Working from home used to be a rarity. Remote working and digital nomads were unusual. And nine-to-five in an office was unquestionably the normal way of doing things in the world of work.
These days, however, working from home is an increasingly popular choice. With the advances in technology and software, offices are becoming far more flexible in their processes, and virtual collaboration has never been easier.
Plus, if you’re a solo entrepreneur or freelancer, WFH is often your only choice!
But with all the good bits of working from home — no commute, access to a proper kitchen for lunch and unlimited coffee — it can present some pretty unique challenges, too.
Offices are designed for productivity. But the home? Not so much. Whether you work in the living room, from the couch, or even a dedicated home office, distractions are everywhere. It can be difficult to stay on the ball when surrounded by home comforts, household tasks and procrastination opportunities.
So it’s perfectly natural not to be as focused or productive when you first start out, but there are ways to change that (if you want!). Read on for some of the best hints and tips on staying focused and productive while working from home.
What are you aiming for today? Which essential tasks need to get done? Do you have a hard finish at 5pm?
Setting goals is one of the best ways to keep your focus laser sharp. Without clear intentions, it’s easy for the hours to slip by while the to-do list remains unchanged.
Goal setting techniques will differ from worker to worker, and you may respond better to weekly, daily, or evening hourly targets. Either way, a list will help you delineate your working day, and keep your eye on the ball. When you’ve got a (self-imposed) deadline looming, you are less likely to feel the urge to tidy up or get distracted by the TV.
Do you struggle to turn off when working from home? You’re not alone.
With the physical boundaries between home and work blurred, you might feel guilty whenever you aren’t actually working — even if it’s after hours or over lunch! Home workers often find themselves trudging through longer hours, without regular breaks.
But this is counter-intuitive! Working too hard, or for too long, will quickly lead to burnout — and that’s much harder to come back from.
Keep a steady working rhythm, with plenty of time to walk around, grab a coffee, and catch your breath, and you’ll be hitting those targets like a master.
Turn off notifications
Your smartphone can be your worst enemy when it comes to remote working. If you let yourself pay attention to those tempting push notifications, you’ll find yourself down a social media rabbit hole in no time at all — and time flies when you are checking Instagram.
Turning off the notifications on your phone will help you avoid temptation, and will keep messages from friends and social media likes from getting in the way of your working day.
The same can be said for work emails too, though. If you really need to get your head down on a task, close down your inbox and silence your email pings. They’ll still be there in 30 minutes.
Listen to music
For some people, music can be a distraction, but plenty of others find it incredibly helpful when it comes to focusing the mind. Your favorite tunes can provide a calm, relaxing environment, and really help to block out other distracting noises that can be a part of working from home.
Scientific studies have shown that classical music in particular can have a huge impact on focus and concentration, so put on your favorite symphony and get down to work.
Fix the lighting
You might not think it, but lighting can make a big difference to how well you work and how you feel in your workspace. Working somewhere with good natural light is incredibly important, both for productivity and for your overall mood.
Sort out your space
On the subject of workspace, getting your home office sorted is one of the most crucial parts of working remotely. So often when people start working from home they find themselves working from the sofa, the kitchen table or even the bed! Having a separate, specific spot which is just for work helps to separate the working parts of your day from your other tasks, and makes you switch on to ‘working mode’ more effectively. It could be a special seat at the table, or a desk in the corner — just as long as you don’t sit there any other time!
This is not to say that you shouldn’t move around and switch up where you actually spend time working. Variety is the spice of life and can keep boredom and frustration at bay, as well as encouraging creativity. But even if you end up typing away on your laptop in the garden, ensure that you still have a designated workspace to keep files, folders and other essential work items.
If your work is scattered around the house, chances are your mind is going to be pretty scattered, too.
Moving from an office surrounded by friends and coworkers to a day spent with only the cat for company can be a hard transition to manage. Thankfully there are loads of great ways to stay connected to your team and your colleagues, even if you aren’t sitting next to them.
From video calls to collaboration apps, it has never been easier to create a virtual office, which is perhaps part of the reason remote working is more popular than ever!
Staying connected with your team is also a great way to maintain motivation and productivity. Share your goals and your progress with your teammates on a regular basis. The extra pressure to stick to deadlines and nail your outcomes will help enormously.
Finally, don’t be afraid to treat yourself!
Set up a system of rewards for finishing tasks or hitting deadlines, and you’ll find yourself more productive than ever. Treats and prizes keep your motivation levels high, so feel free to give yourself a pat on the back with your favorite specialty coffee, or a chocolate indulgence after a successful day’s work.
Now that’s worth getting off the sofa for!