The freedom to work from home has long been the coveted way to earn your pay. Eliminating the commute, working in your pajamas and taking mid-day naps are of the many reasons why professionals throughout all industries idealize work from home opportunities.
Now, I’m not going to lie. Working from home is quite amazing. However, the vast benefits don’t outweigh the many challenges you’ll face along the way.
And the challenge you’ll face most often: trying to keep your focus.
You’re sitting at your home, a place you’ve specifically chosen and designed to be entertaining and relaxing. It’s your refuge away from the world. And when it’s also your office, it’s entirely too tempting to burn an afternoon away with Netflix and naps.
Fortunately, there are effective ways to improve your focus when you work from home. I’ve scoured the internet and reflected upon my own experience as a full time freelancer to discover the most effective methods of staying focused and productive.
1. Set Time Limits on Certain Tasks
Time is the great equalizer; everyone only has 24 hours in the day. When you work from home, it suddenly seems like time is endless and you exist in a magical realm where productivity and procrastination are both achievable.
To quote the modern sage Eminem, “Snap back to reality, whoops there goes gravity.”
Before you know it, you’ve spent all day sorting your email inbox and brushing up your portfolio. It’s a common trap. But you can avoid it with one simple trick:
Set a time limit on each of your tasks.
Not only will this help avoid getting caught up in one task, but you’ll be more focused since you’re more aware that time is limited. Here are two excellent ways to set time limits for specific tasks:
Block Out Time in Your Calendar
I call it time blocking. And it’s as simple as it sounds. Create blocks of time for each of the tasks that you run into on a daily basis, as well as specific tasks for individual projects.
If you’re a more high-level person, consider using more generic blocks. Examples of time blocks you could use in your day include:
- 2hrs of Marketing
- 1hr of Project Management
- 2hrs Sales
- 3Work on Project X
Those of you that prefer very tight scheduling, you can go even more granular:
- 30mins of Social Media Marketing
- 1hr of Blog Writing
- 30mins of Blog Outreach
- 10mins of Project Management for Each Client
- 30mins for Meeting X
- 30mins for Meeting Y
- 1hr of Cold Calling
- 2hrs Task X for Project X
- 1hr Task Y for Project X
You get the idea.
Set A Timer
It’s easy to get engrossed in a project and spend the whole day on it. If you’re not great with keeping up with time yourself, use a timer on your computer or phone.
Decide at the beginning how much time you’ll dedicate to the task. Set the timer, and focus up!
2. Get Dressed for Work
Sure, part of the fun of working from home is staying in your pajamas all day. But – speaking from experience – wearing the same clothes you slept in keeps you feeling tired. You’ll feel like you should be in bed, but instead you have to work.
Skip that feeling by actually changing clothes.
You don’t necessarily have to get dressed up as if you were going to the office, but switching into comfortable daytime clothes can help you get into the right mindset for work.
3. Have a Set Time for “Work Hours”
Not going into the office means you can work whenever. And while that’s a blessing, it can quickly turn into a curse. Entirely too many freelancers and telecommuters end up procrastinating or directly prioritizing socializing and other activities over being productive.
Failing to have set work hours is a recipe for disaster. A disaster that’s easily avoidable.
Set specific work hours and stick to them. Determine when you’re most productive, and make those your designated work hours. Tell people close to you that you have work hours just like they do. Let them know you can’t meet up for coffee or go antiquing at 10:30 AM on a Tuesday.
4. Take Breaks Throughout the Day
Don’t forget to take breaks. It’s easy to get engulfed with a project and spend hours without a break. But that will quickly lead to burnout. You might burn out in the course of a single day, or you might burn out after a week – but it’ll happen sooner rather than later.
Instead, make it a point to take breaks every hour or so. One study found that college students were unable to focus for longer than three minutes, indicating that our attention span is only shortening up. Step away from your desk and go sit in the living room. Give yourself permission to disengage and voluntarily “lose focus.”
Take a nap. Run out for lunch. Do some yoga or push-ups. Do something that takes you away from the desk. You’ll likely discover that when you return, your fresh eyes will improve upon what you were doing.
5. Prioritize Your Daily Tasks
Lay out a clear path of what needs to be done. Having structure will make focusing a lot easier. Make a list of all of the items that you have to accomplish during the day and determine which ones will benefit from being completed first.
Chances are, you don’t have pressing deadlines throughout the day, but have tons you’ll need to get accomplished by the end of the day.
I’d advise doing your most challenging tasks first. That way the rest of the day seems easy. Not only does this help accomplish more, but it helps combat the dreaded default effect that often harms focus.
6. Listen to Music That Helps You Focus
Music helps entertain many of the aspects of your mind that would otherwise result in serious distractions. You’ll need to find the right genre in order for this trick to work for you.
I like pulling up the Deep Focus playlist on Spotify. When I’m listening to it, it always gets me in the zone. But you might do better with a different playlist, maybe some classical music or light jazz.
What have you done that helps improve your focus and minimize distractions? I’d love to hear any additional tips in the comments below. And – as always – share this article with your friends on social media so they can stay focused too.
about the author
Chelsei Henderson is a content marketing consultant helping freelancers and entrepreneurs build successful companies in the digital world.