Tips for being more focused and productive when working from home
Whether you love it or loathe it, working from home has defined this year for many of us, and looks set to continue to be a mainstay of our lives for the foreseeable future. Depending on how you look at it, this could be a huge step forward for work culture or a complete disaster.
While there are definitely some of us who can’t get enough of the flexibility and autonomy provided by remote working, there are those of us who find our productivity negatively affected. Of course, not to be forgotten is the fact that this mass shift to telecommuting hasn’t occurred under ideal circumstances. Yes – there are always going to be things to distract us from the task at hand. But the scenes in most homes in 2020 are certainly a far cry from what the “founding father” of telecommuting, former NASA engineer Jack Nilles envisioned back in 1973. Although he did predict we’d be commuting less and spending more time with family!
One thing we can all agree on is that distraction is a huge problem. It might be a communal living situation that keeps you from focusing, it could be that you’ve got kids at home who need your attention throughout the day, or maybe it’s just the constantly updating headlines and tweets filling you in on the latest bad news.
We know it pays to ask the experts, so last month we surveyed the Freedom community! Overwhelmingly your number one challenge when working from home was being distracted in some form or another. After distraction, procrastination was a top problem for remote workers, followed by difficulty establishing or maintaining boundaries between work and the rest-of-life.
Then there are the physical challenges – aches and pains from bad posture, lack of exercise, feeling too hot or cold, tiredness. So we get it. Working from home is not always a walk in the park (but a literal walk in the park will do you some good!). Even if you prefer working from your home to the office 9-5, there are still ways to refine so you can optimize your productivity, while prioritizing your health and happiness.
We recently collaborated with WFH veteran Sam Pearce to bring you our ultimate guide to working from home. Sam is an ex-account director and the founder of Train of Thought, which offers coaching, training, and consultancy, and we love his balanced approach to productivity. We’re pleased to be able to bring you Sam’s 4-part video series, along with some tips and tricks from the Freedom community, so you can survive (and thrive) remote working into the next year and beyond!
1. Where you work matters
It may seem obvious, but being thrown into the world of remote work left many of us unprepared with regards to a home “office”. The environment in which you work matters hugely and affects you mentally and physically. If you have work to do, thinking about where you are working can help you massively. A productive workspace is one that suits your needs and brings out the best in you. The question to ask yourself is: how can I create a space that helps me to do what I need to do?
Freedom users also know the importance of having a designated, well set-up workspace. Especially when it comes to defining boundaries between home and family life:
Designate a workspace (ideally with a door) and use it only for work. When you’re in the space, train others not to disturb you unless essential. When you leave the space, act like you’ve left the office: don’t go back until your next work session.Charlie, Scotland
And as tempting as it may be, treating your home workspace as if you were going to the office is a proven method among the Freedom community:
I get into a mindset to work by “dressing up” and feeling professional and in the “work zone”. I also set work hours for each day and leave my home office when my hours are done.Lynda, Florida
2. Find your focus
The world is a distracting place – especially in 2020. While there are many useful tools, the majority of tech doesn’t help us to be better at our jobs – it takes time from us, and leaves us less able to think deeply. As a longtime Freedom fan, Sam knows the value in blocking distracting websites and apps, but he also highlights the value in understanding your habits so you know exactly why you’re getting distracted. Sam’s also a fan of Cal Newport’s Deep Work method, which you can read about right here on the blog!
Of course, we weren’t surprised to hear learn that most of you in the Freedom community know the benefits of blocking online distractions – but in a year where the whole family’s working from home, many of you need to block out the physical distractions in your immediate environment, too:
Listening to ambient music with noise-canceling headphones helps keep me focused. My home is colder than the office, which also distracts me, so I’ll go for a run to warm up, or wrap up in a blanket to keep me on-task.Mike, Colchester
Having a few professional musicians on our team at Freedom, we too are all too aware of the benefits of using music or ambient sound to help us work! This year we launched new Focus Sounds and music on the dashboard. Seeing how popular the Pomodoro Technique is within the Freedom team and our community, we also commissioned a series of 25 minute long tracks to accompany your Pomodoro sessions!
Using the Pomodoro Technique combined with Freedom is essential to keeping me focused on work.Pat, Poland
3. Look after your mind and body
Working from home is a huge change for many people – Patterns, habits, and relationships are all different. Not to mention the added stress and strife that has affected every one of us this year. Change can be hard – and stress takes an extra toll on your physical and mental wellbeing. Taking care of yourself is the single most important thing that you can do, and doing your job well depends on it, too!
From “existential dread” to “a constant desire to nap and snack”, it’s clear from your answers that staying of sound body and mind has been hard work this year! Perhaps the easiest and most effective way to look after yourself is to simply move:
I noticed my posture was negatively affected so I made an effort to incorporate more movement into my day. Getting up for breaks, practicing yoga at midday or simply moving to the living room when it was quiet to work in a different position have all helped. And remember to drink lots of water!Sheila, New York
4. A change is as good as a rest
Employers have been aware for quite some time of the positive effects on productivity when workers aren’t tied to their desks all day – it’s rare these days to see an office without a couch! When we work from home, it’s easy to end up stuck in the same room endlessly. We didn’t evolve to see the same wallpaper – we all need a change of scene. Sam delves into this, and also touches on those ideas we have of places that seem like they’d be a dream location, but aren’t actually all that conducive to working, after all (hello sandy beaches!).
The magic of mixing up your workspace is a secret that some of you in the Freedom community are already aware of:
Working from home I sometimes struggle with a lack of boundaries between different types of tasks. Going to cafes or working at different locations at home helps me better define where one task ends and another begins.Wei Jie, Singapore
Putting it into practice
It’s not to be forgotten that while experts have been predicting the shift to remote working for many decades, the situation we’re living through is unprecedented. Our hope is that by following the advice of these 4 steps you will be able to build lasting habits that make it easier to overcome the daily challenges we’re facing.
Our aim at Freedom has always been to help you do your best work while maintaining good health and sanity. A purpose which couldn’t have been better underlined by the events of this year. We’re all hoping for a better 2021, but whatever happens, you can trust that we will continue to keep supporting our community to be healthier, happier, and more productive.