Working from home. Remoting in. Telecommuting. Whatever you call it, powering up the laptop to tackle tasks from your home office, dining table, or couch is becoming the new normal for most of us; thanks to Covid-19.
While it sounds like a homebody’s dream — working on a presentation lying face down on your couch or stand-up meetings in sweatpants — it’s not always easy to set your own schedule. If you are still transitioning to at-home work, you need to learn how to stay focused and avoid being sucked into doing a load of laundry, falling into a Netflix void, sleep a few extra hours, or give into temptation and not work at all.
Working at home brings business and personal aspects of life together under one roof. If you are finding yourself drifting more and more these days, it is time to try these tips on how to stay focused while working from home.
Set Up Your Day The Night Before
Let’s rewind and go back a day. Before you go to bed each night, make a couple of basic decisions about what you will do tomorrow. For instance, when you need to wake up, which tasks you need to get out of the way before your lunch break, plan some activities to engage your kids in while you are neck deep in work, decide what to cook for dinner, and make a mental note of any looming deadlines or pending tasks that need your attention the next day. Promise yourself that you wont surf the net or check your emails until you have checked off at least a few of these items off your to-do list. Stick to your schedule and you will be able to close your eyes at the end of the day and see how good it feels to be in charge of your day. Planning out your day in advance makes sure you don’t stay tangled up in the throes of making decisions all day long. This helps you avoid wasting time and energy on small, unimportant things and getting sidetracked.
Get The Most Difficult Things Out Of The Way First
Those tough tasks won’t get any easier the more you put them off or fret over them endlessly. You may be tempted to procrastinate a meeting with your boss that might end badly or put off a presentation for as long as you can hold up because you are nervous, but doing so will only waste energy that would be better spent by just digging in. Try to get those hardest tasks off the table early in the morning, while you still have the energy and stamina to do so. Research says that our minds are the freshest first thing in the morning, which is the perfect time to tackle those toughest jobs. Trust me, once you have finished the tasks that were making you toss and turn at night, you can breathe a sigh of relief and take care of the more routine work that doesn’t require much in the way of energy, ability, and mental strain.
Get In The “Flow”
You might be quick to blame your shrieking kids playing in the next room, or the whir of the lawn mower coming from next door for your loss of focus, but, why don’t you sit down and evaluate your own productivity before blaming others. Are you really in the “flow” when working on your tasks?
Discovered by researchers at the University of Chicago, Flow is a state of mind where you achieve the peak of your performance, execute tasks without any strenuous efforts, and feel in total pursuit. When you master your ability to concentrate, you automatically improve your flow. You can start by feeling more enthusiastic about the task at hand and staying laser-focused on working on this single thing, instead of juggling multiple balls at once. My secret is that I wait until the deadlines draw close. This sense of urgency drives me to work better and more efficiently.
Don’t Have Breakfast Too Early
If you are even a fraction of the health aficionado that I am, you must have heard about this technique known as Intermittent Fasting. This is where you fast for 16 hours of the day and make up for the calorie deficit in an 8-hour window. It may sound a lot of hours to go hungry but is easier to follow. Not only doing so will not only bring you closer to your weight loss goals and benefit your metabolism, but also improve your focus in the mornings since your body is not busy digesting food (or cooking it). So, basically you are allocating all those resources to one purpose; helping you focus on the task at hand. I usually follow intermittent fasting by swapping my breakfast for a cup or two of coffee, followed by a breakfast around 1 p.m., and eating my last meal by 9 p.m. This helps my focus shoot through the roof.
Batching – Knock out short tasks together
Who doesn’t love being “on a roll”! you are sweeping tasks and items off your to-do lists, left and right, and feel a great sense of accomplishment. This is known as batching, and it gets you in the groove. Not only that, batching usually helps you figure out the easiest way to get something done. As a write, batching is my secret to productivity. What I do is to continue doing the same type of task or the same job for an extended period of time.
For instance, instead of going with the flow, and starting each day with coming up with a blog topic and doing run-of-the-mill keyword research, I devote two full days at the start of the month, filling in my content calendar and doing keyword research. This way, I get down to work each morning knowing what needs to be done, instead of spending the most productive hours of my day caught up in a writer’s block. Even though batching makes you plan ahead, it ensures that you aren’t context switching. As for me, I have started batching everything from attending meetings to writing emails, and it keeps me laser-focused all the time.
Shut Your Notifications Off
As if your house wasn’t already a cesspool of distractions, there is the constant ping of your phone to steal your focus every few seconds. If possible, shut off browser and phone notifications or put your phone on silent to alleviate interruptions while you are at work. Each day, I turn my email and social media notifications off before sitting down to work for the day. At the end of the day, I reward myself by checking Instagram and Facebook, and watching every silly YouTube video I can. Indulging in this mini distraction helps me transition out of work-mode into my relaxing-in-my-pjs mode. It segments my day from work to play.
Know When To Clock Out
Those who have recently joined the work from life, think that remote working translates into better work-life balance and more time to work. In truth, work is work, no matter if you love it or hate it, or where you are doing it from. It needs to get done, but then there’s your personal life that needs to be addressed as well. With the physical barrier between the two removed, it is only natural to put in extra hours of work inadvertently, leaving less time for your personal indulgences, as well your family and friends. And when you realize that you are working all the burnout, it can lead to exhaustion, and eventually a loss of focus and productivity.
This is why you need to stick to a predetermined set of work hours and maximize your workdays so that you can enjoy your time off and be ready to clock back in (virtually) on Monday morning. Start by creating a ritual that allows you to mentally phase out of your work mode into your off time. For instance, once I have shut down my laptop, I splash my face, slip into my pj’s and switch on the TV, just like I used to do after coming home. Psychologists say this simple act serves as a powerful metaphor of ‘cleaning the slate’ and helps us mentally wipe away doubts and misgivings.
Do you know any other tips on how to stay focused when working from home? Do let us know in the comments below.