If you’re still working from home due to the pandemic or you’re able to regularly work remotely, there may be times when you find it difficult to focus. Productivity takes a toll when you’re not prepared to work outside of regulated office space.
It could be the lack of accountability, working in a comfortable area, or the change of working by yourself. Whatever the reason for your difficulties, you don’t need to make drastic changes to get back on track.
When working from home with less activity and coworkers working on similar projects, a generalized task list can become overwhelming. To meet project deadlines, manageable milestones need to be properly prioritized.
The organization of your routine can affect your mental wellness – extensive micromanaging can end up causing more stress and mental blocks.
To optimize your time with the right tasks, you need to regularly communicate with your team. While tackling difficult tasks first may seem like the best course of action, you and your team may first want to divide the tasks according to everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.
Once you have your list, you can decide to get small jobs done faster or complete more time-consuming needs first. As you work through your priorities, be sure to touch base with the team to determine what needs should be met first.
2. Time Management
After you’ve developed a manageable and organized list from your initial tasks, it’s time to break down an adequate schedule. One of the biggest mistakes individuals make when they begin working from home is attempting to work on the same schedule they did in the office. However, you’re already changing key aspects of your routine:
- Sleeping later because you don’t need to commute
- Dressing down since there’s no mandatory dress code
- Increased casual distractions – pets, knickknacks, household members, etc.
- Taking care of emails or minor tasks while still in bed
Not only is it important to set up a schedule that better reflects your shift in sleep and commute, but you also need to consider your environment. If you’re going to sleep in, don’t skip out on a regular morning routine like skincare, getting dressed, and eating breakfast. Once you’ve taken care of small morning tasks (up and out of bed!), go to a designated workspace or office.
One way to manage your tasks and priorities is to allow yourself smaller, more frequent breaks. Take a few half-hour slots to cover cleaning chores, wake up earlier so you can get dinner started on time, or switch your exercise routine to amid-day activity. These changes keep your brain engaged and refreshed for each time block set aside for work.
When you leave the office building, there’s that brief sigh of relief as you get to drive home and spend the rest of the day elsewhere. Without that same relief, as you work from home, you need to prioritize more time towards your self-care and mental health. The risk of burnout can increase for individuals that aren’t used to being in the same environment for an entire day.
One of the most important distinctions to make while working from home is boundaries. You need to establish a system and communicate with your household times you can and cannot be disturbed.
A healthy mindset and body are essential for staying productive; therefore, isolation is the opposite of what you may need. However, there generally needs to be set times that you work without interruption, even if it’s not a majority of your day.
Do you know how to contact your team, when your meetings are scheduled, and how to reach out for assistance? Having a plan for your work environment needs puts you ahead each week. With time management skills and a prioritized list of tasks, you now need to get ready for tackling these goals and deadlines.
Whether you’re working with a group or you have an individual assignment, finding a way to keep yourself accountable starts with having the proper materials at the ready.
Preparedness is about more than being easy to reach and on time for your meetings, though. Develop before and after routines for each day or week. Determine what you need to start your day off on the right foot. At the end of the workday, reflect on what worked and where you found yourself losing focus.
Adjust your schedule or make time to try a new routine for the next project. As you make it through your daily goals, use that extra time to adjust and refresh so you’re just as ready for the next round.
5. Separate Spaces
When you start working from home, you may be tempted to bring your laptop into the bed or hang out on the couch with others. However, having a separate space has proven to improve productivity, reduce distractions, and give you a designated area to let your work take over.
Because you begin to associate that area with productivity, make a habit of getting up and taking a brief walk if you find yourself becoming unfocused. Once you’re ready to try again, take your seat and try to accomplish a few small tasks.
If you don’t have the space to create a specific “Work Room”, you can clear out a specific corner or section of a room to keep a work desk that you only use when you’re on the clock. Avoid using your bedroom as a workspace – the area you sleep in should remain a relaxed environment rather than something you associate with deadlines and task lists.
It’s common to find yourself slipping into a daydream or getting distracted by your phone during the first time you try working from home. These lapses in focus don’t have to be seen as negative and stressful, though. Take these moments as practice opportunities to get back into your flow.
A mental health professional can help you reduce stress and anxiety over the change in scenery if you’re finding it challenging to stick to a productive routine. The good news to remember is: you’re allowed to walk around in your socks if you want.
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Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with MyTherapist.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.