Staying Focused When Working From Home
Whether you’re a remote worker escaping the office monotony or an entrepreneur starting up your own business, managing your time when working from home is not as easy as it seems. It can take only seconds to veer off course, shifting your focus off work and landing you squarely in the realm of unproductivity.
To stay focused on work, you’ll have to make some sacrifices and reprioritize, which is frankly not an easy task when there’s no one watching over your shoulder. The most difficult task we face when working remotely is staying focused. How to stay productive when working at home is probably the most common question I get asked. I hear from readers all the time who are stressed and at their wits end because they can’t seem to find the same focus and drive at home that they could at work and they need advice for what to do.
A definite routine is necessary to keep you from randomly getting caught up in what’s happening on your phone or binge-watching Netflix. Here are several tips for how you can increase your focus when working at home.
Choosing the right workspace free from all distractions (such as your pets and TV) is essential. Set aside some space in your house that has all the equipment and facilities you need to accomplish your goals, like a study or an office. Make sure it’s a place you feel comfortable and productive – not a windowless room in your basement or a stifling attic room. It’s also important that you keep your workspace neat, clean and organized so you can boost your productivity and focus better on your work instead of the chaos around you.
Making a task list will help you keep track of your productivity and skills and can increase your chances of improving as a remote worker. A task list helps you define what’s most important so you can focus on that task first and later move on to other tasks that aren’t as important.
Listing your tasks can also help you save time, as focusing on one assignment at a time is automatically less time-consuming than flipping back and forth between assignments because you haven’t prioritized which one needs to happen first.
Remote workers have a huge advantage over brick and mortar workers because you can use the quiet time of others to your benefit. Working in a noisy house or office presents a lot of distractions and may prevent you from getting your work done on time, which can result in stress and depression.
Instead, get a sense for when the house is quiet. Maybe it’s when your family members go to bed, or your roommates head out for the day. In general, you have the flexibility to work during the time of day that works best for you!
A common complaint of those working from home is the lack of breaks. It’s easy to forget to take a break when you’re working from home or to not feel like you have “time” to break. Remember, you can only be productive for so long before your eyes, brain, legs and stomach need a break. Give yourself permission to get up and do something else for a few minutes and you’ll find yourself renewed and much more productive when you return.
Some remote workers set an alarm on their phone or computer which reminds them when it’s time to take a break. But one important rule is to always leave your workspace when you’re on break; that way your mind is in focus mode at your desk, not thinking about that show you want to watch. So get up from your desk at regular intervals and go for a walk, play with your pets, grab a snack or some lunch, or take in a few minutes of your favorite show or book – whatever helps you feel more mentally and physically focused and relaxed.
Another big issue for remote workers is the feeling like you’re “always working.” If you’re not tracking the time you spend working, it can be hard to differentiate between work time and non-work time. Therefore, I suggest that before you start working for the day, “check-in” by recording your starting time. By keeping track of your starting and ending time, you will be able to look back on how many hours you worked in a day and objectively evaluate your productivity.
Checking yourself in and out can also help you recognize whether you’re overburdening yourself or if you’re working too little and need to focus more. In both cases, checking in and out can be very beneficial.
In everything in life, balance is essential. Thus, whether you’re working from home or not, taking vacations is necessary to rejuvenate you and help you come back to work refreshed. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a day or a full week, or if you leave the country or just spend the day with your family – giving yourself the time and space to take things off your mind and shoulders will help improve your focus and productivity in the long run.
Much like breaks, vacations help you return to your work with a fresh perspective and can help you get a better grip on your assignments and projects. Vacations also feed your natural desire to be social and commune with others – something you lack when not in an office surrounded by peers. While on vacation, you might make new friends, spend time socializing with others, get to know your family better, or simply spend time participating in social activities.
Often, working from home means working with people in different time zones and getting a lot of emails overnight or early in the morning. Getting a head start on your day can help you not feel overwhelmed by emails and calls as they come in and will also help you stay caught up and get a clear view of the day’s work.
Turn off Devices
As much as you might hate to admit it, your phone can be a huge distractor and may be one of the main reasons why you can’t seem to focus properly on your work and projects. Catching up with your friends on social media or reading the days’ news as it’s published can be really tempting; therefore, the first step you should take when you’re about to work and don’t want any distractions is to turn off all of your distracting devices.
Both you and your work can benefit from some offline time. Handling a single task at a time can boost your skills and focus and help you become a more practical and efficient worker, which can also benefit your career.
If you’re a remote worker who can never seem to get work done until the last minute, I strongly recommend that you consider making some deadlines for yourself. When you know you have a full day for an assignment or 3 days for a specific job, chances are that you will postpone getting started and find excuses to kill time. Then, when you’re facing not having enough time to complete your work, you will rush frantically to finish the project and turn in something sloppy and haphazardly put together.
To avoid this, set a deadline for yourself that’s a few hours earlier than your official deadline. This will give you enough time to review your work and ensure that it’s complete and error-free. Winding up your work long before it’s due will help you be more relaxed and confident in your output.
While there are many benefits to working remotely, one of the drawbacks is a lack of recognition. Unlike in an office, where your hard work and success are recognized by your superiors, remote workers typically do not celebrate their own successes, which can lead to a lack of motivation and engagement in the work.
While it might seem small, giving yourself a pat on the back (and maybe even a nice lunch) to celebrate your achievements can play an important role in keeping you motivated and helping you stay on track. Reward yourself for a job well done and make sure you share your successes with others – be it co-workers, friends, family members, or peers.
While there are many advantages to working from home, it can take a lot of dedication and focus to be a truly effective remote employee. By taking advantage of the tips listed in this article, remote workers can become more focused, realize increased productivity, have more time to relax and enjoy life and achieve greater success.