How to focus while working from home

If you’re like most working people around the world, your life has been radically disrupted by the COVID-19 virus.  Only essential businesses have continued to operate at the office over the past several weeks, but most of those essential businesses have been anything but “business as usual”!

However, almost every industry in the world has taken a pause to try to slow the spread of the virus.  Many people have been asked to work from home over the past several weeks. Although “telework” is not new to the world of business, the extent to which the world has been expected to work from home is unprecedented.

Social distancing and sheltering in place have created a global phenomenon… People are struggling to juggle work and home life within the same four walls.

The research suggests that almost everyone reading this blog today has been impacted by the global efforts to minimize this pandemic.  Most working Americans already struggled with the challenges of juggling a professional life and home life. Our ability to separate what we do from where we live has become a casualty of social distancing right now.

If you’re struggling to try to separate who you are as a parent or spouse from what you do for your company right now, this blog is written for you. If you’re struggling with giving your family the time that they need because of the demands of working from home, this blog is written for you also.

Below are four suggestions to help you focus your time and attention while working from home.

Have a bunker to protect you from the bombardment

You need a separate space between home and work. It doesn’t matter if you live in a tiny apartment or a large ranch home with a lot of land; having a separate space between work and home is essential to helping you focus your energy and attention. It doesn’t have to be a fully furnished home office with all the latest gadgets; it can be an attic or a closet.  Just have a separate space that you can enter when it’s time to go to work.

Make this a disciplined work habit. Dress for your home office like you would at the office.  Remind yourself when you go into that space that it’s for the purpose of getting stuff done. When you leave that workspace, leave the work behind you, and focus on your private life.  By having a separate space for work, this area of your home becomes a bunker that you need to protect you from all the distractions that are bombarding you for attention. Treat this separate space like your office, and you’ll be able to focus in this space like you did at the office.

Schedule your focus and stick to it

All of us have times of the day when we are typically at our best. Some are morning people who get a lot more accomplished in the morning than late at night. Some are night owls who can get an amazing amount of work accomplished by pulling an all-nighter.  I have never met a person who is equally focused in the morning and in the evening.

Leverage the time of day when you are most energetic and creative for the biggest work projects. Schedule the high-focus tasks for the time of day when you’re at your best. Leave the least challenging tasks for your least productive time of the day.  Treat your time like it’s a valuable asset. Give your best time to your most important tasks. Give your least important time to the least important tasks.

Don’t multi-task; you only have 100% to give

Don’t fool yourself– you can’t be great at two things simultaneously. No human being can give 100% focus to two different tasks at the exact same time. It is logically and humanly impossible!  We have fooled ourselves into believing that the next great piece of technology or the next great business innovation will help us multitask well. However, multitasking well is not really possible. You can maybe give a little bit of attention to one thing and a lot of attention to another at the same time. But, you can’t be great at two tasks at the same time.

If you’re following along with this blog, you’ve already found a workspace at home in which you can go to focus your attention. You’ve already determined the best time of day when you are most productive. Now it’s time to work one task at a time.  Give one task your complete attention… Knock it out, and then move onto the next task.  Don’t think about the dishes in the sink and the big project that’s due next week at the same time. Both tasks will suffer because of your lack of focus.  Do the dishes, and then move on to the big work project… or vice versa. However, don’t try to focus on the big work project and the dishes at the same time.

Don’t miss this opportunity to leave a lasting memory

Many people around the world are working from home right now.  Rather than seeing this as an inconvenience, consider it an opportunity to make memories.  Many families will look back for years to come on these unusual times. Working from home gives your family a chance to see the kind of person that you are at work.  Perhaps they don’t get to see this side of you very often. This is a great opportunity to leave a lasting impression on your family and friends. I’m convinced that many families will look back on this time 50 years from now and tell future generations what life was like in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. What kind of memories will you leave during this time?

Telework can be a challenge, but it also provides an opportunity to demonstrate your work ethic to your family, friends or roommates.   Don’t miss this opportunity!  By learning to focus your energy and attention while working from home, you’ll leave a lasting impression on your job and family.

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