Working from home isn’t all joy, happiness and getting sh*t done. Distractions are lurking in each corner. The bathroom that needs a scrub, the toilet paper that needs refilling. What is that, you’re nearly out of coffee? Oh no! Before you ring the alarms, you run off to the store. Gone is your focus… But at least now you will have caffeine☕️
Having worked from home since last year, I’ve learned that it can be a challenge. To get and stay motivated, to not get distracted, and resist meaningless temptations that still won’t aid you in finishing work.
I admire those who are able to zone out and merge into one singular being of computer and human, impossible to get distracted by outer forces. Instead, I organise my space to work in my favour and hereby get rid of as many distractions as possible. It’s not a perfect setup, but we’ll learn as we go and improve with time.
These are the changes I implemented that aid me in doing better and more focused work:
- Comfortable desk and table setup. I am currently seated at home, where I have a tiny-but-big-enough table of barely 1x1m at the right height with my arms comfortably resting on the table at a ninety degrees angle, and an ergonomic chair I bought off eBay Kleinanzeigen to support my back. If my back and joints are not in pain, I feel more comfortable. I’m less distracted, and more easily able to focus on the work that needs doing.
Have you ever tried doing computer work in an uncomfortable position for hours or days in a row, to wake up the day after with intense back and neck pain? Hustle and grind or not, sacrificing your health is not exactly the idea. Imagine how this pain will develop if you ignore it for ten or twenty years from now. You aren’t there to sit comfortably, but if it increases the quality of your work? Back pain is not a badge of honour of how hard you work.
- Tidy surroundings. This has been a constant prerequisite for me to do work. I can’t stand a messy environment. Dust will be vacuumed before it gets the chance to fall onto the carpet or any other surface. Messes distract me, so I avoid making them. Know your triggers, so you can always be one step ahead of them. Call it avoidance behaviour; this way you won’t have to worry about untidy surroundings, nor losing energy over fussing about them or cleaning them!
- Silence is another prerequisite. Working with music with spoken words, or with people talking close to me? That won’t work, all I’ll hear is the lyrics, or the gossip.
- Ambient music as an alternative to silence if you can’t stand the lack of noise, to help you become calmer and get in the flow. Ambient music for me, or nothing at all.
- Need human contact? Try Focusmate. It’s a video platform where you get matched in virtual co-working sessions of 50 minutes each with strangers across the globe. You pick a time slot, enter the meeting room just before the session commences. You and your partner exchange what you’ll both be working on. In the end, you check in with each other and ask how it went. You won’t feel alone as you’ll have a human there. It also gives you a feeling of accountability. It shames you into doing work! Isn’t that amazing? I wrote a piece about the Focusmate platform on LinkedIn. When I’m not feeling it, I book a session, and get out feeling better at the other side and having performed better.
- Give yourself “work times”. Not that you want to mimic corporates and sit in front of the computer for 8 hours, just because that’s what they still do in some offices. It’s to get you into work mode during those times. Otherwise the “Parkinson’s law” might kick in, and you’ll spend all day doing what could’ve taken just a few hours.
- Overwork can happen. In that case, make a promise to yourself that you’ll quit working at a certain time. Time blocking can help too. At the end of the week, plan ahead for the next week. Fill up your calendar with “time blocks”, where you divide all tasks that need doing along the week. When you sit down at “the office” to do work, you won’t need to think about it on the spot.
- Take breaks. Your eyes need a rest and you’re not a robot. Staring at a screen for too long gives me headaches. All I need to do to prevent this, is take breaks, at least every 50 minutes. The widely known and used Pomodoro technique breaks work into 25 minute intervals, followed by a 5-minute break. After four Pomodoro’s, you take a longer break. For me the 25 minutes is too short. So my tip here is to experiment with the duration of intervals. The Marinara Pomodoro Chrome extension might be of use to you here. You can manually set the length of focus time and the breaks. During the breaks, do some stretching, stare outside of the window, go outside for a short walk around the block, whatever may help you.
- Dedicate ONE space or room to work. ONLY work when you’re in or at this space. Keep all other areas free of work. For me this is my desk and ergonomic chair. When I sit down here, I have just entered the office. No scrolling on Social Media, no watching tv. Work only. This way, this one spot will only be associated with work, and you’ll keep the rest of your house free for other activities, such as relaxation. This is especially important if you live and work in a small space. Wouldn’t want the bed and sleep to be associated with work.
- Make sure this work space is free of clutter as well.
- Make the work space look pretty. Add some props, a plant, or a small picture frame with a photo of your cat, or spouse so that you will sit here with joy, and be reminded of things in life you like.
- Stick to healthy foods and regular hydration. Don’t eat junk every 5 minutes. Unless you want to feel slow and groggy. Nourish the mind and body with healthy foods. You’ll feel better for it, and increase the likelihood of your work also being better.
Working from home can be peaceful, as you’re in your own space with no one around, but it does impose some challenges that need overcoming. With some experimenting, you can get rid of those distractions that bother you and any challenges, and make your work space… work for you!😉
Thank you for reading this piece.