You may have read Phil’s blog back in May about how we used a survey to solve our office/homeworking dilemma.
Simply, Phil asked us what our preferences were for working moving forward. A few of us said they wanted to work in the office, while the majority said they’d prefer flexibility. The outcome was that we were allowed to do whatever worked for us.
For me, this was equal parts a blessing and a necessity; I was somewhat unenthused about the prospect of a daily 119-mile commute – it’s a simple 35-hour walk from just north of London to Nottingham if you were wondering.
But while this was a great work perk (thanks Phil!), it can sometimes be harder to stay entirely focused while working from home. After all, it means trying to work productively in an environment where I’m still wearing yesterday’s trackies with all my home entertainment and abundant snacks surrounding me.
I’ve worked at home since the very first lockdown all the way back in March 2020. That’s why I’ve come up with a nifty set of tips for those looking to maintain focus while working from home.
1. Create a daily routine
The first step is to create a routine for yourself.
It was all fun and exciting at the start when we were told to leave the office and not come back for the foreseeable future. The novelty of midweek lie-ins and the joy of rolling out of bed at 8:29am was too good to miss.
But this isn’t a good, long-term habit to have picked up, especially if you’re now homeworking on a permanent basis.
That’s why having a set routine for the day is so transformative. It puts you in the mindset to work in the mornings, improving both the quality of the work you produce and your personal sense of purpose.
Personally, I find mornings without a commute to be a good opportunity to exercise, although I’m sure this will become less tempting as the mornings get colder.
2. Create a separate workspace
Next, make sure you have a separate space to work in.
You may have the luxury of a separate room, or you may just be working at the dinner table. Either way, you can create a separate space by simply packing everything up at the end of the day.
Make sure you keep this space clean and tidy too, so that it looks approachable and fresh so you can start each day with a clear head.
You cannot underestimate the value of a separate, defined, and tidy workspace.
3. Set yourself a list of daily tasks
Once you’ve made a clear and separate workspace, create yourself a list of tasks that need doing every morning.
Many people around Yardstick swear by apps such as Todoist, but I prefer Sticky Notes, the in-built programme on Windows that allows you to keep a little yellow sticky note on your desktop with a list of tasks on.
For one thing, I like the little boost of deleting something from my to-do list. It gives me that hit of dopamine I need to keep me motivated throughout the day.
This is arguably good work practice in general, as it ensures that I complete the tasks that need doing every day.
4. Remove distractions from your workspace
One of the biggest risks to your work focus while at home is the multitudinous distractions that lie in wait, desperate to feast on your attention.
Think about it: you have the whole of your home entertainment available, as well as all the household tasks you need to complete.
Measures such as a “to-do” list are pretty useful for avoiding distractions, but the simple answer is to just remove them from your workspace entirely.
At the very least, I turn off notifications on my phone while I’m working. And sometimes, as a very special treat, I might even put my phone in another room.
5. Turn off your computer at 5pm
You might think that working past 5pm when you’re at home would be a good thing for your focus, meaning you get the maximum amount of work done.
But actually, having a hard stop time means you’re forced to complete your tasks in a set window. I find this to be a motivating tool to encourage me to work productively so that I can have my evenings to myself.
It also helps to promote a healthy work-life balance, defining your free time. Otherwise, you’re at risk of living at work, rather than working from home.
It obviously doesn’t have to be 5pm if that doesn’t suit your schedule, but make sure you do have a fixed finish time.
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