How I Keep Myself Focused while Working Remotely
It took a pandemic to help me realize that I’m not as focused as I thought I was
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Whether it’s a coping mechanism or not, there are people who are looking at the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to be as productive as they can possibly be.
Others, like myself, still want to be productive and keep themselves active, all while working from home. I’ll be honest, I haven’t had the chance to truly ‘work from home’ since my first job out of school. And even then, I found it too frustrating to do to the point where I would just end up going to the office anyway. But after that, every position I’ve held called for me to be in the office (or so they all said at the time).
When I went into my first week working remotely, I wasn’t expecting what happened next: a complete lack of motivation. Somehow, I thought that working from the comfort of my room and an open window (something I don’t have at my office) would be all I needed to help pull me through the workday. I found myself struggling to keep my focus, not to pick up my phone and scroll on social media, and not just straight up lay down for a little while.
I had to admit it to myself: I lack proper focus.
A lot of people will view a person’s lack of ability to focus as a sign of childishness. It’s irresponsible to be this way because we’re supposed to be functioning adults that can work past their feelings.
In all actuality, when a person loses focus, on average it takes about 23 minutes to get back on task. It comes to no surprise that we’re seeing so many memes about how people are losing focus trying to work from home, especially those of us who are stepping into a completely new way of working.
But, while losing focus is normal, improving on this trait is actually quite doable. After some trial and error, here are some things that have helped me get into the swing of things when it comes to working from home.
Plan Your Day
Even if I know I have a slew of tasks lined up for the workday, one of the most helpful things I did was take some time beforehand to plan the day out.
This includes prioritizing tasks, but it also includes other non-work related things. When am I going to take my break(s)? When am I going to get some exercise? When am I going to go outside for a bit? I prefer to do this planning the night prior, shortly before going to bed. It definitely makes a difference for me to know exactly what I’ll be doing and relieves me of some mental bandwidth.
Try Not to Break Routine
The very first day, I made the mistake of trying to do my work while in bed and still wearing pajama pants. Though some people can accomplish their tasks this way with no problem, I found that I’m a little different.
There’s a reason why experts are suggesting people practice their usual weekday rituals. Having my pajamas on puts me in the mindset of: I should be sleeping, I should be relaxing and watching YouTube videos.
I set my alarm to a reasonable time. I allowed myself to get a little extra sleep (since I don’t have to worry about driving to the office), but I still made sure that I had enough time to do my usual morning routine, i.e. read my daily devotional scriptures and pray. While I didn’t necessarily put on a dress shirt and slacks, I got dressed in a way that gets me alert. For me, that’s athletic wear. Having this on also gets me in the mindset of working out during my lunch break or after I’m done with my workday.
Take Control of Your Environment
Again, one of the mistakes I made was thinking I could work productively in the comfort of my bed. My bed is the only ‘sitting’ furniture I have in my bedroom, and it gets used for one of two things: sleeping or chilling. My mind associates my bed with relaxation, and that’s not the mindset I want to have if I’m going to be working for the next 8 hours.
I don’t have a desk, but I do have a dining room table. This is now considered my ‘home office’ where I do work for my job as well as any writing/reading activity. If you have a desk or table where you can work, take full advantage of this! Also, if there’s a window you can utilize, keep the blinds or curtains open. Opening them fully is still an option, but if you find yourself distracted by what’s going on outside, it may be best to open them just enough to get that natural light.
Eliminate any Distractions You Can
The reason I say ‘any you can’ is because there are simply things that some people absolutely have to tend to (i.e. children, pets, etc.) as they work from home. However, if you’re like most adults in America, you have a smartphone. A tiny computer that has every distraction imaginable.
At this point, turning off your phone completely is pretty out of the question for most. If you’re like me, you don’t have a landline and this is your mode of communication with your work, your daycare, your family and close friends, etc. Instead, look into the Digital Wellbeing options in your phone settings. Personally, when I get a notification from social media, I have a habit of checking it almost immediately. At times I don’t even realize I’m doing it! To combat this, I put my phone on ‘Focus Mode’ (Google Pixel 3). This allows me to temporarily block the notifications and use of apps that I know I can’t resist checking. Here’s a screenshot of what those apps look like when I’m on Focus Mode, and what happens when I try to click on one.
Photo provided by the author
There are too many times in which I scroll Facebook for ‘a few minutes’ and that few minutes turns into 15, 20, or 30! The app blocking doesn’t have to be for social media (especially if you work a job that requires your attention to it), but anything that isn’t useful for what you’re supposed to be doing.
If possible, you can also try using a browser you don’t normally use in your personal time. Your go-to browser is where you usually have certain sites bookmarked, and your frequently used websites show up on the home screen (including the nonproductive ones). Using a browser you don’t typically use will call for you to focus more, and all of your favorite sites aren’t saved so you don’t have easy access to them.
For the Love of God, TAKE BREAKS
As I stated previously, I schedule when I’m taking a break from my work. Definitely remember that “forcing” yourself to focus for a long period of time could lead to your mind wandering off even more. The breaks don’t have to be very long, it could just be a few minutes.
Breaks are not a sign of being unproductive unless you’re doing it so frequently that you’re not making enough progress on your projects. Take some time to stand up and stretch, grab a snack from the kitchen, or simply take your eyes off of your screen. Your body, your eyes, and your mind will thank you.
It’s a tough time right now, and it’s requiring a lot of us to get uncomfortable with how we go about our day. However, as we are awaiting this pandemic to pass we can keep ourselves occupied and work on improving ourselves in any way we can.
What are some methods you have utilized to keep yourself productive as someone new to working from home?
This article was originally published by Raven jenkins on medium.
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