Weiner has long been a proponent of scheduling buffer time, for maximum productivity. Buffer time is blocks of time in your schedule that serve as buffers between meetings or other high-concentration work that allow you to catch up on the industry news, take a walk, or simply to think.
But Weiner took to his company’s platform recently to highlight an important point a colleague recently shared with him: It is especially difficult to establish buffers in your schedule when you work from home.
As Weiner puts it:
“Free” time in between video calls is increasingly being absorbed by taking care of kids, caring for dependents, doing household chores, and myriad other ways in which people are jumping from one task to the next. Combined with all the uncertainty related to physical and economic well being, it can take a toll. Make sure to carve out real buffer time: to catch your breath, get some exercise, or whatever you enjoy doing that helps put your mind at ease. It not only benefits you, it will benefit all of the people that count on you as well.
In just over 24 hours, Weiner’s post has garnered 30,000 reactions and almost 1,000 comments.
Part of this is because of the sudden boom of people working from home. And as my Inc. colleague Suzanne Lucas recently pointed out, it’s not your imagination that Zoom meetings can be especially exhausting.
But while at times it may seem impossible, it’s more important to your productivity than ever to make sure you build buffer time into your schedule.
Here’s how to do it.
1. Schedule it.
When working from home, especially if you have kids, the potential for distractions is limitless.
But just as you’d try your best to guard your attention when attending a very important meeting, you can also do so with buffer time. Put it in your calendar and treat it as an unmissable appointment.
Of course, for that to work, you also have to …
2. Keep everyone busy.
Your 5-year-old doesn’t care about your schedule. So make sure to give them something to do: a fun activity, or even a cartoon to watch–to make sure they won’t be coming to you every two minutes.
If you have even smaller children, or other responsibilities, your window for buffer time may be smaller–but in most cases, you can still fit it in. For example, try taking advantage of your child’s naptime. You may need to use that slot for an important meeting, but make clear that you have a hard stop that allows you at least an extra 15 minutes for yourself before you need to check back on the kids or move on to the next task.
3. Know what you want to do.
Once your scheduled buffer time rolls around, you may be tempted to fill it in with another meeting that’s sprung up, or an extra task that you forgot about.
Don’t do it.
“The most important reason to schedule buffers is to just catch your breath,” wrote Weiner once in a LinkedIn blog post. “There is no faster way to feel as though your day is not your own, and that you are no longer in control, than scheduling meetings back to back from the minute you arrive at the office until the moment you leave. I’ve felt the effects of this and seen it with colleagues. Not only is it not fun to feel this way, it’s not sustainable.”
When you know what you want to use your buffer time for, you can get into it right away. As mentioned, your buffer time is your time. It may be a quick walk around the block, or it may simply be sitting and enjoying the silence.
Remember, there will always be more to do. But if you understand how important those buffer time moments are for your sanity, you’ll respect them.
“Whatever you do,” says Weiner, “just make sure you make that time for yourself–everyday and in a systematic way–and don’t leave unscheduled moments to chance.”