I think we’ve all come to realise that whilst there are many advantages, remote working isn’t without its own unique challenges — and it can be a difficult adjustment to channel the same level of focus we might have in an office environment.
As someone who made the transition by choice, and with plenty of notice, it was still a huge shock to the system. One that took a whole lot of trial and error to get right.
The novelty that I now didn’t have to get out of bed at a certain time, take a shower, or get dressed, was one that lasted longer than I thought, but soon enough to the detriment of my level of focus and productivity. Luckily, I didn’t have much going on at the start.
I kept pinching myself and jumping around with glee that I was actually at home. I could do ‘homely things’ and the annoy the shit out of my husband – oh how the tables soon turned.
For a large majority of people, they have been thrust into this remote working lifestyle that they didn’t ask for, and quite frankly, were unprepared for.
Heck, I was unprepared for this lifestyle. Completely naïve to the fact that I would actually have to work if I wanted to earn some money. And that if I didn’t implement at least some healthy working habits, I wasn’t going to get very far.
Staying in your pyjamas might feel good for a little while, but it’s not exactly the attire for ‘I’m gonna tick off everything on my to-do list today!’
And then there’s the all important work-life balance — or lack of, if you’re not careful. It’s a challenge to be able to adequately balance the two, and it can be particularly hard to resist personal tasks when you would normally be working.
Luckily, there are ways to keep yourself productive, on track and focused whilst staying at home and these are the ones I’ve narrowed down so far.
1. Eliminate unnecessary distractions
When you’re at home, it can be tempting to see to some outstanding household chores that need doing, like running the washing machine or dishwasher, or having a quick hoover around the house. (I know, who are these people?) But this is not ideal if you have work that needs to be completed.
Set yourself up in a dedicated workspace, shut the door, and mute any unnecessary notifications (and household members if at all possible). If you really must check your social media accounts during the day, set an allotted time in which to do so. The same goes for those pesky household chores. Removing these unnecessary distractions will go a long way in helping you stay in the zone.
2. Find your focus zone
Everyone’s focus zone is different, and it might take a bit of experimentation to find what works for you. Try moving your dedicated workspace to different places around your home, noticing the different light and ambience. Try working different hours of the day or taking breaks at different times, and once you’ve found what helps you focus, stick with it.
I’ve found that, funnily enough, my home office is my best focus zone when I really need to buckle down to work. I’ve also recently taken to working in the kitchen in the afternoons if I have work I don’t need to focus on as much – but the moment I need to get back in the zone, back to the office I go.
3. Avoid putting off difficult tasks
We all do it. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t, at least some of the time. Try not to procrastinate. Your time is even more your own at home, so don’t waste it. The sooner you get things done, the sooner you can do things for you.
It might seem easier to put things off until later in the day or tomorrow because you’re not bound by office hours, but this will cause stress if something unexpected happens and you have a tight deadline to meet. If you focus on the trickier and most urgent tasks first, you’ll feel so much better about yourself an the day ahead.
4. Break your day up into manageable chunks
For those who are sharing their home space with other people, whether that be partners, children or roommates, you’re not only contending with your own schedule, you’re contending with theirs too. There are always going to be interruptions throughout the day, as much as you don’t want there to be. It’s how you work around it that counts.
Break your day up into manageable chunks with regular breaks and let the members of your household know so they can work around this too. If you prefer to go with the flow, set a light schedule and as long as you’re managing to focus to work a good few times a day, as well as taking suitable amounts of rest, you’re good to go.
5. Reward yourself
To make your daily tasks more enjoyable, find a way to give yourself a treat once they’re completed. The anticipation of your chosen reward — a cup of coffee or an episode of Friends, not only gives you the motivation to keep going but it can actually make you work faster.
Taking enjoyable breaks to acknowledge your achievement will help reset and focus your mind, and ultimately prevent burnout.
Remote working is great — and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But, it’s easy to get distracted and lose all motivation. For the freelancers amongst us, this also equates to lower billable hours, which isn’t so great.
It’s inevitable that you’ll get distracted from time to time, and that’s okay. But with a little restructuring, prioritisation, and experimentation, you’ll soon find your flow.