Working from home- it’s the dream, right?
You can stay in your pajamas all day. You can don’t have to drive anywhere. You can throw a load of laundry on whenever. You can work by a window or in your bed propped up on dozens of pillows. You can have Netflix on in the background if you want. You don’t have to hurry in the morning to throw something in the slow cooker.
Everything is just calm and leisurely.
If only it were that simple!
The reality is that it can be hard to concentrate when the dishes are piled high in the sink. Something as simple as going to make another pot of coffee can turn into a chore because you need to rinse out the coffee pot and the dishes are in the way.
So now, what would have taken you 3 minutes in the break room at an office now, now takes 10 minutes to unload the dishwasher, put things away, and then load it again.
Working at the Office: 1 Working from Home: 0
Then, your phone starts ringing off the hook. From your neighbor who wanted to tell you about the strange person they saw, staring at everyone’s houses as they slowly walked along the street, to someone from work who needed to ask you something “really quick,” to family members who think you have all of the time in the world since you work from home…there goes and hour and a half.
Working at the Office: 2 Working from Home: 0
Finally, you get everything tidied up. There are no dirty glasses hanging out on any tabes that are within eyesight of your desk. The laundry has now been moved to the dryer, and you have turned the ringer off.
But now you can’t concentrate! Eek!
Working at the Office: 2 Working from Home: -1
What should you start on first? What do you even need to do today? Both of those things are important, which one do you work on right now? Where was that list of things you wrote down the other day?
How to Find Your Focus
Make a List
Even if you have three to-do lists that you are working from, start a fresh one. Odds are, the things that you list are those that either are priority, or they are the things that you are actually more interested in completing. Doing something is better than spinning in circles.
You may find that you have a few lists. Things like what you want to do, things you feel like you should do, or what you are procrastinating often get lumped together. Take a moment to decipher what items on the list are must-dos, and which are “would be nice.”
Calm Your Thoughts
Journaling is a big help when you’re feeling overwhelmed, even if you are facing a deadline. When there are other worries on your mind, those emotions can make it hard to focus. Take a few minutes to pull them out and jot them down. Investing 10 minutes to work through those thoughts with pen to paper (or fingers on a keyboard) can pay off by allowing you to get quality work done in a short time, instead of constantly pushing thoughts out of your head all afternoon.
Those “I should’s” can take up a lot of space in your mind. Sometimes the only way to clear those is to just go on and do it. Clean off your desk. Get it organized. Throw some papers away. A happy space makes it easier to focus.
Hide anything within view of your work area that distracts you. From a bowl of chocolate, to the Amazon box that just came, to the toys that need to be put away- get that stuff out of sight!
Go on and make that phone call or send that email. Having something hanging over your head wastes brain power. That feeling of “I’ll do this later” takes up a lot of energy to make sure that you remember to do it (or to find that piece of paper where you wrote down what you needed to do).
When was the last time you ate something? It’s easy to forget to eat when you work from home, or to just snack on things that don’t provide good fuel to your body. Warm up some left-overs. Grab a piece of fruit or a protein bar. Sometimes, splurge a little. Take a special mug and to make hot chocolate in, so you can warm your hands at your desk. Get take-out, or better yet…
Work in a Cafe
Take just the essentials, like your tablet or planner or notebook so you can’t get distracted by Facebook. Let the background noise lull you into focus on getting one specific task done. Often, completing one phase of a project makes it easier to go back home to put the next step into action.
Watch a Video
Not something on Hulu. If you’re trying to do something techy, go to YouTube and watch a video that shows you how to do it. If you’re taking a course, go watch the next video in the class (or re-watch the video for the unit you are in to get your brain in gear). If you’re feeling especially all over the place, try a meditation video that plays soft music while talking you through the steps.
Listen to Something
If you don’t have a tutorial to watch, or a video proves to be too distracting and pulls you down the rabbit hole of every other random video on the internet, put on an audio. From instrumental music to podcasts to audiobooks, sometimes your brain is able to focus on what’s in front of you when it’s actively working to ignore something else in the background. (This is great for people who have some ADHD tendencies at times.)
When you work from home, and others are in the office, it’s easy to feel like you have to work harder to show that you aren’t goofing off at home. If you work for yourself, it’s tempting to pressure yourself to do more things in a day than are realistic. Go through the tasks on your list and assign a length of time to work on it today. Or, break down the tasks even further and map out a longer time frame that takes place across several days to help you know how to best gauge your time.
Working from home may be the dream, but that doesn’t mean it’s without it’s challenges. Trying to stay on top of everything on your to-do list for work and home can be a bigger challenge when you never get to step away from work, because it’s just inches away from your bed. But it can be overcome by finding your focus.
To help you sort through those thoughts that can come when you feel distracted and overwhelmed when you work from home, you can grab the cheat sheet that walks you through these steps. Print it out and put it in your refrigerator or tape it to the wall beside your desk.