Working from home is becoming more and more prevalent as employers and employees seek it out as a benefit for both parties. As such, if/when you’re offered a new WFH schedule, it’s critical to maintain the same trajectory and vigor of your daily duties that you have in the office. Whether you’re out of the office one day a week or have a permanent home office, here are a few things that I have found helpful to staying on task while working from home.
I noticed when putting together my notes for this article that lot of the following tips about focusing while working aren’t even going to be about working. It’s the extraneous stuff (often literally) around that can impede an otherwise good workflow. In hindsight I think this is pretty self-evident. We know what work needs to be accomplished, when and how: it’s the other stuff however that gets in the way. In order to minimize those roadblocks, let’s get right into it.
Get ready like you’re going to work – because you are
In order to stay focused you first need to get focused, and a great way to do that will be to dress the part. Treating your WFH routine the same way as your in-office days will be an effective way to trick your brain into work mode. The full suite of breakfast, getting dressed, etc. will better set yourself into work mode than rolling over in bed and pulling up your laptop.
Yes, likely the goal of WFH is the work-from-bed scenario, but if you know yourself and that isn’t the best way to do it, don’t. Treat work from home seriously and the things you need to do during your day will come easier.
Set your goals and set results
I want to emphasize the second half of this little phrase – set results. Your goals and deliverables will be clear to you, which meetings need to be scheduled, which reports to be done, but the results are the bigger things to define. This is the big difference between working on something and working towards something. Adding a few paragraphs to a blog is one thing, but finishing a blog is another. Set results so that you know when you’ve accomplished something, and so you can reward yourself for it.
One thing at a time
I always work more effectively when I’m busier. That is, when I have things to do I can self-motivate better. Having a step by step process for each task at hand is my way of going about it. If something pop ups mid-task (an email, a reminder) I have to force myself to let that sit until I finish what I’m working on. Not only is that stray email going to divert my attention, but that message isn’t going to get the TLC it deserves if my attention is already split. Another handy tip: Maximize whatever screen/document you’re working on. Let it full cover the screen so it has your full attention.
Communicate as a way to stay on topic
Diving into a project through collaboration while WFH works. Whether it’s the buddy system or peer pressure (or both) working as part of the team when you’re out of office is an effective way to feel like you’re making progress. This goes beyond a water cooler-esque Slack channel, but full on brainstorming and huddle sessions. I tend to save my reports/campaign optimizations for my quiet WFH days, but those days are just as good, if not better, for thought discussions. I can think out loud, walk around and not be confined to general office etiquette while working with my team.
Be a real person outside of work
If you’re reading this, you’ve likely searched “how to stay on task while WFH,” which is something to unpack entirely. On how many other lists did you read that you need to exercise and eat well? How many more times are you going to read it before you start doing it? (Some tough love, let me tell you.) The better you feel as a person, both physically and mentally, the easier it will be for you to stay on topic in the first place. You won’t be looking to placate yourself through mindless websites, nor are you going to find other ways to distract yourself.
Finally, here’s just a quick and dirty list of things you can do right now that will help you stay on topic:
- Log out of your social media accounts. Don’t just close the browser: sign out. Each time you alt-tab over, you’ll be asked to sign in again, and hopefully that will be enough of a barricade.
- Don’t work from bed; be at least a bit upright.
- Speaking of being upright: tinker together a standing desk. It’ll be a good change of pace.
- Schedule your breaks and stick to that schedule.