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Staying Focused While Working Remotely

Staying Focused While Working Remotely

Working from home—or, more specifically, working remotely—is becoming the new status quo for numerous professionals across the globe. Data increasingly supports this as a sensible arrangement for businesses and employees alike, as productivity remains steady (or increases) while employee satisfaction skyrockets. Many of us, though, are conditioned to work in office environments where distractions are purposefully minimized or eliminated altogether. Our homes, on the other hand, present ample opportunities for distraction. How do we balance the benefits of working remotely with the risks of being distracted by our favorite things or people? There are some surprisingly simple, but highly effective, tricks.

Set Up a Dedicated Workspace

If you find yourself frequently distracted while working from home, take a serious look at your habits. Do you work from the same part of the house every day? Routines are important for human brains, including those concerned with the environment. If you find yourself sprawled out on the couch with your laptop one day and sitting at your kitchen table the next, then you’re establishing a routine that fails to subconsciously reinforce the divide between work and leisure time.

Your space should also be dedicated solely to work whenever possible. In other words, working from your bedroom is an invitation to distractions because your brain associates that space with sleep. Kitchens, dining rooms, and living rooms should be avoided for similar reasons—your mind already strongly associates those spaces with decidedly non-work activities like eating or watching television. If you have the space to dedicate a room—even a small one—as an office, that’s the way to go. If not, designating a single space in your home as a workspace can have similar effects. Either way, the idea is to have a place in your home that your brain associates primarily with work.

Listen to Music

This one may seem obvious to some folks but playing music or an audiobook in the background can significantly improve focus. This is especially true with repetitive or objective-based tasks like sorting or entering data. Background audio keeps our brains engaged minimally enough to prevent our thoughts or focus from wandering off the task at hand, but isn’t so intrusive that it becomes a distraction itself. This is part of the psychology that goes into the background music we play everywhere from shopping centers to restaurants to elevators, or why movies without background music seem unnerving to us—that little bit of audio can do wonders to keep us focused and calm.

Do Something with Your Phone

Frankly, our cell phones provide more opportunity for distraction than almost anything found exclusively in our homes. We all know how much of a time sink social media can be, and all of the previous sentiments about routine apply here. It’s entirely too easy to pick up your phone with the intention to peek at a text message or email and suddenly find that half an hour has passed while you’ve mindlessly scrolled Twitter or Instagram. If you can, leave your personal phone in a different room than your workspace. If that isn’t possible, there are several apps and tools designed to limit use of distracting apps. Google’s Digital Wellbeing, for instance, will show you how much time you spend on your device (and specific apps) and allow you to set limits on how much time can be spent per day in an app or when the app will be available for use.

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