In my year of service with JAM – most of which has been spent working from home – I’ve learned a lot about myself.
I think of myself as a very focused person, so I expected working from home to be a breeze. I was rapidly humbled. I’m sure many of you can relate.
The internet is full of focus hacks that are either insultingly obvious or take huge amounts of focus to execute, but I’ve found 8 that have really worked for me. Some of them are quite random, but they’re surprisingly powerful.
If you’re sick of feeling like you’re always working but never get anything done, check these out – they might help you too.
1. Make a schedule that works the way you do
Every home worker needs some kind of schedule, but not everyone needs the same schedule. If your attempts to schedule your days keep ending in chaos, it might just be that the plan you’ve been trying to follow isn’t your style.
Try something else – a simple checklist instead of a detailed timetable, or vice versa. (I personally prefer a mix – I list out my top priorities and then schedule them in.) The important thing is to make sure your day plan suits your natural energy.
The best schedule is the one you’ll follow, so don’t overload yourself with tasks. Be honest about how you work best and when you work best, and schedule your most challenging tasks for the time of day when you’re most able to bring your A game.
2. Don’t clean and work
It’s important to move regularly during your workday to keep your blood circulating, so it’s tempting to think catching up on chores in your breaks is a good idea – but it can actually play havoc with your focus. If you’re struggling with a tough task and your brain starts telling you it’s urgent to deep clean your kitchen, ignore it. It’s trying to distract you.
Instead, just set aside a specific bit of time every day for chores. I usually do 10 minutes in the morning and 10 in the evening.
3. Do take exercise breaks
If you want to move around during your work breaks, exercise is a much better choice. It’ll get your endorphins flowing, clear your head, and boost your energy more effectively than a cup of coffee. I really notice a difference in focus when I exercise during the day.
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – a quick walk, a few bodyweight exercises or some yoga stretches will do the trick.
4. Automate as much as you can
Schedule alerts for meetings and important tasks. Set up email filters to stop you getting distracted by unimportant emails while working. Use software to check your grammar or code, automate your billing, and schedule your social media posts and emails. Allocate different ringtones to your contacts so you know when to answer the phone and when to ignore it. Use technology as your admin assistant to help you stay on top of things.
5. Clock out
Make sure you schedule some time off into your day and week. Being “always on” is a recipe for burnout. You will honestly get more done if you have a bit of time blocked out for yourself on evenings and weekends.
6. Take breaks
If you find yourself daydreaming and having to fight for every minute of focus, stop fighting. Take a break. That’s your brain’s way of telling you you need one.
It can also be useful to take a break when you’re stuck on a problem. If you take a few minutes to step away and think about something else, you may find that when you come back you see a solution that you’d missed before.
Finally, step away from your computer at lunchtime and take a proper lunch break. Eat mindfully. Not only will you enjoy your food more and find it more satisfying, you’ll also (again) honestly get more done.
7. Get your home office set up properly
There are no excuses at this point. If you’ve seen the news about companies giving staff money to set up proper home workstations, and the government giving tax breaks for it, but you think it doesn’t apply to you because you’re just fine with that wobbly kitchen chair and crashy laptop, think again. Being physically uncomfortable at work or dealing with frustrating equipment will make you want to zone out or walk away from your computer altogether.
8. Make human contact
We’re all well aware by now that you should touch base regularly with colleagues while working from home, but I’m not talking about colleagues here; I’m talking about friends and family. Make sure you have a bit of social time or quality time with loved ones every day – even if it’s just virtual.