How to Stay Focused When You Work at Home
Working at home sounds great on paper. Including the flexibility to sleep, take breaks when you want, and dress in whatever comfortable clothes you feel like wearing. There are certainly excellent benefits to being a remote worker.
However, this flexibility, however, can become the home worker’s biggest foe.
Things get tricky when you find yourself with no working boundaries whatsoever. You still have deadlines to hit to make a success out of your venture, but because you’re not accountable to anyone in your home “office” beside yourself, those targets can start to seem more moveable than they should.
Many people find that when they lack a sense of urgency when completing tasks at their own leisure, meaning that their working hours are stretched interminably and finishing projects can take much longer than they should. If this is sounding all too familiar, then check out our top tips for keeping on task and maximizing your skill set while working from home.
Regiment your hours
We know you didn’t become a remote worker just so you could behave as if you work in a corporate office anyway. Many home workers, however, report greater efficacy when they fix their hours in advance.
So experiment and set the hours which work best for you and your schedule. You might have a family to work around or a personal project to fit into your days – but as long as you plan your working day in a way that suits you (and so long as you make a firm rule of actually working, without distractions, for those hours), you’ll still be able to enjoy a weekend.
If you really don’t want to have scheduled work hours, then ensure you are productive according to the tasks you have to complete, instead. Write up a to-do list at the start of each day, and define how many you want to tick off before clocking off for the day.
Choose your space wisely
It’s sad, but it’s true: working from bed is, for 99% of people, a terrible idea. Separate your leisure spaces from your work-zone more clearly by designating a spot in the home solely for your work.
And don’t get trapped into thinking that working at home means you can’t leave your home to work. Many remote workers report better productivity levels when they switch up their working locations. After an unproductive morning at home, you might find that popping out with your laptop in a local café or other WiFi spots in the wild is precisely what you need to get back on task.
Have productive breaks
One of the home worker’s biggest menaces is the “short” break. With no managers making sure you get back to your desk within 30 minutes or an hour, it’s tempting to distract yourself – whether with Netflix, pets or other such lovely distractions – for far longer than you should.
Not only will indulging in long breaks push your workload to the later end of the day (always a dangerous move), but it’ll negatively affect your long-term ability to focus.
To avoid this, plan breaks into your working schedule that is time-bound as well as productive. Finding 20 minutes to stretch or to go for a walk, for example, can be exactly what you need to refocus your mind on the next shift of the day. Plus, you have a sedentary remote working lifestyle, reserving some time for movement will do wonders for your overall health and wellbeing.
Connect with others
One of the best means of staying focused is to connect with and learn from others (whether these others be your bosses and direct colleagues, or the wider community of remote workers).
Collaborative tools and email make it easy to connect with others virtually – but try to network more in person, as well. Conferences or networking events, for example, can be a fantastic way to meet with others in your same industry and to get advice from other remote workers.
Project a long-term view
Which tasks do you need to focus on today to reach your long-term goals? To avoid getting caught up in the details (or worse still, getting too distracted to finish anything), create a plan of your top priorities, and the steps needed to get there.
At the end of each day, reflect on what you’ve done to work towards that end goal – and if you haven’t done enough today, plan for more tomorrow.
Working by yourself – and, if you’re a solopreneur, for yourself – can be a real slog, hence the function of well-planned rewards. If you’ve hit a minor deadline, treat yourself to a coffee or lunch trip out; if you’ve achieved a more substantial goal, take a weekend away from home to recharge.
If your reward involves other people, that’s even better. Workers who are new to the remote workforce are bound to be hit by the initial wave of loneliness and isolation, so ensuring you get out for a catch-up with friends over coffee or dinner can be the difference between you enjoying the home-working lifestyle, and loathing it.
Author: Cloe Matheson
Cloe Matheson hails from the beautiful South Island city of Dunedin, New Zealand, enjoying her freelance writer dream. She has written for various sites and blogs on topics ranging from career and business to travel and lifestyle. See Cloe’s Tumblr page to read more of her published work.