Working from home, the ultimate in flexibility and improved work-life balance, right? Under normal circumstances that might be so. But given the current COVID-19 pandemic, work has become home and home has become work.
If you are working from home for the first time, it may prove to be harder than you expected. It is complicated by the fact that you may be sharing your ‘workspace’ with your partner, spouse, children and pets.
While there are plenty of distractions in the workplace, you may find there are even more when working from home. For me, one such distraction is a small dog who wants to go in and out every 10 minutes. In, out, in, out. She’s making me crazy.
The combination of added distractions and not being in your normal work setting may be challenging what is known as your executive function. This is a set of mental skills and processes that includes working memory, flexible thinking and self-control. We all use these skills every day to learn, work and manage daily life. When we experience trouble with our executive function, it can be difficult to focus, follow directions and even handle our emotions.
Tips for Staying Focused and Productive
In a recent conversation with executive function coach, Michael Delman, I asked Mr. Delman for some suggestions on how to stay focused and productive as we navigate through the challenges of our workday.
Set an Intention for the Day
According to Delman, “The very first thing you need to do is establish an intention for the day. What is that one big thing that you really want to get done? Our tendency is to reach for our phone, check the news and social media or text messages. Establish your intention, make sure that’s your focus and then schedule a time to do it.” A daily intention will help you prioritize what’s really important to you and stay focused on getting it accomplished.
To effectively manage your time during the day, Delman suggests using a strategy known as time blocking. “It’s working in chunks of time that are doable for you. Everybody’s got their own rhythm. It’s very important that if you are someone who works effectively for 45 minutes, work for 45 minutes. Then take a break, a rejuvenating break. Just make sure that before you take your break you write down the next thing you’ll do when you come back.” To make your time block most effective, set an alarm and turn off any phone or app notifications so you may focus on the one task at hand.
Step Away from the Computer
Your brain can only take so much focus. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, excessive focus exhausts the focus circuits of your brain, draining your energy and potentially leading to a loss of self-control. Step away, take a short break and try to focus on nothing at all. You’ll come back to your work re-energized and refreshed.
Whether you end up working from home for a month, or this becomes your new normal, developing and practicing techniques to stay productive and focused will enhance your well-being for the long-term.