5 Tips to help you focus while working from home
May 13, 2020
Most of us have been working from home for at least eight weeks and most of us have adapted well, getting our work done via video conferences, chats, emails, and phone calls. However, one common thread I continually hear, “I’m have a hard time focusing.” It should not be a surprise, we are living in the most uncertain of times, nothing like we have ever experienced. First, we have to cut ourselves a little break, it does not help if we’re are being too hard on ourselves. We have to remember we are environmentally conditioned, meaning while at work, we are conditioned to focus and be productive. When we are at home, we are conditioned to wind down and relax. Some days it may be easier than others to get into the “at work” groove than others. On those days when focusing seems difficult, try one of these tips to help you maintain focus throughout the day.
Similarly to a few months ago when you commuted to work, start your workday at the same time every morning.
Break Your Day into Chunks
Don’t think if your day as a whole unit. Instead, break it up into smaller chunks such as 9:00 to 10:30, then 10:45 to noon, etc. This will help you manage your time better and keep you on track. We call can push ourselves to work for fifteen more minutes.
In between those chunks throughout the day, take breaks. These breaks should include something more than making your way to the kitchen to forage through the pantry cupboard for a handful of Goldfish. It’s better to do something more physical. For example, take your dog for a walk, throw in a load of laundry, or do some chair yoga. If you have a creative side, then let your creative juices take over for 15 or 20 minutes. These different activities will offer you and your brain a different kind of stimulus and allow you to better focus when you return to “work.”
Take a few minutes to understand what is typically inhibiting your ability to focus, such as the television, kids, pets, meeting preparation, what you’re making for dinner, the dishes in the sink, etc. Once you understand, you will be better able to control those items. For example, if you get distracted every afternoon wondering what you are making for dinner, then take a little time and plan the meals in advance. If your kids or a significant other is bothering you, you need to try and figure out how you manage them and your schedule at the same time and set up dedicated time with them and dedicated time for you to complete your work. Some working parents who have elementary aged children at home are taking turns assisting their children with their schoolwork while the other focuses on their work.
While many of us pride ourselves on multitasking, it might not be the best approach while working from home. Focus on one task at a time. This means when you take breaks, do not start something that will take you longer than the allotted break time. For example, if getting a load of laundry in the washing machine will take you 30 minutes, but you’ve only planned on a 15-minute break, then don’t try and work on the laundry at that time, save that for later.
I cannot stress enough – be kind to yourself. This does not mean sit back and say, “Oh well,” and give up on being productive, but it does mean not beating yourself up if you find yourself occasionally talking with your dog, watching a bird build a nest outside of your window, or you take an extra fifteen or twenty minutes to talk with your teenager. We are all under stress and working from home has its benefits, but it also presents challenges. Our ability to focus is also dependent upon our sleep patterns and our bigger worries, the latter of which may be far beyond our control. All you can do is do your best.
Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department Head of Graduate Studies