In one of my earlier jobs, I worked in an office about half an hour from where I lived. The commute was horrible and the office was even worse. Recycled stale air, artificial lighting, fake plants, the vague but undeniable smell of dirty socks … it was my version of hell.
In my spare moments, I dreamed of working from home. I’d cut down on travel time, eliminate pesky distractions in the form of annoying co-workers and, best of all, get to work at home in my pjs. It was a win win.
Flash forward to today, where I run a design and mentoring empire from the comfort of my own home. Is it the dream? Yes. Is it wonderful? Yes. Does it come with its own challenges? … Yes.
When I first started working from home there was the fresh, shiny allure of online shopping, coffee dates with friends, catching up on chores (so I could Netflix later) and doing the school run with the kids, which all led to one big fat result: I was distracted af and struggled to focus on what I did best … creating cool sh*t.
Through trial and error I’ve refined my working from home process to nurture Marvel superheroine laser focus. Here’s how I did it.
9 tips for staying focused when you work from home
Have a separate office. Even if it’s just a nook in your bedroom, so long as it has a door you can close and lock yourself away behind if need be, you’re in the clear. You need your own space, away from the family and the mess of the house.
Fuel your focus with music. There’s research to show that listening to music (from memory, it was classical music) improves creativity and focus. For me, Radiohead is my ‘get shit done’ special sauce. What is yours?
Go outside. Just because you’re working from home, that doesn’t mean you have to become a hermit. Take a break and go outside, even if it’s just for five minutes to water the garden. Those 5 min garden breaks keep me going until the end of the day!
Know when to give up. If the kids are home sick or there’s a noisy renovation happening in your kitchen, it is easier to concede defeat and understand that there is no point working. You’ll save yourself unnecessary stress and save your focus for when you can harness it properly!
Make a list! How can you get sh*t done if you’re not sure what you need to get done? Make a list. Check it twice.
Try the Pomodora method. This baby has been a lifesaver for me. Essentially, it’s a time-management method designed to increase productivity and focus while safe-guarding you from mental and creative fatigue. You can read more about it here.
Reward yourself. Just like you’d reward a puppy for good behaviour, make sure you give yourself a treat once you achieve some of your to-do list items too. It could be a leisurely walk around your local reserve, a Tim Tam, an impromptu solo dance party, an episode of your favourite show … whatever makes you feel good.
Ban the Internet. Anything that could possibly distract you from your goal, block it. If you want to go hardcore, you can even block social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. There’s a Google Chrome extension called ‘Work Mode’ that can do this for you.
Know when you work best. I’m an early bird, so mornings are my ‘hallelujah, look at all of the sh*t I’ve accomplished’ time. I even avoid booking meetings or appointments in the mornings.
If you’re not sure when you work best, pay attention for a few days. Note any extra screen-staring time (those moments when you stare at your screen without inspiration) and the times when work seems to fly out of you uninhibited.
And when all else fails … go work in a café. Seriously. A change of scenery could be just what you need to kick-start your creativity. You’d think being around hustle and bustle would destroy your focus, but sometimes it’s just what you need if you’ve been sitting in a silent home all day.
How do you stay focused at home? Share your secrets by dropping a comment below.