If you’ve just joined the ‘work from home’ bandwagon or you’re facing some strict quarantines that are forcing you to do your work from home, you may be running into a few struggles adapting to this new way of working.
With the temptations of Netflix, Youtube, pets, kids, snacks and your comfy, comfy bed… it may feel impossible sometimes to get any work done.
And to be fair, it’s alright to be a bit distracted right now. The current circumstances are totally unprecedented; nobody really knows how to deal with what’s going on.
So first things first, take some time to yourself; breathe, relax, do some self-care. After you have really taken time to allow yourself to decompress, then, and only then… is it time to get to work!
Lucky for us, we’re already ahead of the curve and we’re here to share our best tips!
Read on to find our favorite 9 ways to stay focused while working from home during this pandemic (or any other time really).
1. Stick with Your Routine (As Much As Possible)
It’s really easy to slouch, get lazy and just stay in your PJs all day if you’ve just been asked to work from home. Especially during a time where you may be stressed about the wellbeing of you and your loved ones, working can sometimes start to feel a bit pointless.
But trust us: staying in your pajamas is counterproductive. It will only make you feel lazier and less motivated. So our best advice is to stick as closely to your regular daily routine as possible.
That means: set an alarm, get up, wash your face, get dressed and have your breakfast, just like any normal day. Eat your lunch when you normally would and log off at the end of your normal workday. Stick to what you always do, so your life doesn’t change as much.
And if you’re used to heading into the office, you’ll find you have some extra time!
Commuting from your kitchen to your home office is probably a bit shorter than normal, so use it wisely! Maybe add in some extra family time, some exercise, some hobby time or just a moment to relax.
2. Create a schedule
The best way to stick to your normal routine is to make a schedule. Write down what and when you’d normally be doing and stick to it. For your work hours, create a to-do list so you know exactly what you need to get done and when.
Make sure you schedule regular breaks throughout the day. Sitting in front of your screen isn’t great for your body, so move around, stretch, do yoga or whatever you like!
You’ll stay more motivated during the day if you know exactly what you need to get done, how much time you have for it, and if there are some breaks to look forward to in between.
3. Set boundaries for your partner or family
You’ve probably found that having your partner or whole family home all day is a bit distracting, to say the least. Make sure you set some boundaries with them.
Share your schedule with your family, so they know when you’re working and when you can have some family time.
If your kids are being homeschooled right now, you can make them a schedule like yours so they also have some structure and know when they should be doing what.
(P.S. If you’re looking for some help with homeschooling resources, check out these videos on our Youtube channel!)
If your kids are younger, work out a plan with your partner who exactly has parenting duties at what time. Your partner probably also needs to work; by dividing the responsibilities, you both can stay productive while the kids are taken care of!
Remember, there is nothing wrong with telling your partner or kids that you’re busy right now and will have some time for them at X hour. Everybody has to make changes to their lifestyle right now, but by communicating your boundaries clearly, everybody knows what is going on.
4. Create a designated workspace
The best way to create a sense of “I have to work”, is by creating a little home office. It might sound really nice to be able to work from your bed or your couch, and it definitely is sometimes. It’s also really easy to go into relax mode and take way longer to complete a task.
If you want to be productive, it’s best to create a designated workspace. A spare room is great for this, but your kitchen table works just as well. And try to make it look and feel nice!
Decorate it, make it comfortable and appealing, so you don’t mind spending time in your home office. You’ll be more productive in a space where you’re comfortable.
And make sure that while you set your boundaries, you also tell your family knows not to disturb you in your office, unless absolutely necessary. Make your home office your little work sanctuary at home.
5. Turn off social media
Social media is always a distraction, but during this pandemic, it’s even crazier on all the platforms. It’s so easy to get sucked into a scroll hole that can last hours, and suddenly… your workday is over.
Even when life goes back to normal, the best way to stay productive is to put social media away! (Unless you’re a social media manager, of course.)
We know that it’s easier said than done. Some people can just put their phones away and focus, but others are not so lucky.
But great news if you need a little help with controlling your social media usage, there’s an app that can help! There are a lot of apps nowadays that can block your social media apps or websites for a set amount of hours, both on your phone and laptop.
