Hello everybody, welcome to Episode 6 of Optimal Living Advice: the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show.
I’m certified life coach Greg Audino, and today’s episode is near and dear to me because I completely deal with the same thing. And because I love talking about myself, I’m going to love answering this question. Simple as that!
Let’s get into it.
QUESTION: “Hi Greg — I recently transitioned from a corporate job working the normal 8am-6pm schedule to now working from home. It’s been about a year now since I initially started working from home and I found that it’s really difficult for me to stay focused and to pay attention to what really needs to get done. It’s very difficult for me to try and avoid different things like my dogs, or wanting to clean the house or just really anything else other than my actual work that I need to do. So I was wondering if you have any tips or tricks for me to try to stay focused.”
Oh yeah, I've been there.
For those of us who work from home — especially with the coronavirus these days — it's a very tricky situation to find ourselves in. It’s easy to dream of more independence when working from an office, yet once we acquire that independence we’re just not quite sure what to do with it.
While that’s not true for all people, for the people it does apply to, it’s usually because an office doesn’t provide other options, right? Aside from maybe your phone or the mysterious hottie in the cubicle next to you, an office doesn’t give you the same sort of distractions. It’s an environment that’s designed for you to work in it, and though that work might be useless and mind-numbing, you generally don’t have to exert much willpower in order to get work done.
Editor's Note: 1) Visit sites like The Simple Dollar to learn more about remote work opportunities.
2) Check out Dr. Neal's health post on tips for sitting at a computer all day with remote work.
Redesign Your Environment for Working from Home
So for those of us working from home, it’s important to redesign our homes in the same way so we can mute our impulses as well as possible.
Before I go on, I'd like to recommend for those of you in a similar predicament to listen to Episode 2 about sustaining habits, because I think there’s a lot of crossover there.
But there are a few things to consider when setting up our home work lives in this way, so I’m going to break it into two sections: general tips and tips that are unique to you.
We’ll start with general tips.
General Tips for Working from Home
One element of an office environment that’s really hard but necessary to execute at home is accountability.
At an office, there are so many team members relying on you to do your part, a boss watching over you, etc. When those people are gone, we hold ourselves accountable, and though we definitely need to make that money, it can still be difficult to sort of parent ourselves in this way.
I think it’s very important to start the day with a plan. Get extremely clear about what you want to do get done, and voice it out loud (which will be okay, cause you won’t have any coworkers around to think you’re a weirdo for shouting out your work responsibilities). Get as specific as you can about what you need to get done, how you’re gonna do it, and belt it out for the people in the back. Research shows the likelihood of getting anything done is greatly increased both when there’s specificity and when it’s spoken aloud, so capitalize on those two at the beginning of each day.
Be Specific about When
A great supplement to that is to be specific about when this work is going to get done. Sticking to the same time schedule each day puts us in a great rhythm over time. Again, the less specificity, the less likely you are to focus and do what you need to do. Be clear not only about when you’re going be working, but when you’re going to tend to your other responsibilities that you mentioned. Schedule 15 minute dog breaks throughout the day. Schedule a quick 10 minute clean up if it’s necessary. The more you can compartmentalize, the less vague each action will be. You’ll know time is allotted for each task, thus you won’t have to worry about when those tasks will get done while you’re performing other…tasks. That’s a lot of tasks but you guys get it. And if not, you can rewind.
Be Specific about Where
Now, equally important to what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it is WHERE you’re going to do it.
Just like designating time for certain things, it’s also immensely helpful to designate physical space for certain things. Create an area in your home that is reserved only for work. A room, a desk, where nothing is performed besides work. Don’t eat over there, don’t scroll through Instagram over there, don’t listen to this podcast over there, don’t…reproduce over there. Not even after work hours. The more you can identify time and space with work, just like at an office, the more you can get done.
What are Your Personal Preferences when Working from Home?
The above ideas work for a lot of people. They’re proven methods that DO help, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do some thinking about your personal preferences and put them to use as well.
So let’s cover some questions you can ask yourself to get you to rethink not only your work habits, but the very idea of working from home. This is where the difference can lie between regular discipline and enjoyable discipline.
Define “Work” and “Play”
I want to start by asking you to take a minute and really think about what work and play mean to you as an individual. How do you differentiate the two? How are they similar? Can they be integrated in a creative way that makes the work more enjoyable, but doesn’t have a negative affect on your focus?
A good way of streamlining some answers for this question might be looking into some of your most productive moments in the past. Under what conditions have you worked best in the past, and how can they be replicated in your new work conditions? Maybe you always got a boost when talking to a certain coworker at lunch, and now you can call them on the phone during the lunch break you designate for yourself. Think hard on this.
Look Ahead and Visualize
You might also look ahead, and visualize what a perfect, ideal work life would be, even if it seems completely impossible and sounds like nonsense. What does your dream work life look like, and are there any pieces of THAT that you can integrate? Sit with these questions, maybe write the answers down, and make an effort to personalize this experience for you so your work life CAN be on your own terms now, just as you hoped it would be when transitioning out of your corporate job last year.
The last thing I want to bring to your attention before wrapping things up is the very definition of “working from home” and what labels or imagery you associate that with. In spite of the strategies I listed earlier before, the idea of staying in the house all day might be depressing as hell. With the exception of a stay-at-home or lockdown order in your country or community, you don’t have to stay in all day. The breaks you schedule can be out of the house. Or, you can always get your work done at a coffee shop or a shared workspace. Maybe you might use this opportunity to travel more and work while you’re on vacation. Schedule time to stay connected through phone or video.
Whether it’s work that takes place in or out of the office, it doesn’t have to be void of interaction, communal support, or meaningful personal experiences. Making an effort to get to know your values and your strengths gives you more of an ability to sprinkle them everywhere in life. With how stressful work can be and how poorly the work-life balance is for many of us, including these things within work life specifically might be where it’s most fortifying.
Okie doke. This goes beyond me and the woman who was kind enough to send this question in. A lot of people are working from home these days and, additionally, a lot of people have a harder time focusing these days. So answering this question was important, and I hope you all found the answer useful.
Of course, we here at Optimal Living Advice thrive on viewer questions, so if you have your own question you’d like answered on the show, please do send it in to firstname.lastname@example.org
I will do my best to answer them all thoroughly, compassionately, and honestly. All right? That’s it for this one, folks. Have a good one and see you next time!
Editor's Note: Visit sites like The Simple Dollar to learn more about remote work opportunities.