Ever find yourself in the middle of a work project, and the next minute you’re in the kitchen eating a handful of goldfish? Or organizing your bookshelf for the third time? Or googling things like, “how can i stop snacking so much?” Working from home is weird. Sometimes it’s easy to get into a flow, and other days the lack of accountability and structure make it tough to focus. I know I’m not the only one who has walked away from my desk at 5pm frustrated, feeling like I worked all day without crossing anything off my to-do list. While we can’t always be our most productive selves, I’ve noticed a common theme on the days where I’ve achieved more.
When I’m more intentional about my habits and focus on being fully present in whatever task I’m doing, I leave the workday feeling more accomplished and fulfilled.
I’m someone who has continuously tried (and failed) to do multiple things at once. As I adjust to WFH life, I’m constantly reminding myself to take things one at a time. While we aren’t dealing with chatty co-workers, an abundance of office snacks, and other workplace distractions, our homes present a completely different set of interruptions of their own. This is especially the case if you’re at home with kids. Finding your flow when working from home can be a challenge, but there are a few small ways you can set yourself up for success each day. Below are some tactics that have helped me improve my focus. Also if you made it this far, congratulations! You focused.
You’ve probably heard a thousand times now how beneficial meditation is for your mental health. The benefits extend beyond just relieving anxiety and stress, and simply taking quiet time to breathe and reset your brain each day is scientifically proven to enhance focus. If you’re not totally sold on it yet, there are so many great tools out there to get you started and even a few minutes each day can make all the difference.
Set Your Intentions for the Day
I’ve found I’m most successful on the days when I’ve taken the time to set a clear intention for what I want to accomplish, instead of just jumping straight in. Whether or not you have a morning journaling practice, simply jot down the top 3 projects that are most important that day. Chances are, you’ll feel a stronger sense of direction and purpose, and all the lower-priority items on your to-do list can be saved for later.
Food can be one of the biggest distractions in or out of the office. You might be in the middle of a project only to realize your stomach is growling and you don’t know what to have for breakfast. Soon enough, you’re derailed from your work wondering what to make. Plus, you’ll deal with the added time-suck of cooking and cleaning before and after each meal. I resisted it for so long, but meal prepping every Sunday is one of the biggest life hacks. I’ll make a big batch of chia seed pudding or healthy muffins for breakfast, prep some dressing and roasted veggies for salads, and have nuts and fruit on hand for easy snacks. Check out this article on exactly how Camille meal preps each week.
Make Your Bed
Admiral William H. McRaven said it best. “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”
Have a Clean Workspace
On that note, having a clean workspace is key in limiting distractions and relieving stress. Physical clutter can turn into mental clutter in your brain, and your desk should be a source of inspiration each day.
I live by my google calendar, and use it as a to-do list to plan out my projects for the day. Whenever I’m assigned a task, I immediately add an appointment to my calendar that week with the estimated time I think it’ll take to complete. Mapping out your day is a powerful way to stay on task, and these work from home schedules are a great place to start.
Use a Timer
Surprisingly, using a timer (specifically this time cube) has been game-changing for me. Once I start on a project, I’ll flip it over and the timer will start counting down from an hour. I make a conscious effort to only work on that one thing for the entire hour, and make myself take a break once the timer goes off. In fact, studies show that our brains are most productive when we work for 52 minutes straight, followed by a break afterwards. You can find some great ideas for how to take a break here.
Listen to Instrumental Music
Listening to music without lyrics is known to increase focus and improve mental performance. Music releases dopamine in the brain, which also helps relieve anxiety and lower stress levels throughout the day. Try playing music out loud if you work alone, or find a good set of headphones if you are around others and turn on some tunes. It’s a great time to revisit your fave movie soundtrack or explore a focus playlist.
Exercising is another dopamine-boosting activity that will increase your energy and sharpen your focus. After a workout, we are better at prioritizing and blocking out distractions.
Take Supplements For Your Brain
Supplements and adaptogens are a natural way to boost brain function and creativity. Ashwagandha and Gaba are known to help relieve stress and improve mood, while fish oil supplements have been linked to increased brain function. L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that helps with focus, especially when paired with caffeine.
Do you have any tools that help you stay on task during the workday? Please share in the comments!