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!)

There are a few ways to approach working from home and not everything will work for everyone.

For some people, it's all about recreating an office environment in your own home. 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. I like my comfy clothes and I like to change it up by moving my laptop around the house.

Fortunately, there are other ways to be productive.

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.

Make breaks count

Two ways breaks can go wrong: not enough or too many. While I love a good multi-hour writing jag, it's exhausting without a break. But if a break is too fluid, it can take over a day. It takes balance and a bit structure to find your own pace.

When it is time for a break, do something that really recharges you. Take a walk. Eat a healthy meal or snack. Do something you really love, instead of mindlessly surfing social media. It's so much easier to work when your other basic needs are being met.

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.

I've tried apps, bullet journals, calendars, day runners, etc. but often end up going back to just using spreadsheets for everything. Sortable lists, graphs, charts. Spreadsheets are pretty great.

Be comfortable

Some people feel more productive when they're dressed as if they were in an office, others are happy working in their PJs. 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. Likewise, I don't need make-up to work from home, but showering and putting on clean clothes can make a world of difference.

Bottom line: The best way to stay focused when you work at home is to experiment and find whatever process works best for you.

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