7 Simple Ways I Stay Focused When Working From Home

The right mindset and these tips will make all the difference.

Lightfield Studios / Shutterstock
Lightfield Studios / Shutterstock

As a writer for Thrive, working from home, rather than in a supportive office environment, can sometimes be challenging. Staying focused on the job and being productive takes discipline. Remaining enthusiastic without the moral support of your team to share ideas — and a laugh — means being your own cheerleader. I’ve found it’s important to focus on the positive benefits of working remotely, like no commutes and freedom to create your own schedule.

Here are my keys.

Write a work to-do list at night

Before I go to bed, I list what I want to accomplish the next day and email it to myself, along with words of very positive encouragement, even if I don’t feel like it, for example: “You are amazing and are getting everything done.” (I sometimes draw a happy face or heart too.)

Get up, get dressed, and go to the “office”

I find it helpful to get going early in the morning (around 7 a.m.) and get dressed! I don’t feel like I’ll do a good, professional job if I stay in pajamas or sweats. If I’m energetic first thing, I start with exercise — even a few stretches. I work best at my desk in my office, with the door closed. It’s good to have an assigned workspace if possible, rather than sitting at the kitchen table or in the bedroom, to keep things separate. Symbolically, it’s like going into the “real” office. 

Set an intention and write it down

When I’m settled, I set a clear intention for the task at hand (for me that’s invariably writing or finishing an article). I learned about the power of intentions from my mentors, Drs. Ron and Mary Hulnick, pioneers in the field of spiritual psychology and founders of the University of Santa Monica (U.S.M.). For example, I will jot down in a notebook: “I am easily completing my piece, using all my skills — and doing my best.” Writing it down in the present tense sends a message to myself that I will accomplish what I set out to do.  

Work for an hour — or two

I like to work in easy-to-manage blocks, or “focus hours” (something I learned from a friend, business consultant/coach, Martha Ringer). Taking Microsteps that aren’t daunting mean it is easy to be disciplined and focused, because you are not asking yourself to sit for an extended time. Once I’ve started, I don’t answer emails, texts or calls, and resist looking at social media. If I’m engrossed in the project, at the end of my stint, I’ll continue for another hour. 

Take a proper break 

When the hour (or double session) is up, I always stop for a well-earned (even celebratory) break before going onto the next task. Time to get a snack, listen to a podcast, read an uplifting poem like this one: “I Meant to Do My Work Today” (ironically about taking the day off!), or go for a walk.

Connect with a colleague 

Challenges involved in working remotely include feeling isolated, sad, or anxious, so it’s important for me  to connect regularly with a friend, family member, or colleague who is calm and steady (and preferably funny too, right now)! Support is such an important key. In between tasks, I like to phone a friend to share experiences and get some positive feedback.

Stop work and treat yourself

It’s hard not to keep on working when you are at home, because it can seem like nothing’s ever finished. For me, it’s important to stop at a certain time and do something I love — like watching a funny show, reading, or just relaxing over dinner with my family and friends.

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