Strategies to Keep You Focused When Working From Home
Who would have thought that working from home could possibly be less enjoyable than going into the office everyday? We have realized all too soon the challenges that come with working in the same space that you live, eat, clean, and exercise in, plus dealing with your new “co-workers” who don’t seem to understand that you actually need to be working while working from home.
Although most of us have adjusted to this new makeshift working environment that doesn’t take away from the productivity challenges that come with this new lifestyle. It is almost impossible to be as productive and focused while working from home. Trying to do 110% of your workload with 80% production capacity day after day is unbelievably challenging and exhausting. At this point it’s easy to be feeling the effects of burnout, enabling you to give into distractions more easily and have disdain for your projects and responsibilities. No matter how many times you open your fridge no new food will appear, shocking I know. All of these feelings are so normal and it’s hard to separate yourself from them because you can’t physically leave your surroundings. Don’t punish yourself, we are all doing the best we can.
While we are stuck in the confines of our studio apartments, shared spaces with roommates or significant others, or even our parents’ homes, it is important to resist the distractions and enact best practices. Here are some tips to keep you focused and have a fresh and clear mind for the work day ahead.
Productivity Tips for Working From Home
Maintain a Morning Routine
Try to revisit the same morning routine you followed before the pandemic began. Since your morning commute is now to your living room, take the time that you spent getting ready and getting to work by catching up on some much needed zzz’s. Anxiety and stress only increase when we do not get the right amount of sleep for our bodies. Try to set your alarm at a reasonable time to ensure you have ample time to wake up and be energized in order for you to dive into your work without still having those eye crusties.
Your morning routine should include showering, making your bed, skincare, journaling, meditating, or anything else you like to do before starting your work day. Since the future is so unknown at this time, you can find comfort in a routine to keep you grounded when you may not know what day it is.
If you’re going to have video calls, try and put on a little makeup to appear more presentable and maintain a level of professionalism. Also, consider throwing on a cute sweater or something else besides a hoodie – don’t worry you can still keep your sweatpants on. It’s a nice little boost in confidence and appearance as we may not have many opportunities to look nice in the upcoming weeks.
Set Your Outfit Out the Night Before
Although our work attire has shifted from professional dress to the beloved groutfit, that doesn’t mean you should stop setting your outfit out the night before. Definitely change out of your night pajamas into your day pajamas or other comfy clothes. Make sure you are changing your clothes every single day even if it’s just into another pair of black leggings. Personal grooming and hygiene are very important for your mental health and to maintain some sense of normalcy. This will help you feel like every day is a new day and we are one day closer to being able to go back to our normal lives.
Set Up A Workstation
It can be so tempting to roll over, log into your computer, and work horizontally until noon. As the lines blur between personal and professional space, it is imperative that you establish some boundaries by setting up an area to serve as your designated work space. Your bedroom has always been where you went to relax and unwind from the day, so it doesn’t make sense for it to now become your productive space unless that’s your only option. Leave your room as the place to unplug at the end of each day. The forced change of scenery will help you get up and out of bed and ready to take on the day. Having to run a quarter close financial report from your bed does not sound enjoyable for you or your bedroom.
Grab your morning coffee or beverage of choice, water, work phone, notebook and pen, and chargers prior to sitting down at your desk to minimize future interruptions so when you do get there, you are a productive superstar. Since this working from home situation may last for the unforeseeable future, invest in any technology you need to make your WFH experience easier. Some great items to consider are a wireless mouse keyboard bundle,adapters to connect to a second screen, laptop stand, or a new notebook to cheer you up.
Make a Daily To-Do List
At the end of each work day, take out your planner and handwrite a to-do list to plan your schedule for the following day. Using a planner allows you to keep track of your work flow for the week while knowing what day it is. This should be done before you log off so you can take full stock of outstanding projects while you are still in work mode. Doing it at the end of your work day allows you to go to your workstation the next morning and not even have to think before you’ve had a sip of coffee, which you just learned how to make.
