Many people who usually go into work are now working from home instead. If you are WFH, are you more of a “roll out of bed and start work in your PJs'' type? Or are you keeping up the same routine you normally would, except at home? Either way, you might find some challenges to your productivity, and we’re here to help!
I’ve experienced both styles - office life, and making my own hours working from home - so I’ve compiled some tried-and-true methods I use to stay focused and productive. This isn’t always easy at home with art supplies, tasty snacks, and an attention hog of a cat! If you’re new to WFH and finding it a challenge, you’re not alone. Read my tips, figure out what works for you, and soon you’ll find yourself concentrating like a WFH star!
Personal preparation matters
Okay, I know I mentioned you might be working in your PJs, but I don’t actually recommend it! Feeling appropriately garbed and ready for the day’s challenges can really boost your WFH game. Wake up with enough time to prepare as if you were going to the office: shower, go through your skincare routine, and get dressed. I’ve continued wearing my comfier work clothes, but if your work normally calls for a more formal dress code, you can relax a bit while staying professional. Ask yourself if you’d feel appropriate taking a video call in what you’re wearing!
Optimize your workspace
These suggestions work for an already designated daily workspace, and if you haven’t sorted that yet, our tips for transitioning to WFH might be useful! What works for me is having a clean, organized workspace that is completely dedicated to my workday. When not WFH, my laptop normally shares space on my desk with a jewelry tree, some painting supplies, crystals, and a coin jar. Not distracting at all, right?
One of the first things I did after distancing was declutter the surface of my desk, so that every item not work-related found another home. You might also consider getting a desk extender and a floor mat so you can work while standing. Even if your regular WFH spot is a seat at your kitchen table, take five minutes in the morning to clear the space intentionally. On the wall by my desk, I have mantras that I like to remind myself of throughout the day: “Drink Water”, and “5 Minutes”. I’ll explain the second phrase in another tip below!
It can be tricky to discuss the new daily dynamic with people you share space with. Communicate expectations about what WFH and your ability to interact throughout the day will look like before any interpersonal issues crop up. If you have a separate workroom, keep the door closed, and a sign on the door like “Workspace 9 am-5 pm!” is a good reminder.
If you’re working from a shared space, have an earnest discussion about not being disturbed. This even applies to pets - it’s easy to want to engage, so you may need to practice not being distracted by them everytime they approach you! If you have young children, things can be more complicated; do your best to work out a care schedule with your partner or a family member in the house that allows you some uninterrupted work hours.
Curate your environment
If possible, choose a workspace in an area where there aren’t many visual distractions. Utilizing headphones during the workday - both on the part of the people you share space with, and on your part - can reduce background noise and provide you with some motivating tunes. I love upbeat music without lyrics to stay focused, so artists like Caribou or Emancipator are ideal for keeping me focused. Maybe classical playing softly in the background is what keeps you most focused.
You could also try out nature sounds with an app like Calm if music doesn’t work for you - this can help drown out the sound of the dog barking next door, or your neighbor’s lawn mower, as well as keep you engaged and on track.
Set yourself up for success by eating balanced, healthy meals and energizing snacks, avoiding drastic caffeine spikes, and incorporating supplements for cognitive support. If you're eating sugary treats or processed snacks, you will likely experience spikes in your blood sugar, and then energy crashes. Likewise, if you are overdoing it on the coffee, you might find your daily abilities have dramatic highs and lows. My go-to drink is matcha, as the naturally high levels of L-theanine offer a calming effect that balances its gentle caffeine. Nervous system-supportive adaptogens like ginseng, or a targeted supplement for concentration and focus can also really up your mental staying power during your workday.
I admit to being very distractible at times, so I’ve worked to develop habits to make up for that trait! I often use the Pomodoro Technique; this is a system of work and short breaks, timed to give your brain a few minutes to reset. My sign by my desk, “5 Minutes”, reminds me to give every task at least five minutes of my time. If I'm still struggling to progress after that, I can move on to something else, but often the short time commitment helps me get into a flow state and keep working. I also recommend screen hygiene: putting your distracting phone the heck away! You can even utilize blocker apps to keep you away from your favorite time-wasting websites.
Move your body
You might have more trouble getting up to move around at home, with your different work routine. Give yourself reminders to stay mindful: breathe, stretch, get up and walk around, listen to your body. I keep my back limber with seated cat-cow movements; you can also try a browser extension that will offer reminders for movement with different options! Elevating your heart rate and moving your muscles throughout the day is a great way to boost your cognition.