10, 20, or 60 minutes to spare.

With this small change, when you look at your to do list, it should feel far less overwhelming. You can see that a few tasks will only take a minute or two to complete — no problem! You can also plan your day around that report that’s due, and plan to save laundry folding for the evening or another day (Hint: it can always wait).

To do lists only work if they work FOR you. Rework your to do list to boost productivity and make time for what matters most.

4. IDENTIFY THREE MUST-DO TASKS EACH DAY

Look, no matter how awesome you become at time blocking or priority task lists, there’s no getting around it: sometimes you just have more to do in a day than there is time to do it all.

If your to do list is particularly daunting, or if you’re struggling with juggling all the work and family tasks that need to get done, it may be time to readjust your expectations.

Instead of creating a list of everything you want to get done in a day, create a list with your top three must-do tasks.

That’s it. Just three things.

You can have a separate list of all the things you need to do, and that list can be useful for identifying each day’s must-do tasks.

But to the extent that it’s possible, re-evaluate what must get done on a given day, and prioritize that over what should get done or what would be nice to accomplish.

Tell yourself this: These are crazy, stressful, and anxiety-inducing times. Give yourself a break and remind yourself that you are working way harder, under way more challenging circumstances, than perhaps ever before.

You do not have to do it all, nor were you meant to do it all. So focus on what really matters (like that presentation at work, and quality time with the kids) and allow yourself to say ‘not today’ to anything that can wait.

How you mange your time in 2020 will likely look different — but it doesn’t have to be a scheduling nightmare.

So, which time management tip is right for you? Well, that depends on your unique situation.

Maybe time blocking is the tool you need to restore order back to your busy day, or perhaps creating a priority task list each morning helps you maximize your free time.

Just remember: everything has changed — including how we manage our time and organize our schedules. If you’re still trying to manage your time like it’s 2019, it may be time for a time management refresh.

Try out some or all of these solutions to see which one, or which combination of ideas, works best for you and your new normal. Once you find a system that works, stick with it and enjoy the reduced stress and increased productivity.

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