When our whole lives seem to occur in the same small space, possibly with others trying to fit their whole lives in that same small space, too, it can be even more challenging to get great focus at work than it already is under normal circumstances. Here are our top 3 tips for staying productive while working from home.
1. Create a Ritual (and stick to it)
Start by picking a spot that’s designated for work, only. Research has shown that working in a space you associate with other activities, like sleeping, lounging, or eating, can stifle focus. This could mean moving your existing furniture around, picking an area you don’t normally use, or ordering a small table and chair to put in the corner of the room.
Next, pick a morning routine. What do you do under normal circumstances? Some people feel that commuting helps to book end their day and transition between work and home life. You can recreate this by taking a walk around the block before and after your work day. Similarly, getting dressed in work clothes can help to signal to your brain that it’s time to focus, even if that just means you’re wearing your “Zoom outfit” (A.K.A. Dress shirt on top, sweats on the bottom.) Maybe your morning routine includes the gym and Starbucks. Whatever it is, identify what helps you transition throughout your day and get creative on how to recreate those experiences while working from home.
2. Take Breaks, Avoid Distractions (Read: Stay Off Social!)
Designated breaks and distractions are different. Human ultradian rhythms generally allow for 90 minute “sprints” of focus before becoming distracted. Give yourself a designated stretch break, time to take a walk, grab a snack, or a Ted talk to listen to every 90 minutes to recharge. According to a study at the University of California Irvine, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get your focus back after a distraction.
The reason distractions are different is that they are not controlled or accounted for. If you don’t take a designated break, you’re becoming susceptible to increased distractions (which would likely be multiple times in the same window).
3. Create Boundaries
Boundaries both with work and with home life are important. Know when to clock out from work and give yourself designated technology free times. It’s also important to have boundaries with your home life. That could mean putting a “do not disturb” sign on the door for a portion of the time you’re working each day, saving household chores until after work is done, and if you share a small space with other people, setting expectations. That could mean waking up earlier than the rest of your household to get some quiet focus time, or setting spatial expectations. (For instance: “Can you please pick an hour window that I can have this designated area to myself each afternoon?”)
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