If your a windows user, Chrome has some great free extensions like StayFocusd or Mindful Browsing. Mindful Browsing is a bit more gentle than most of the others, as it will give you gentle reminders that you didn’t actually want to access Facebook.
Feel free to do research on what way works best for you. Maybe just scheduling social media time into your day is already enough for you, or maybe you need some extra help from one of these apps. It’s all good, as long as it works for you.
6. Get an accountability buddy
Accountability buddies are the best!
Maybe your best friend is also working from home, or you can enlist your favorite colleague or your partner as your buddy. Whoever it is, find someone that will hold you accountable and will stop you if you end up in an Instagram scroll spiral.
So yes, make sure your communication is off social media, or your buddy will just be more distracting. Slack is a great option for this, as it has all the options you need without bells and whistles, so less chance you’ll lose focus!
Share your to-do list or your schedule with your buddy, agree on certain times when you’ll both check-in and get to work! Make sure that your conversations stay positive and supportive. You’re there to help keep each other on track, so encourage each other and keep it helpful!
7. Take breaks!
Breaks are so important! No human can possibly focus for 8 hours straight, and there are no colleagues to run into at the coffee machine to give you a little distraction.
It has been scientifically proven that doing the same thing for too long will cause our brain to lose focus, but by taking short breaks, we can restart that focused period again.
There are different ways to schedule your breaks, so find what works for you. You could try the Pomodoro method, where you work for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break or go with the Ultradian Rhythm where you work in 90 minute cycles (just like our body) with 20 minute breaks.
As you can see, there’s lots of room for breaks in our daily work routines, so try them out and see what works best.
Our main point is, take those breaks!
It’ll help you stay focused, it’ll give you something to look forward to if your brain starts to wander, and it gets you away from your screen for a little bit.
Take a little walk, check in with the family, do some exercise or make yourself a snack. Get creative!
8. Create a rewards system
Give yourself a gold star every time you finish a task! Just kidding, we’re not kids anymore. But, just like with kids, setting certain goals for yourself throughout the day and attaching rewards to those goals can actually be a great way to motivate yourself.
Have you been thinking about chocolate for a week? Promise yourself a piece once you’ve crossed off that item you’ve been postponing for months.
You get the idea. The final and best reward at the end of every list? If you finish your to-dos early, you can switch off and enjoy some extra free time!
9. Log off!
Last but not least, log off at the end of the day! Build your schedule so there’s an end time to your workday. Just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean that you have to be working all the time. Have set hours you work and set hours you’re completely offline (at least from work stuff) and make sure your clients or employer know.
Unless you’ve been slacking off all day and didn’t get anything done, you probably crossed a ton of things off your to-do list.
Check your list somewhere close to the end of the day, move anything that’s not urgent to tomorrow, finish off the last items that were due today and update your clients or employer if necessary. And then you’re done, so turn that laptop off!
And remember! These are challenging and unprecedented times, so it’s no wonder you get distracted by the news, family or something else. Just remember that that is fine and understandable.
Try to figure out why you got distracted and try to change the conditions around you for next time to try to get better. Nobody started off doing this perfectly, so as long as you’re trying, you’re doing great already!
And if you’re sitting at home, not sure what to do with yourself during quarantine, it’s a great time to learn a new skill!
Curious about Working Online Long-Term?
We’re hosting a free Virtual Summit with 21 online work experts talking all about what they do and how they learned it. You can get your free ticket here so you can figure out your next step in your working online career!
And great news, all these 9 tips are also super helpful also when you’re studying from home, so you can start being a work-from-home rockstar straight away!
If you’re thinking of dipping your toes into the online work world, head on over to the summit to grab your free ticket!
Katinka van den Berg is a virtual assistant here to help businesses create a consistent online presence based on providing value to their customers. When she’s not assisting environmentally conscious businesses with their content creation and social media management needs, she loves to travel and explore new cultures. She’s a member of 90 Day VA and assists with everything from content creation and repurposing to social media and blog management. To see all the services she offers and how she can help you, check out her Facebook page here.