The life of an entrepreneur is exciting, exhausting, flexible, and potentially freeing. When you’re setting your own schedules and creating your own work, you have to be a lot more diligent about what’s a priority. If you work from home, it can be easy to start blending the time you could be working with doing things around the house. On the other hand, it can be very difficult to stay focused while working from home. So, we shouldn’t be surprised that it’s even harder to stay productive.
Distractions are everywhere when you don’t have to go anywhere.
When you’re completely in charge of your day-to-day, as most of us are working from home these days, there are some strategies that you can implement to ensure that you plan your day in the most productive manner, and finish what you want to finish as well.
Let’s take a look at what it takes to plan your day and actually stick with it when you’re working from home.
As human beings, our attention spans have been shrinking. A study published in Nature Communications highlights that our collective attention span is indeed narrowing, and that this effect occurs -- not only on social media -- but also across diverse domains including books, web searches, movie popularity, and more. This shows that we’re constantly trying to focus on topics for a certain period of time before jumping to the next topic, and the next topic, and the next topic all within the range of a few minutes. In a day and age where information is flooding our brains constantly from social media, television, music, to-do lists, and ever-shifting news headlines, it can be very difficult to stay focused while working. So, we shouldn’t be surprised that it’s even harder to stay productive.
Are you ever deep into the flow of a project and a text message goes off? You know the tone and want to see what it says. Or perhaps an email comes through, a notification from a client, a tap on the door for a child who is yours and lives in your house and needs you when you are trying to get work done in your home office. Maybe it’s that Netflix show that you have running in the background that has caught your attention when you pause to think about the next steps. The interruptions can be limitless if we let them, but there are ways to block out some of the noise and get to work. Let’s look at 7 strategies to stay focused while working.
7 strategies to stay focused while working from Home
1. Turn off the TV
This seems like an obvious thing to do, but there are so many people who “need” background noise in the form of a television program. You don’t need the TV running to get your work done, or to just be, just like you don’t need your social media notifications pushing through on your laptop when you are in the middle of finishing a project that requires focused attention to be productive. Turn off your TV, and breathe through the discomfort of no TV while you get to work.
2. Work in hourly increments
Or to be more precise, 52-minute increments of actual focused attention (no checking social media notifications or reading the news), followed by 17-minute breaks where you don’t do anything work-related, not even making that work phone call, watching YouTube videos, or responding to emails. Our brains naturally work in these sprints, where they’re focused, ready, and energized. And then they need to recharge and refresh by taking a walk, eating a snack, laying down and breathing for 17 minutes.
3. Just say no to multi-tasking
Silence notifications on everything that isn’t pertinent to the task at hand. As an entrepreneur, it’s possible to have many different clients communicating with you on a variety of platforms at any given time. Add those communications in with habits of checking social media notifications, and text messages, and you’re creating a recipe for disruption. Have you ever felt pulled in 10 different directions at the same time, to the point that it felt like you couldn’t complete a coherent thought? You don’t want that. Multi-tasking isn’t serving anyone who wishes to be productive. It dilutes your attention and makes it hard to focus on anything with your full attention.
4. Shift your perspective: Want to versus have to
When we create a to-do list or wake up each day, we might skim through our minds with all the things we have to do: respond to emails, finish projects, do the dishes, clean up workspace, create new goals, make a phone call. When we feel like we “have” to do something, this usually develops a bit of resistance. Instead, shift your language to, “I want to answer these emails, I’d love to make this phone call at 2 pm, and I can’t wait to get started on the dishes.” It might seem ridiculous if you don’t actually want to do those things, but that small change in language will shift your perspective into a positive one, which ultimately leads to higher productivity and overall happiness because you are choosing gratitude and joy over feeling forced into something.
5. Plan out the following day the night before
This doesn’t need to be a time-consuming, extravagant ordeal. Take a couple of minutes to write down the things you want to accomplish the following day in your Ponderlily planner. You want a planner that you keep with you and that is always visible to help remind you to write things down. Start out with the thing that will move you forward the most. Most likely, answering emails isn’t where your success and creativity lie first thing. Instead, focus on the thing that gets you excited, the thing that requires fresh eyes, the thing that will move you towards your goals. Then add in the other optional things that would be nice to accomplish. Don’t forget to write down breaks!
6. Take intentional breaks
Plan to work for that solid 52 minutes to an hour without disruption, and then schedule in your 17-minute breaks. What can you do during this time? Maybe you could try meditation. Or you work on a vision board that has to do with your life goals. During these intentional breaks, you could go for a walk, make some green juice, and allow yourself to quiet your mind so that you can come back with fresh eyes for the next 52-minute sprint.
7. Practice mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness in all aspects of your life will help you focus while you’re working. When you’re washing the dishes, really be right there with washing the dishes. What is the temperature of the water? What sounds do the dishes make? When you’re working, notice your behavioral patterns. There are apps available where you can track social media usage, how often you open your apps, how long you stay on them. When you take the time to notice how often you potentially and mindlessly scroll the interwebs when you could be doing work, it’ll help you shift the behavior with lots of practice.
It can be a challenge to focus on work when there are so many things constantly fighting for our attention. It takes effort, intention, and practice to begin to cut away those habitual and sometimes addictive ropes that bind us (like checking our phone notifications). Practice putting your phone in a different room while you work if you can. Practice being comfortable with ambient music or silence versus filling the room with more noise from the television.
As you make changes towards a more focused, productive life, try to track the difference in progress by looking at where you started and watching where you end up.
You might be surprised to see that you are less inclined to check your phone constantly, even when you aren’t working, as you pave new neural pathways in your brain.