Working from home can be a great way to avoid the daily commute, but it can also be difficult to stay focused with so many distractions around and so little oversight. To help you stay focused, NoHQ has put together this list of tips for staying focused while living (and loving) the WFH lifestyle!
1) Block Distracting Websites
One of the main problems people run into while working from home is distracting websites. Ideally, we'd all have the willpower to command ourselves to stay off YouTube during the workday, but not everyone is so lucky!
The best way to tackle this issue is to download software that will block these websites for set periods of time and allow you to focus entirely on work. You'll need to do your own trial and error here to figure out how much time you should give yourself before allowing access again. If you think 20 minutes might be too short, but 2 hours will be too long, try somewhere in between, at 30-45 minutes every time you want an internet break.
Here are some tools for blocking distracting sites:
- Freedom: An all-in-one distraction blocker for Windows and Mac with Locked Mode—a setting that forces users to focus by making it impossible to quit an active session.
- Stay Focused: A Google Chrome extension that helps users focus by blacklisting distracting websites.
- Pause: A unique Chrome extension that asks users to reflect for a moment whenever they try to access a distracting website. This is a great one for practicing willpower.
2) Take Breaks at Specific Times
Instead of allowing yourself to take breaks whenever you feel like it, set specific times during the day for when you will stop working and do something fun, relaxing, or just non-work-related.
Set alarms on your phone for time throughout the day—12:00PM, 1:30PM, 3PM—to get up from your desk and stretch or go outside for 5-10 minutes. This allows you to focus on work with the knowledge that you'll have a break coming up in the near future.
3) Block Your Time Using The Pomodoro Method
The Pomodoro method is a time management process that breaks down work into 25-minute intervals. For each interval, you set a timer for 25 minutes and then commit to focusing completely on the task at hand until the timer goes off.
Once it does, you have an option to take a break for five minutes before starting again for another 25-minute period. After 4 of these work-break intervals, you get to enjoy a longer 15-minute break.
Many people find that breaking up work into bite sized pieces helps them stay focused and productive while working from home. If you want to try out the Pomodoro method for yourself, there are some great time-blocking apps that can help:
- Pomofocus: A free, web-based Pomodoro timer that allows you to allocate time to different tasks.
- Forest: A mobile Pomodoro timer that plants a virtual tree whenever you complete a session. As an added bonus, users collect coins by using the app that can be redeemed to plant trees in the real world.
- Toggl: A time-tracking program with Pomodoro capabilities. Great for tracking billable hours.
4) Make A Not To-Do List
You've probably made a to-do list before, but have you ever made a not to-do list (a.k.a., NTDL)? I'm guessing the answer to that question is no!
A NTDL is essentially a list of things, people, and activities you know have helped you procrastinate in the past. Many procrastinators don't realize they're procrastinating until after the fact. Creating a comprehensive NTDL is a great way to name your procrastination tools before any procrastination begins, so that when it does begin, you can't pretend you don't realize.
Creating a NTDL is extremely simple. Start by thinking of things that you frequently do to avoid working, and write them down on a piece of paper. Once you have your list, all you need to do is write “DO NOT” in front of every item.
It should look something like this:
- Do not shop for clothes online.
- Do not clean the house.
- Do not make random snacks.
The final step is putting the list somewhere visible and mentally committing to sticking with it.
5) Turn Your Phone Off
Unless you are expecting an urgent phone call or email, turn your phone off so there's no chance you'll get distracted by it. If your work requires you to have your phone on for whatever reason, consider silencing it and putting it in a drawer. You can check it at intervals throughout the day without needing it in your pocket at all times.
6) Move Regularly
Movement and productivity are inextricably linked. You need to understand that if you want to thrive working from home (or an office)! There are a couple of ways you should be working movement into your WFH schedule:
Making sure that you exercise every day will help keep you happy and focused during the workday. It doesn't have to be intense exercise, either—studies show that a 20-minute walk is enough to boost concentration for up to an hour! Alternatively, during your breaks, you can exercise or do aerobics for a good 5 minutes.
While there's nothing wrong with working out at home, we recommend getting out of the house for a change of scenery. You're going to be inside for most of the day, and it's important to remind yourself that there's a whole world outside your office!
While exercise gets most of the love when it comes to productivity, standing is actually just as essential.
Many experts recommend that you stand for at least two hours of your day to ensure that your body stays healthy, and your mind stays sharp. If you have the means, we recommend investing in a desk that allows you to switch between sitting and standing.
Here are some great options:
- Branch Standing Desk ($699)
- Jarvis Bamboo Standing Desk ($599)
- Flexispot Standard Standing Desk ($219)
- GoRiser Standing Desk Converter ($90)
7) Set SMART Goals
When we say SMART goals, we don't mean goals that are smart. We mean goals that are:
- Specific: Is the goal clearly conceived? Think about the who's, what's, when's, where's, and why's.
- Measurable: Will you be able to measure progress and success? You need to be able to tell whether you're on track and when you've completed a goal.
- Achievable: Is the goal something you can feasibly accomplish? Setting ambitious goals can be a good thing for long-term goals, but your short-term goals should be ones you know you can accomplish.
- Relevant: Is the goal important to you personally or professionally? If you don't have any reason to achieve a goal, you probably won't.
- Time-Bound: Does the goal have a start and end date? This helps determine for sure whether you've successfully completed a goal.
SMART goals are an extremely effective way to make yourself more productive and happy as you work from home because they make it easier and more rewarding to get things done.
8) Find A WFH Buddy
Accountability is something that's inherently different in a work from home role versus an office-based role. Offices—even ones where managers avoid micromanaging—are great for indirect supervision and accountability. Co-workers check in with one another, managers do walk-throughs, and when you look around you see other people being productive. None of that happens naturally when you're working from home.
That's why finding a WFH (work from home) buddy is so important. It could be a co-worker, a friend, or even a partner who also works from home. By checking in with one another throughout the day, you can keep each other accountable and ensure that you're both staying productive.
The check-in process can be as simple as sending a message:
Hey! Did you send get that report done yet?
How did your meeting go?
The purpose is just to help each other refocus on the tasks that need doing, with consistent reminders that it's time to get to work. The answers aren't actually important at all, it's the accountability that's of value to you!
9) Set Boundaries With Friends And Family
If you work from home, you've realized that there's less separation between your work-life and your home-life. That's understandable—you are working at home, after all! This is most visible is in the way your friends and family treat your work hours.
If you work in an office building, it would be pretty strange for your partner to call you up to ask if you want to come to the grocery store. People understand that when you're at the office, you're working (i.e., can't stop to do whatever you want). If you work at home, this understanding breaks down a bit. It would be easy and totally normal for your partner to walk into your home office to ask the same question.
That's why it's so important for you to set boundaries with anyone who might disrupt you during the day. People need to understand that there are certain times during the day when you can't be interrupted (unless it's something urgent), and the best way to make sure they understand is by addressing the issue.
WFH Ain’t Easy
Working from home can be challenging, especially if you’re just starting to make the transition from an office job to a WFH position. While we can’t guarantee that you’ll become a productivity machine after implementing these tips—that part is up to you!—we can say for certain that you’ll be on the right track. With a little effort and commitment, you’ll be just as productive from home as you were at your old office (if not moreso)!