Whether you’re a freelancer, a seasoned remote worker, or you’ve started working remotely because of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s important to consciously manage the way you work so that you stay focused and productive.
The pandemic has meant that many of us have been working from home and have therefore been faced with new challenges and distractions. You may have housemates or family members, including children, in the same space, or that to-do list of household chores may suddenly become more attractive!
Whatever your circumstance, there are many ways you can resist procrastination and stay focused while working remotely.
1. Create a Home Office
If you have the space, set up a dedicated workspace or area where you work. Invest in (or arrange for your company to provide) a desk, a comfortable chair, and any other equipment you need. Keep this space clear and clutter-free.
If you spend long hours sitting in front of a computer, make sure your workstation is set up properly. For example, your screen should be at eye level, your keyboard straight in front of you and your feet flat on the floor. Your chair must support your back.
It’s important to clearly differentiate your working area from your home life and relaxing areas, so working from the sofa with Netflix in the background is almost certainly a no-no! Even if you’re working from home, you still need to maintain a work-life balance.
2. Plan and Structure Your Day
Working remotely can be great in giving you more flexibility in the hours you work. But it’s important to set boundaries, and stick to them!
Plan your workday with a set start and end time, book in conference calls and schedule short breaks throughout. Time management is even more important to staying productive when working from home, especially if you have a family distracting you.
It can be helpful to have a realistic to-do list and aim to achieve everything on it within your set time. This helps you see what you’ve achieved and improves your motivation.
Make sure other people in your home know when you plan to work so that they are less likely to interrupt you.
If you are working from home due to the pandemic, you may have children at home with you. Explain to them (in an age-appropriate way) that you are working, make sure they have plenty to do and share your breaks with them.
3. Get Dressed!
When working from home it can be all too tempting to spend your days in your pyjamas!
However, getting dressed and ready for the working day ahead helps shift your mindset from lounging around at home to motivated and productive at work.
You don’t need to don full formal workwear but try to differentiate home and work by leaving your pjs in bed!
4. Take Regular Breaks
Without the natural interruptions and scheduled breaks that unfold in an office working environment, when you’re working remotely, it can be too easy for hours to slip by without even looking up from your laptop.
Rather than being an unwelcome disruption, regular breaks will help you stay more focused and increase your productivity. Time away from your work and screen helps you refresh both physically and mentally and reduces the chances of burnout.
When you take a break, make sure you consciously go and do something different. Leave your desk and move around – do some exercise if you can. Try to get some fresh air and if you are working at home alone, find a way to make human contact.
5. Distance Yourself from Social Media
Social media can be a huge distraction wherever you are, but particularly if you are working alone, it can pull you in and obliterate your work focus.
If you can’t ignore social media alerts popping up on your phone, switch them off!
While we may believe it’s possible to ‘multitask’, the human brain can actually only really focus on one thing at a time, and when faced with options, will simply switch from one task to another. That means, when you glance at that Whatsapp thread, your brain stops focussing on work.
6. Get Regular Exercise
Without having to commute to work, many remote workers find they become very sedentary.
Long hours sitting at a desk can lead to back problems and other health risks.
Whether you go for a run, walk to the coffee shop or simply do some stretches on the floor, movement and exercise is essential.
Taking time to move, stretch and exercise will help keep your body healthy and your mind clear to produce your best work.
Ever made it to mid-afternoon and realised you’ve forgotten to eat? This is surprisingly common among remote workers.
Equally, it can be too easy to grab whatever snacks you can find in the kitchen and graze through your day, hardly leaving your desk.
But eating regular, healthy meals will help keep you energized and improve your concentration. Take time out throughout the day. Drink plenty of water, treat yourself to a cup of coffee or two and make sure you have a lunch break!
For many, the work-at-home life is set to be part of the new normal, so it’s worth keeping both your productivity, and your well-being, in check.
Staying focused when working remotely is about consciously planning your work schedule and taking time to look after yourself. While it can be tempting to skip breaks and meals, survive on snacking alone and cram work into every spare minute, this will ultimately make you less focused and less productive.