You’ve seen the memes and heard the jokes. (“Are you working remotely? Or are you remotely working?”) Most people are working from home. And there’s no one looking over their shoulder. No incentive to “look busy.” They simply need to do their work.
That may be easier said than done though. With procrastination just a click or two away, the fridge beckoning, and laundry piling up, we may find ourselves easily distracted by non-work-related wants and needs.
The good news is that there are many techniques and technologies that can support you and your team as you learn to make the most of your time working from home.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Finding your ideal schedule will go a long way in helping you and your team focus. Try to be as flexible with your staff as possible though. We’re living in unusual days and are having to make do with whatever time we can get. Many people may have to work around children or other caregiving responsibilities. Morning larks may find it best to get a couple hours of work done before the kids get up, while night owls might log in after everyone is asleep.
But with asynchronous work hours, it can be challenging to coordinate communication. Thankfully, there are apps like Boomarang that allow you to schedule your emails so you can work at your most optimal time without disturbing your coworkers. It also allows you to pause your own inbox so you’re not constantly interrupted with notifications while you’re trying to focus.
Of course, you could also turn off notifications and/or use your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” mode to cut down on some of the noise during your workday as well.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Another tip for staying focused: At the end of each workday, write down your three most important tasks for the following day. That way, when you return to work, you don’t waste time trying to figure out where you left off.
There may be some tasks that you just don’t look forward to doing. Whenever possible, do those first. Rip the bandaid off. That way they don’t hang over your head, cause anxiety, or otherwise ruin your whole day.
It may also help you to keep a daily/weekly/monthly planner to track your tasks and make sure you’re working toward your goals. If you want to try a digital solution, look at task managers like Asana, Trello, BaseCamp, and Todoist. Each offers a unique set of features, so see which works best for the kind of work you do.
YOUR ON/OFF BUTTON
There are some tasks that you can pop in and out of, but most usually require being in the right frame of mind. As we’ve learned in recent years, multi-tasking isn’t as productive as we’d like to think. Any time we have to switch tasks, there’s a recalibration that has to happen. It’s like an orchestra having to stop and tune itself all the time. It’s best to finish the song first, so to speak.
If you’ve never tried using a Pomodoro timer, now may be the time to try one out. The idea is simple: Work uninterrupted for a predetermined time period (25 minutes), then take a short break (5 minutes) before starting again. After 4 intervals, you take a longer break (20-30 minutes).
If you prefer a low-tech approach, a simple kitchen timer will work. But there are many free apps available like Focus Booster, or Be Focused (both offer paid pro versions) that will help you keep track of when you need to stay on task and when it’s time to take a well-earned break. Many apps will also report your time usage so you can track your progress toward your goals.
Staying focused can be a challenge whether you are in an office or not. But with these tips, you can become more efficient and productive at doing the work God has called you to do.