A Formula for Staying Focused While Working at Home

Over the last few months, we have learned that working from home instead of the office means trading in one set of distractions for another. In addition to managing your workload, you must also supervise yourself. How can you stay focused when your kids are bored or need help with school work, you must manage 4 or 5 conference calls or zoom meetings, Netflix just added your favorite show, or you just don’t feel like working?

We have also learned that remote work has many advantages, like greater flexibility and zero commuting time. However, to get your job done, it’s essential to create a system that keeps you focused and productive.

While speaking with some of my colleagues, I learned that they and some of their staff have problems staying focused while working at home.

You can succeed at remote work by providing structure and motivation. Use these ideas for dealing with internal and external distractions.

Dealing with Internal Distractions:

  1. Think positive. Build your morale. Think about the things you like about your job. Appreciate the opportunity to do meaningful work that stretches your skills and helps others.
  2. Set goals. Give yourself specific targets to strive for every day. Know what you want to accomplish each day and over the long term.
  3. Write a list. Before the day ends, use paper and pen or a free app to make a to-do list for the next day. Block out realistic time for each task.  Your list may have to be adjusted the following day based on issues which may arise, but be flexible.
  4. Schedule your day. Figure out your priorities and the hours when you’re most productive. Devote most of your resources to the activities that create real value.
  5. Designate a workspace. Carving out an area exclusively for work will help you keep your mind on your job. It can be a spare room or one corner in your studio apartment.
  6. Reduce discomfort. Pay attention to ergonomics, especially if you’re working at home full-time. Arrange your workspace for maximum efficiency. Ask your employer if they’ll help cover the costs for equipment such as headphones to reduce straining your neck during phone calls.
  7. Take breaks. You’ll accomplish more if you allow yourself generous helpings of downtime. Try to pause and relax before you feel fatigued.  A clear head can achieve more than a cluttered mind.
  8. Move around. Exercise reduces stress and restores your energy. Use some of your break time to stretch or jump rope. Go for a walk or do yoga during your lunch hour.

Dealing with External Distractions:

  1. Ask for support. Let your boss, coworkers, family, and friends know when you need help. Be willing to return the favor when you see them struggling.
  2. Arrange childcare. In today’s climate, it is difficult finding someone to watch your kids. Keep in touch with other families to learn about options near you or ask your employer about taking leave if necessary.
  3. Set boundaries. Let others know the hours when you’re available for collaboration, and when you need to work without interruptions. Shut your door and turn the volume down on your phone for tasks that require concentration.
  4. Interact with others. On the other hand, socializing is a valuable part of your workday too. Participate in virtual happy hours and stick around to chat before and after video meetings.
  5. Play music. Playing music is your chance to control the soundtrack at work. Create a variety of playlists to mask background noise or stimulate creative thinking.
  6. Eat healthy. Your kitchen can be a distraction too. Plan your daily menu around nutritious meals and snacks. It’s easier to turn down junk food when you feel full.
  7. Limit media. Facebook and streaming videos may consume much of your day unless you eliminate such temptations. Find methods that work for you, such as turning off notifications or setting time limits on sites where you tend to linger too long.

Develop the communication and organizational skills you’ll need to excel at working from home. You can be a high performer whether you’re sitting in a cubicle or on your patio.

We hope these strategies help as we prepare to shift from the daily routine of going into the office.