By Jennifer Parris
Regardless of where you work, there can be distractions. In office environments, water cooler chats and nearby conversations can disrupt focus. On the flip side, working at home can present challenges with structure and discipline.
If working from home is temporary due to the pandemic or even if you’re a seasoned remote worker, there’s a chance you’re having some difficulty staying focused and productive during these uncertain times. Don’t fret. Here are some tips to stay laser-focused when working from home.
Some of us are morning larks, and some of us prefer a late start to the day. Regardless of your preferences, take some time to figure when you’re at your best. Betsy Andrews, Career Coach at FlexJobs, advises everyone, no matter where they work, to “learn which time(s) of day you are most productive and schedule the tasks that take the most focus during those times. Prioritization of tasks can be key.”
So, if you know you do your best work between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., schedule your most “important” tasks during that time, and save the less taxing tasks for later in the day when you’re feeling less productive or focused.
Make a List
Lists may seem a little old school. But, keeping track of all your to-do’s will help you stay focused while working from home and also provide you with a starting point at the beginning of each day. That list will serve as a daily reminder of what has to get done.
FlexJobs Career Coach Toni Frana advises workers to “write your to-do list right before you end work for the day. This helps in two big ways: It provides closure to the current workday, allowing for an easy transition from your home office to life at home. And the next day, you can begin your day with a laser focus because you’ve already identified your tasks and goals for that day.”
Create a Home Office
In most cases, working remotely allows you to work from anywhere. And while this freedom is typically one of the benefits of a flexible job, setting up a home office is still highly recommended.
If your work-from-home arrangements are temporary and a full-on office isn’t realistic, try to create a dedicated workspace that allows you to focus while working from home.
Structure Your Day
Start with the time you know you’re the most productive and focused then establish your work hours around those times. That means setting and sticking to boundaries. This is critical to staying focused while working from home.
Let well-meaning family members and friends know that even though you’re home, you don’t have time for unlimited socializing. Instead, chat with them briefly during one of your breaks for a quick boost. And stay on schedule by truly working the hours you’ve dedicated to your job. For more advice, read up on how to talk to your friends and family about boundaries when you’re working at home.
While you’re working from home during the pandemic, you might have kids at home, too. Unfortunately, kids aren’t the best at respecting boundaries, even in the best of times. An age-appropriate conversation is a good place to start (‘I have to work’; ‘You have school or other activities to do’).
Limit Media Consumption
This is good advice for any time. It’s easy to get distracted by the constant influx of breaking news notifications, even on a slow news day. These days, though, it seems like something new is happening every few minutes.
Checking out what’s happened every time your phone beeps can divide your attention, making you a less productive worker. However, during the pandemic, these constant checks can also make you anxious, which, in turn, can make you lose focus on your work. To avoid these pitfalls (and maintain your mental well-being), try these tricks.
Set a Timer on Your Phone
While you are sitting at your desk, it can be tempting to pick up your phone—especially when it’s constantly pushing alerts at you.
To stop you from being distracted, set the timer on your phone for 90 minutes, turn off push notifications, and then put it out of sight.
Not only does the timer help structure your time, it is also a reminder that you’re not supposed to be looking at your phone.
Block Time-Wasting Sites
Now that you’ve blocked your phone don’t forget to block your browser, too. It’s tempting (and easy) to fritter the day away on your computer. So, use browser extensions to block yourself from social media, news sites, and anything else that will tempt you.
Just like on your phone, set a timer to unblock them during your breaks or after hours. Then, have them “re-block” those sites when it’s time to get to work.
Create a Calendar
If you don’t know what to focus on, how can you stay focused? Post a calendar in your home office so you can see what tasks you need to work on. The more organized this calendar is, the better.
Prioritize daily what work needs to get done for you to hit your deadlines and then write it down. You could use a whiteboard, a planner, or an online calendar.
The objective is to have a visual of what you need to focus on so that when your mind starts to wander, you see the list, and you get back to work.
Take Scheduled Breaks Often
Some people believe that every 90 minutes we need a break from our work. Staying focused while working from home can be tough because we don’t always the mental references that in-office workers have, like people leaving for lunch, grabbing coffee, etc. These breaks are just like you walking to the break room or stopping by someone’s office to chat.
Before your day starts, plan when you can take breaks based on your meeting calendar, workload, and priorities.
Physical activity is important, even if it’s just a quick walk. Lack of movement is not only bad for your body but also your mind, as it can cause your brain to become sluggish.
Frana says, “Don’t be afraid to schedule in a workout or some sort of movement in your day. This not only keeps us physically well but also allows for a mental refresh so we can maintain focus throughout our workday. This is hard to achieve when we don’t allow ourselves to take breaks to move during the day.”
So, take a brisk walk in the morning or walk the dog on your lunch break. Bad weather by you? Stream a workout for a quick 10-minute fitness boost, or even do some stretching. Your thoughts will become clearer, and it will help you to be more productive for the rest of the day.
Don’t Graze All Day
Just like you want to stay focused with your work productivity, you’ll also want to create boundaries with food intake. That said, you still have to eat. And, the advantage of working at home is that you can create your own fresh and healthy meals without relying solely on the microwave. Check out some of these simple and easy work-from-home meal ideas that even the most inexperienced home cooks can master.
Stay Focused, Stay Productive
You will get distracted from time to time, and that’s OK. Be easy on yourself. Staying focused while working from home can be a challenge, but with a little restructuring—and a little persistence—you can become more productive and effective. Incorporate these tips a little at a time, and you’ll see how much more you can get done during the day.