These days, we’re all learning the nuances and challenges of working from home. There are certainly perks (the snacks are better) but it can also be difficult to stay productive. While working from home, if you live alone, the isolation can be both a relief and a weighty burden. If you find yourself working from home surrounded by family or roommates, it can be difficult to stay focused and undistracted.
Here are some tips and strategies to help you stay focused and productive in your current work-from-home scenario.
Be realistic and kind to yourself
The first thing to do is remember that being focused and productive when working from home does not mean that you need to work constantly. Be realistic about the goals, projects, and deadlines you give yourself. (Perhaps you’re not the one setting these deadlines or initiating the projects; in this case, see our next tip.)
Communicate, communicate, communicate
When you’re working remotely, you can’t depend on those subtle, non-verbal forms of communication. Your colleague can’t notice that you’re stressed and your boss won’t see that you’re overwhelmed unless you tell them. Be more clear about what’s going on with you. Tell people your situation or limits, ask for what you need, and discuss the options. More tips here.
Set up a structure for working from home
Working from home can seem like a timeless experience. And it’s great if you can adjust your working hours and handle tasks on a timeline that is good for you. But no structure at all can leave you unmotivated. Put a basic structure or routine in place. A starting ritual or a special playlist can help designate “working time.” Take breaks, and give your workday an endpoint, too. It’s important to turn off the computer and phone and give yourself time away from productivity.
Avoid busywork to stay focused
Busywork can fill up many hours of your workday without providing any value in return. It’s demotivating to work without return for your effort. Avoid busywork and focus on doing work toward the most important projects and goals you have. If you can’t eliminate busywork, limit it to the end of the day after you’ve made progress on your work priorities.
Set up a designated work area
Working from home can lead to a feeling that you can’t get away from work. To combat that feeling, designate one area of your home for working. If it’s a space that needs to multi-task (such as the dining table), then set it up for work during your work hours, and put work things away at the end of the day.
Block your time
If possible, use time blocking to organize your day. You “block” out a certain amount of time for a certain type of activity. For example, you might block out your morning for meetings and communication. After a lunch break, you could block two hours for work on your most important project. Blocking time gives you a structure but allows flexibility within that structure.
Take real breaks
When you’re working from home and glued to your computer, it might seem like a fun break to catch up on social media or watch videos. But your brain (and eyes) need a break from the screen and the information input. Take a break from work, from your computer, and from your phone. Stretch. Do deep breathing. Play with the dog, dance to music, or something else physical and active. You’ll feel more energized and give your brain a real break.
Wrap up your workday
Use the last 10 or 15 minutes of your workday to send that final email, update your calendar, and share any pertinent info with colleagues. Then take time to note the highlights of your work for the day: progress made, problems or obstacles, communication, dependencies, what you’re waiting on, etc. This exercise will help you set your priorities for the next day. Review your calendar for upcoming meetings or deadlines you might have forgotten. A consistent routine at the end of the day will help you have peace of mind and a more organized start to the next workday.