Handling distractions and improving focus while working from home

I don’t know about you but working from home has been a pretty hard proposition for me. Let’s face it. Rolling out of bed, putting some clothes on, sitting at the computer and contemplating productive work sounds challenging––even as a thought. I can barely sit in a spot for 30 minutes without feeling the urge to grab a snack or play with my dog.

This is very natural though. And while I occasionally feel guilty that I’m not spending all my time working, learning, and improving myself, I have learned to cope with the feeling. What we all forget is that we’re working from a place usually reserved for relaxation and unwinding. So, of course, everything is going to be different. The goals you set, the work you do, and even your schedules are going to be a challenge. Keeping your eyes on the prize is not going to be simple. So how do you manage your time and stay focused?

Here are some tips to handle WFH distractions and improving your focus.

Prioritize what you have to do

We all have a lot of things to get done. However, often, we don’t sort these by order of importance. For example, you have two articles going out. While one needs more research, the other has a closer due date. It can be hard for you to decide which one to prioritize but you have to make that call because you need to get your work done.

Unless you put your tasks in order and tackle them systematically, you’ll end up going around in circles and get very little done. Not prioritizing your tasks also means that you might have trouble managing your time and eventually end up doing a sloppy job.

Look at the bigger picture

While finishing off smaller tasks on your list can make you feel productive, you have to ask yourself how much these contribute to your end goals. For example: building an index of articles you’ve written so far. While it might not seem very helpful, it will greatly speed up future research especially if you need to frequently refer to your work. On the other hand, sending an email to your product users, which only takes up a small portion of your day, might leave you feeling like you’ve accomplished something and entitle you to a break, even if you have more work left.

Once you do this, figure out which things help you towards your ultimate goals and get cracking on them!

Reward yourself with your favorite distractions

You’re going to be affected by distractions no matter what, as we’ve mentioned earlier. However, rather than letting this derail you, you can instead make them work in your favor.

For instance, you love spending time on Reddit? Give yourself 20 minutes to browse to your heart’s desire after an hour or two of work. By rewarding yourself with a controlled level of things that distract you, you can strike that balance between work and play!

Stay engaged during meetings

Meetings have always been hard to pay attention to, all the more so when someone is talking about something that doesn’t really concern you. This is amplified to a new level of difficulty in a work-from-home environment. The temptation to let our minds go astray during a meeting always exists, and it is even more obvious when you can mute yourself and turn off your video and do your own thing.

This is bad on multiple levels though, as you may not just end up missing something important, you might also be distracting others. To avoid zoning out, try and take notes based on what the speaker is saying. Ask questions to get more details and also to stay in the loop.

Track your day and optimize

Look at how your day passes and make notes. Are you spending too much time on social media? Does your 20-minute break to watch an episode of a show turn into a binge? By identifying where you get sidetracked and lose your valuable time, you can cut down on them and be more productive.

Optimization is also good – if you know you spend a lot of time going back and forth with your team or looking at emails, set aside time during the day to do these rather than constantly.

Work when you’re most productive

Some of us work better at night while for others it’s the opposite. It is important to collaborate with your team, but equally important is doing tasks solo when you’re most productive. Inform the people you work with about when you’ll be working and schedule a time to catch up that works for everyone.

Use time-management techniques

There are a variety of techniques available out there but one that I personally find really effective is the Pomodoro technique.

In this, you work for 25-minute sessions (pomodoros), and take a 5-minute break after each session. After 4 cycles, you take a 20-minute break. I find this works for me because I have trouble keeping my mind on things for longer than 20 to 30 minutes and by taking these short breaks, I feel refreshed.

Another technique I find useful is dividing my day into time slots. For instance, spending the hour before lunch researching an article, and the two after lunch to come up with a first draft, and so on.

Working from home isn’t easy. Sure, you no longer have that traffic-ridden commute, and, of course, there is the comfort of working in your pajamas. But, all the little things you do to get ready for work places you in that “work” mindset, something you no longer have. It’s okay to ease into things. The above list might help you focus better and in the long run, see better results and even have more time to relax and enjoy yourself.

What are your tips for focusing on work and managing time? Let us know in the comments below!

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