Once you have your to-do list, create blocks within your schedule to ensure you are allocating enough time to each of the items on your list. It can be so easy to get sucked into one project for an entire afternoon. When blocking off your schedule utilize the Outlook or Google calendars to receive notifications for when it is time to move onto the next project. If you have trouble focusing, consider implementing the pomodoro technique which improves focus by working in 25 minute increments, with 5 minute breaks.
Increase Communication with Co-workers
Since we are no longer in an in-person environment, it is sooo important to increase communication to continue the team dynamic, even when you do not have a question. Working from home can get lonely especially when you are used to working in a lively environment. Constantly check in with your team members, work friends, and managers whether it be over Slack, Gchat, or Skype Messenger.
If you don’t start off an email or phone call with small talk asking them how they have been doing during quarantine, are you even trying to talk to someone? We all appreciate someone checking in on us as we continue to adjust to this new way of life. Even if things may be smooth sailing for you, that may not be the case with coworkers who now have children at home or a family member that got laid off due to what’s happening.
Every time you have a phone call with a team member, business partner, client, or anyone else make sure you take the time to ask about how they are doing. Sometimes we all just need a minute to vent about our personal chaos. We are all anxious about what is going on and it is important to maintain those work relationships during this time. You are all going to get through this together. Remember, teamwork makes the dream work.
Take A Lot of Breaks
On any other work day it is nearly impossible to sit in the same spot and remain fully engaged in your work, so why would working at home be any different? As it is increasingly more difficult to be as productive at home than in the office, breaks are necessary to keep us from getting frustrated and wanting to punch our small laptop screens.
Breaks keep our minds fresh and allow us to revisit projects to more accurately check for errors and problem solve. Breaks could be anything from a solitary walk outside or to the fridge, refilling your coffee, or answering some personal emails. Since we are sitting poorly in the same spot all day, *I know you just adjusted your posture*, a good stretch break can be a game changer to keep your joints from aching. Switch out your day pajamas for workout clothes and take advantage of your lunch hour and get in a great workout over Instagram Live, IGTV, Youtube, or another streaming service. This will really get your mind clear for a productive afternoon.
Limit Technology and Other Vices
Now that we are in the general vicinity of every single one of our tech devices and other vices, it is even more important to resist those urges. If it’s best for you, work in a room that doesn’t have a TV and only bring your work computer and two phones (if you have) with you. Take off your Apple Watch, you don’t need to be flexing so hard for your Zoom meeting anyways. Try your best to not constantly read the news and limit yourself to periodically check it on Twitter/TV to limit your anxiety. As if you were at work, don’t get lost on the internet or go online shopping.
Once 5pm rolls around and all of your tasks are done for the day and you’ve made your to-do list, feel free to crack a cold one and mindlessly scroll across all of your social media platforms and get sucked in for hours.
Listen to Podcasts and Music
If you used to listen to podcasts or music throughout the work day continue to do so. Maintain your weekly podcast schedule to listen to all of your faves and bring some normalcy to your ears. Listen to all of the true crime, dating, and comedy podcasts you like as many shows are producing more content to fill everyone’s abundance of time. If you want to remain informed, The New York Times Daily, Coronavirus: Faction vs. Fiction, and NPR’s CoronaVirus Daily podcasts are for you. My current fave WFH playlist is the WFH: SomethingNavy Girls, which has some great jams, despite the controversy.
Finish Work at Scheduled Times
This may be one of the hardest of all but it is still so important to maintain work-life balance and end work at an appropriate time, even if you still have things to do. Since you are unable to physically separate yourself from your work, you need to be extra diligent about making time for yourself after work hours. When it is time to log-off, it’s time to log-off. Don’t put yourself through the ringer or risk suffering from burn out because you need to be connected all of the time. All of your work will still be there tomorrow. Remember everyone is trying to navigate this transition together so no need to be a try hard.
You Got This!
Thank you for quarantining and remaining socially isolated for yourself, the healthcare professionals, and all the people out there who are elderly and immunocompromised. I know this is hard but we can get through this together in the hopes of returning to normal life and being stronger on the other side.
If you have any great WFH tips please let me know in the comments so we can share the knowledge! Stay safe and healthy everyone.