I have worked from the comfort of my home for nearly 20 years now. I used to love the atmosphere of fast-paced, high-tech, trendy office space when I lived in Silicon Valley. We had some pretty awesome perks! However, once my children came along, I found myself missing them dearly while I was away. Fortunately, my manager at the time, was a very forward-thinking guy and he allowed me to work remotely. At first, I missed the face-to-face interaction with my peers, but the trade-off was definitely worth it. While it may take more effort to focus when working from home, I don’t think I could ever go back to a daily commute and dressing myself in business casual every day. Yoga pants and hoodies are my dress code.
Working from home requires a lot of self-discipline and organization.The tips I’m going to provide for you are applicable whether you work in an office building or a home office. You can apply it to managing your home, or managing your health. Whatever your goal is, success boils down to one F word: Focus
Managing distractions is paramount to staying focused and on task. If you’re like me, working from home, it can be quite a challenge to sit down and write out that important email when there’s a pile of laundry staring you in the face. It’s not like I really want to do the laundry, but it is nevertheless a distraction that is keeping me from writing that email. I don’t “feel like” writing the email. I’d much rather do the easy thing that doesn’t take a lot of thought. Let’s not even mention my phone and social media addiction. I stop to let the dog out… and there goes twenty minutes of mindless scrolling.
Before you can improve your focus, you have to first admit and accept that distractions are not good for your productivity. There is no such thing as multitasking. Your mind cannot focus on two things at once. What you’re really doing is rapidly switching back and forth between the tasks. You may think you’re getting more done, but it has been scientifically proven that your results are dramatically less when compared to shutting out distractions and focusing on one thing at a time.
How Can I Manage Distractions?
The solution is going to blow your mind. Really! It’s so out-of-the-box, you won’t even believe it. Are you ready? Here it is: SET A TIMER
Yep! That’s it! Set a timer for, say, 15 minutes. Turn off all notifications, reminders, and silence your phone, For the next 15 minutes, do NOTHING but that task at hand. You will be amazed at how productive you are.
I have heard this advice, I don’t know how many times. It made sense, intellectually, but I couldn’t make myself take action. Finally, I was feeling so scattered and overwhelmed, I just did it. “Thinking about” doing something doesn’t produce any results. What matters is taking action. So I set my timer for 10 minutes, pen in hand, and didn’t look at my phone, email, nothing, for the full ten minutes. I can tell you, I reached my goal long before the timer went off! It was crazy! Ten minutes felt like 30 and I was shocked at how much easier it was to focus when I set that boundary of time to complete.
Practical Tips to Improve Focus
Other than setting a timer throughout the day, here are a few other tips to help keep your day streamlined and on target. I think it will help you feel less “busy” in your mind as well:
- Set a regular bedtime and wake time. Sleep is a critical component to keeping the mind focused and the brain energized. Going to bed and rising at the same time every day (even on the weekends) will help get your brain into a healthy groove. I could go on and on about how improve your sleep, but I’ll save that for another post.
- Plan your day, the night before. Before you leave the office or turn out the light, plan for the next day. What does your schedule look like? What are the 3 main things you need to do to move your business forward or move yourself closer to your goals? If you’re like me, you struggle with feeling like EVERYTHING is important. It’s not true!! Work on this and identify just 3 things that will make the most impact on your success.
- Get up. Show up. Step up. Scientific studies have shown that the first 3 hours of the day are the most creative for your brain. This is not social media scrolling, email reading, or other mindless activity time. This is when you brainstorm, feed your mind with personal development books, and work on those 3 main things you need to accomplish today.
- Don’t overthink it. Remember, most of the time you are not going to “feel like” doing that “thing.” Do it anyway. Start before you’re ready. Excessive preparation and planning is just a form of procrastination. I promise you that those who achieve great success don’t spend a lot of time just thinking about it. They take immediate, massive action. You can do it too! Don’t let the distraction of getting it “right” or the fear of failure, keep you from taking action. Take a deep breath and go for it!
This is my new focus, to drastically reduce multitasking in my life and manage distractions. I’ve set a goal to practice the tips above for 30 days and track my progress. If you’d like to join me in the challenge, please comment below. I’d love to hear all about it!!