Working part-time can make you the envy of your friends. You get to work flexible hours and spend more time at home and with your family. You get to do things on a weekday that most could never dream of, right?
Wrong! The truth is that working part-time can make you more stressed out and possibly feeling more overworked than a full-time worker.
Integrating part-time work and other responsibilities is one of the biggest hurdles faced by part-timers. Shifting from one role to the next takes some doing.
In the book: “Work and Life Integration: Organizational, Cultural, and Individual Perspectives”, Kossek and Lambert claim that to make part-time employment and role integration work for you, a mental shift is required, both by you and those around you, and in some cases even your employer. It is therefore necessary that you address the space and time that you need to work efficiently in each role so that you can fulfill your obligations.
Separate Work from Other Spheres
Make your work space a separate area where you are able to give your undivided attention to your work. If you telecommute, create this area in your home, preferably in a room of its own, or reserve a corner of an existing room (the study for example).
Talk to other household members and make them aware that this is your work space. That means, when you are in the room, you are at work and not at home, in your usual household capacity. This may be a tough adjustment for everyone at first but establishing this boundary between work and personal life early on is essential.
Creating a suitable arrangement with the rest of the household will also eliminate any guilt you may feel if you aren’t participating in household activities during that time.
Once you leave your work space though, leave your work at work.
The inability to separate work from the rest of our lives causes work creep, where “the work domain gradually encroaches on personal and family time.” This causes tension in relationships as well as added stress and hampers total productivity over time.
Do not respond to work-related calls, texts or emails outside your designated work time. If you are already used to working at all hours, wean yourself off this habit and notice the difference.
Keep the home-front organized and its loose ends will not bother you at work, and vice versa.
Economize on Time
As a part-timer, you have more differentiated tasks than someone who is dedicating an entire working day to one field of work. This means that you have to be smarter with your time than a full-time worker.
Sleep early and wake up early according to a weekly routine for better health and more time. Our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) wished this for us with his prayer: “O Allah, bless my Ummah in its early hours”. (At-Tirmidhi)
What better motivation than this to get started early?
Fit in small tasks such as preparing lunches the night before. You can also plan your outfit for the morning the night before, if this takes too much time in the morning.
Clear your work area at the end of each work day. You should also note down your tasks for the next day before you leave your work space.
Delegate and share responsibilities at home and at work where you can. This way, you don’t overburden yourself or those around you.
Multi-tasking has been proven to reduce productivity, especially in the long run. Focus your complete attention on the task at hand and complete it before you reach for another. If you absolutely must, bear in mind that multi-tasking has been proven to work better across similar tasks, or tasks which require minimal concentration, e.g. browsing through a magazine while waiting for your cake to bake.
Resist the temptation to take very long breaks and procrastinate on tasks simply because you may have more time to do them. Wasting time consistently will lead to falling behind in the long run.
Use a time-management matrix that schedules your tasks in order of importance and urgency. Then put it up where you can see it throughout the day.
Discipline and Accountability
Have you noticed the golden thread running through this article so far? Yes, it’s discipline! Since part-timers are largely accountable to themselves, self-discipline is the watchword.
When you map out your tasks for the day, be realistic about what you can fit in every day and stick to it. Take short breaks throughout the day and then return to getting things done.
Having said that, set flexible goals and be kind to yourself. If you have a creative task on your agenda for the week, you need to be in the right frame of mind to give it your best. Deferring it from Monday to Tuesday won’t kill the cat. But substitute this task for another one to maintain a continuous workflow.
Draw up an accountability system for yourself so that you can take stock of your own productivity. I review progress on my weekly tasks with a quick glance at my diary at the end of the week.
If it’s been a productive one, I reward myself with something nice or a bit of extra time off. If not, I give myself a good talking to (it usually works!). Alternatively, adopt an accountability partner to review your progress and offer support.
Trial and Error
Achieving productive integration of our roles as part-timers is something that takes a bit of time and fine-tuning. You may find that you dedicate a lot of time to one task and excel at it, while another constantly suffers.
Owning up to this realization and reallocating time from your favorite task/s to your least-favorite will have to be done by you, for you. Review your progress often and make changes. Adapt where necessary. You will probably have to do this often when starting out as a part-timer until you establish a routine.
Don’t be Greedy
Our biggest problem as part-timers with various roles to fill is that we often spread ourselves too thin. It is funny how we crave for more free time. However, the more of it we have, the more we cram in. In doing so, we often get less done.
Take a leaf from the wisdom of our Prophet Muhammad :“Be moderate in seeking worldly things, for everyone will be facilitated for which he was created..” (Ibn Majah) Not taking on more than you can handle and pacing yourself prevents burnout.
We are always striving to maximize our work productivity but we should also strive to create a balance between the various spheres of our lives. If we make good time for prayer, family, recreation and relaxation, we can reduce stress and strive to become productive all-rounders by the mercy of Allah (Exalted be He).