How to Stay Focused While Working Remotely from Home
With the start of a new year in full swing, it’s time to make some serious changes to your routine. If you’re one of 33% of US workers who always work remotely from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you probably appreciate the challenges that come along with making your home your new office.
Our homes used to be the places where we decompressed from work. We’d walk through the door and shelf the stress and responsibilities of work for the next working day. Fast forward to today, we must now adapt our mindset to work at home and relax at home. The concept of work-life balance seems ever so more challenging when your work life and personal life are combined into one environment, and that environment is where you spend most, if not all, of your days and nights.
Indeed, keeping focus and remaining productive can be challenging when you’re faced with distracting noises from other people or things. A loud telephone call might be distracting. A TV program at a certain volume might be distracting. Children or family members talking or walking about and around might be distracting. Whatever the reason, if you’re finding it difficult to remain focused and productive, here’s three ways to support your focus and productivity when working remotely from home.
Create a Dedicated Workspace
The first step to making sure your home is equipped for focus and productivity is to create a dedicated workspace. It may be tempting to grab your laptop, prop yourself up in bed, and get to work. That sure sounds cozy, but just think about that for a moment. When you go into work, you’re not in your pajamas or in bed. You get out of bed and get dressed for work. Sitting in your bed can send signals to your brain that it’s time to sleep. And, sitting on the couch might feel like it’s time to select your favorite program and relax.
To help keep you focused on work, set up a work desk or table in a well-lit room that is entirely dedicated to work time. Avoid comfortable spaces, because these are typically not ideal places for work productivity.
Look around your home and find a place that you can devote to work. Clear out a guest room, an unused area in a room, or even your garage (if practicable) and make it your new office to help support your focus and keep you motivated while working remotely from home.
Create a To-Do List + Stick to it
When you’re not surrounded by co-workers, or simply outside of the work office, it can be easy to lose focus. Creating a to-do list can have a positive impact on your focus, productivity and overall mindset. A task list structures your priorities and time and helps keep you on track. It’s like a having roadmap for the day that helps navigate you on what you have to do and by when. By planning your day in advance, you are eliminating the distraction of having to focus on all the things you need to accomplish.
At first, you may feel that creating a to-do list is time-consuming or burdensome. If that’s you, don’t get discouraged. As with most things, with a little bit of time you should get faster and better at creating a list that works for you. Just imagine being able to checkoff each task you listed and how that would make you feel. The odds are you would feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, as you should!
When to Create a To-Do List
When creating a task list, do it the night before or first thing in the morning before you start your workday, so that your day is already planned out. Creating a to-do list for the day while working distracts you from focusing on the tasks necessary to be done that day. If a new task comes up while you’re working, jot it down on a post-it or notepad, send yourself an email, add it to your calendar, or send yourself a text message to help capture it. That way, you don’t have to worry about having to recall what it is you need to do because you have it stored somewhere you can refer to later, when you sit down to make your next to-do list.
Keep Your To-Do List Reasonable
You may be inclined to list a gazillion things you want to accomplish on your to-do list. That’s inspiring but probably not best. Remember that a to-do list for the day is meant to capture tasks that you need to start and/or finish that day to help keep you focused and productive. When you start listing everything you want to do, you’ll just end up with a lengthy to-do list that you may get lost in, making your list counterproductive.
If you’re inclined to include tasks that you wish to do, just be realistic and fair to yourself. Avoid having a list of tasks that you cannot realistically complete because that may derail you. When we fail to meet our deadlines or goals, it can create a feeling of stress, disappointment, frustration and be de-motivating. Keep your to-do list limited to what you must do on a particular day, rather than combining what you have to do with what you wish to do to help keep you focused and productive.
Take Regular Short Breaks
Taking mini work breaks can help keep your attention sharp, restore your focus, keep you motivated, and maintain overall good health.
When you sit constantly or for long consecutive hours, your blood circulation and brain function slows down which can lead to a higher risk of developing serious medical conditions like depression and obesity, among others.
Experts suggest that taking a 5- or 10-minute break every 30 minutes to walk around, stretch, and the like can help your mind and body stay in good health. Studies report that taking regular mini breaks from mental tasks can improve your focus, productivity and creativity, reduce stress, and help maintain performance throughout the day.
So, get into the habit of taking mini breaks. Make it part of your everyday routine. If you need a reminder or assistance to get into the habit of doing so, here’s a few ideas to help get you started:
- Write it down on a post it and stick it on your computer screen where you can see it,
- Schedule a reoccurring break event in your calendar, or,
- Download a break reminder app.