It all sounds so simple. Just wake up every morning and sit down to work. But it isn't, is it? The pandemic has caused many companies to move to a work-from-home model for their employees. While this may initially seem like bliss where you get to avoid your daily commute or snooze your alarm for an extra hour, remote work can also come with its drawbacks.
Ever since you merged your workspace with your living space, ever since the days became an undifferentiated cycle of light and dark, ever since your social interactions moved to a small, fake 2-D world, you haven't been able to focus. You start wondering if you'll ever be able to concentrate or get anything worthwhile done ever again. This is really dramatic, isn't it?
Okay, so a lot of us have been thinking the same way a lot lately since this new “work from home” culture came into existence. It is way harder to stay focused while you're working at home versus your office or a coffee shop or wherever it is that you normally work. The lack of separation between your work and your personal life brings a lot of additional distractions as compared to the busy schedule you had when you actually went to the office every day.
So in this article, we are going to talk about how you can actually stay focused on your work. These essential things should be taken into account if you want to be productive and organized when working from home.
Do something for yourself before you start work
It’s easy to roll out of bed and over to your laptop without even changing out of your PJs. But to stay motivated, it’s best to wake up a little early and do something for yourself in the morning. You could do a workout, for example, or catch up on the news or read a chapter of your favorite book and have a perfect breakfast before you get stuck into your work for the day.
Have a designated workspace
Having a set working area can help you stay focused and more productive. Your living area is now your working space as well, so if you’re behind your cleaning routine, now’s the time to make it perfect. An untidy, unorganized environment generates high levels of stress, reduces productivity, and overall shifts your focus to the mess instead of the work in front of you.
Make this a top priority during your first few days working at home. If you have a home office or desk, you’re already good to go. If you don’t have a setup, you need to improvise. You could set up your workstation on the kitchen table or maybe shift some items from your bedroom table and turn it into your new remote desk.
Develop an intention
At first, we need to talk about intentionality. Before you start, the most useful thing you can do when you sit down to work is to set a strong intention. Well, most of us find ourselves bouncing between mostly useless busywork tasks, instead of working intentionally, which means we tend to finish those tasks at first which seem tempting to work on. Now even if they were at the bottom of your list you did them first as those tasks were easy, and they give you an immediate but false sense of accomplishment.
Yes, it feels nice to tick off those tasks, but they also cause you to procrastinate on the work that you should really be doing. Work that's truly meaningful to you remains undone for a large portion of your day, and you often end up feeling negative and tired. This is so not good when it becomes a habit.
Setting a strong intention before you work helps you to avoid them, at least until the real work is done.
Rule of Three
Setting a strong intention before you work helps you to avoid them, at least until the real work is done. One useful way of setting intentions is to follow the ‘Rule of Three’. This is a concept from Chris Bailey's book “The Productivity Project,” and it's really simple. When you're writing out your daily plan, choose no more than three meaningful tasks that you intend to get done. If you’re someone who writes your daily list on a whiteboard, then you might want to tweak how you use it by writing these three intentions at the top and listing any smaller tasks below them in a de-prioritized way.
Don't worry about those until you get the main intentions taken care of. Then it's time to sit down for a session of focused work. Look at your list and choose just one item to work on. Really mentally commit to devoting this working session only to that item. And just like that, you now have a strong intention that will help to guide you and keep you on task.
Communicate with your colleagues
To ensure an easy workflow, it’s necessary to have an open line of communication with both your manager and your colleagues. By checking in with your manager, you’ll update them on what you’re working on, and they will feel more at ease knowing that the same level of work is being produced as if you were in the office.
Take breaks while doing bigger tasks
If you have a bigger task that takes a lot of time to do, try breaking it into smaller chunks and allot separate durations for each task session. Commit yourself to work only for that specific period of time, and make it low enough that you no longer feel resistance. If 1 hour feels like too much, then go for 40 minutes as work time and 5 minutes break.
Whatever time you decide to go with, keep a watch on the time, or it’s to better put it on a timer app. One such great app is Pomodor that uses the famous Pomodoro technique of time management. Using one of these tools creates a little bit of external pressure so there's one less thing you have to rely on your willpower, your internal self-control to handle.
Avoiding distractions can save you a lot of time
It’s easy to get distracted in an environment that you usually associate with relaxation. To avoid procrastination, get rid of any and all distractions. Put your phone on airplane mode and hide your TV remote to eliminate the temptation of turning these devices on.
If you’re bound to use your smartphone for work, then at least keep yourself away from all social media or content streaming apps like Netflix. The next episode of your favorite series can surely wait until your work is done. You can use an app called Freedom (supports in Windows and Android) to set a block timer on these apps. You can choose to listen to your song playlist if that keeps you focused or helps you any better.
Easy Fixes to maintain your health
Whether you’re in the office or at home, it’s easy to skip your lunch break and work throughout the day. However, it’s even more important when you’re confined to the house that you actually do take this break. A 30-minute break from your laptop will help you relax and refocus. Avoid cooking meals from scratch during your lunch break. All of the cooking and cleanup in the middle of your day can be more stressful than relaxing so it’s important that you try to overcome the tendency of fixing your meals during your break.
Even while you’re working in the comfort of your home, your body demands rest. Staying up later to binge-watch a series, will do you no favors! To be productive from home, you’ll need plenty of shuteye. So, follow your normal bedtime routine and try to wake up and sleep at the same time each day.
Remember to stretch frequently. Make sure to open up the windows and let the fresh air in especially if you live in a small space. You can do these during your break, like rearranging your tools and desk, munching on a healthy snack, or a fruit. Taking a quick nap during break never hurts.
Finally, don’t forget to drink plenty of water during the day. Just keep a water bottle nearby and challenge yourself to drink it until lunch break and then refill it at that time.
The Bottom Line
Remember that there is no instant fix to the challenges of remote work. It can take time to develop effective strategies to work productively from home, so don’t get discouraged if you find yourself struggling. Follow these tips and try sticking to the habits even if you don’t enjoy doing it. The more consistent you are in your habits, the easier your remote work life will become!