5 Techniques to Stay Focused and Productive When Working From Home

Note: This post is written by Remy Bernard

Working from home, for some, can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you have a freedom that many cubicle dwellers dream of. No early morning commute to the office, no workplace drama (hopefully), and your schedule becomes much more flexible. When your office is your living room, oversleeping that extra 20 minutes because you had trouble falling asleep the night before becomes less of a problem. Even if you aren’t your own boss and are working for someone else remotely, logging your hours from the comfort of your bedroom or kitchen if you want to is a liberating experience.

However, the working from home arrangement is not without it’s very real challenges. Some of this depends on your personality, but in the conversations that I’ve had with people that work from home, retaining your focus and motivation throughout the day can be difficult. After all, your home is your refuge away from the rest of the world, and it becomes easy to make it your refuge away from work without even realizing it. Until you’ve done it, you don’t realize how easily distracted from your work you can become by a seemingly harmless household side task. If you have kids in the house, this can be ever more difficult and managing those boundaries is another article entirely.

Luckily, the situation is not doomed and there are some great techniques that I’ve discovered along the way through my own experience and in talking with others in a similar situation.

1. Assign All Important Tasks a Start & End Time

Even though we all only have 24 hours to make it happen every day, working from home tends to skew this perspective. Common thought patterns like “This can wait until later” start to emerge. Before you know it, you’ve skipped this, spent too long on that, and now the three things you were supposed to do today have to wait until tomorrow. I can’t begin to tell you how far the unfocused mind can extend this cycle.

My tip here is to not only structure out your day, but also assign each part of that structure a definitive time limit.

There is something about establishing ahead of time what I will be doing and for how long that enhances my focus. As humans, our minds thrive on structure (even if we don’t like to admit it), and planning out the day can go a long way.

2. Don’t Show Up to Work in Your Pajamas (A.K.A Dress Like You Were Going Into Work)

I picked this tip up from a colleague who was an attorney and also worked from his home office. Every morning he would wake up, shower, and get dressed in a suit and tie, only to settle into a day’s work three steps from his bedroom.

Personally, I don’t wear dress clothes while at home, but I do make sure that I transition out of the clothes I slept in. When I don’t, I carry with me a different energy that doesn’t translate to a solid, focused day of work ahead. Some people might be different, but I have found the mindset this creates to make all the difference in the word.

3. Have Established Working Hours

Part of the beauty of working from home is escaping the 9-5 lifestyle, but this should not be an excuse to procrastinate and prioritizing non-work related activities during working hours. The solution is simple: set clear working hours and don’t deviate from them.

Figure out at what time of the day you are most productive and make that the time you work. The trick here is sticking to it. Establish boundaries with people and things that might encroach upon that time and watch your productivity skyrocket.

4. Take Planned Breaks to Reset Throughout the Day

This one is important, as it’s easy to get carried away and spend hours heads down in a project without resetting. While this is sometimes necessary, doing this all day every day is a sure way to lead to burnout. Even if you can keep this pace up for a month, eventually it will catch up to you. 

Instead of crashing and burning, I like to take breaks every two hours or so. You don’t even have to leave the house necessarily, although a brisk 10-20 minute walk is a great way to break up the day. This is the time where you are giving yourself permission to lose focus and let your mind wander. This can look like a quick power nap, going out to grab lunch, or even a short workout. Just do something that pulls you away from the desk and out of work mode. When you come back to your scheduled task, you’ll see it with fresh eyes and renewed focus.

5. Listen to the Right Music

I can’t stand most music when I’m trying to work, but I have found that the right kind of music really helps me focus in on the task at hand. I believe this works because music can help stimulate parts of your brain that would otherwise be open for distraction. There are playlists on Spotify and YouTube that are meant for focus and working. These tend to be made up of songs without lyrics that have a subtle, driving beat. If this isn’t your cup of tea, jazz or piano music also works great.

What have you discovered that help you maintain focus at home? Please let us know in the comments.

– About the Writer –

Remy Bernard – Owner and Editor at Miss Mamie’s Cupcakes

A baker, chef and writer, Remy started missmamiescupcakes.com as a way to deepen and spread her passion for making delicious food. She can also be found on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.

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  1. Timely insight. Thank you.

  2. I like the tip to think about the time a task should take rather than deciding to start doing it at a certain time. If I think it should be an hour task, it will take an hour, but if I just start at 11 am, it could take much longer. it will make me much more mindful about the task and this can only be a good thing.

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