How To Stay Focused When You Work at Home

Working from home is living the dream. Sort of. There's no commute, no inter-office small talk, no public bathrooms to navigate or irritating coworkers to avoid. But it isn't all rainbows and roses.

When you work from home, you still have to work. From home. Which can be pretty difficult with all the ready distractions and lack of watchful eyes. It's especially challenging when you set your own hours. So much freedom! So many choices! So much TV... and a full fridge... and...

Some work-from-home articles will focus on recreating an office environment in your own home. They tell you to create an efficient work space, dress as if you were in the office, set regular hours, etc. None of that has ever worked for me.

Where's the joy in working from home if you can't work in comfy clothes or change it up by moving your laptop around the house? Why force yourself to work 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, if you tend to be more productive in the evenings or on weekends?

Now, people are different and what works for one person may not work for another. Maybe recreating an office atmosphere and keeping a set schedule does work for you. If so, that's great. If not, know that there are other ways to be productive. The real trick is in finding what works best for you. If you're struggling to figure that out, here are some things that work for me.

1. Turn off the TV, radio, etc. (mostly)

I like to think that music helps me think, but, actually, I tend to be more productive without distractions. Without music or TV, it's easier to lose track of time and surrender to the flow when creativity sets in.

On the flip side, sitting in a completely quiet house can be unnerving and a distraction of its own. If my mind is wandering too much, sometimes turning on music or a favorite old rerun is enough to get me back on track. It's a little jumpstart to get me working, but once I'm in the groove, I turn the TV/music off and sink into the writing.

2. Take breaks

As much as I love getting into a multi-hour writing jag, we all really do need breaks to recharge. When it is time for a break, make it count. Do something that really recharges you. Take a walk. Eat a healthy meal or snack. (Especially if you worked through a meal.) Do something you really love, instead of mindlessly surfing social media. You will feel more ready to work if your other basics needs are being met.

3. Set goals

This is probably the most common advice given for productivity, but it can be so hard to do! The trick is to really break down goals into realistic, manageable tasks and actually tackle those tasks one at a time. Choose measurable tasks, like writing a certain number of words, an article, or a chapter. It's the small steps that will get you to the finish line.

4. Track your progress

There are a million apps designed for productivity. They track habits, goals, schedule, etc. You can also go old school and get a break from your screen. Buy a paper day runner or create your own bullet journal. Whether you go digital or analog, having a way to track your progress is particularly important when your schedule is fluid and your goals are self-imposed.

5. Be comfortable

Being comfortable doesn't have to mean working in your PJs. (Although it can!) It really means figuring out what is comfortable for you. My basic rule of thumb is to choose clothes that I can lounge in, but that I would also not mind answering the door in. The same rule applies to hygiene. I don't need make-up to work from home, but showering and putting on clean clothes can make me feel more productive.

Bottom line: Create an environment where you feel comfortable and supported, minimize distractions, set goals, and track your progress. However, the way you do those things is entirely up to you. Experiment and find the process that works for you.

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