“You can always find a distraction if you’re looking for one.” – Tom Kite
As somebody who works from home, I find that having autonomy over when and how I work has big upsides but plenty of downsides. Yes, I have more flexible time, don’t have to commute, can cook lunch just a few feet from my desk, and can go to the gym in the middle of the day, when it is super quiet. However, I also have to manufacture structure and discipline for myself, which is much harder than you might think.
Those of you who work from home will probably know what I’m talking about when I say that it is much harder to use your time productively when at home. The distractions are on another level! Whether it’s the internet, a games console with an unfinished game on it, a needy pet, or glaring chores that need to be done around the house… they are all big pullers of our attention.
So, how to be conscious of your distractions, tear yourself away from them and get some work done? Here are a few ideas…
1. Don’t Freewheel It!
First of all, these tips are not just for home workers, this problem covers workspaces all over the world! This tip goes out to all procrastinators, wherever you are. Don’t begin your workday without a plan. Start by writing down what you need to get done, prioritising it and attaching a time period to each task. This helps the mind to aim towards goals and means that you will not waste time or make mistakes throughout the day when wondering what to do next.
2. Short Bursts
Each brain works differently. Mine, for example, works better in the morning, which is why I will sooner start early if I need to catch up, then work late. However, every brain needs rest. Your concentration will be better in short bursts, as opposed to making yourself marathon through hours and hours of work, your brain gradually tiring as you go.
Do whatever works for you. However, as an example, I schedule a ten-minute break every hour. I have more energy this way, and also, my brain tends to process tricky ‘work stuff’ when it is resting, resulting in quicker solutions when I return to the task at hand.
Getting sucked in by your phone or the lure of the Twitter tab on your desktop? Block them! If you can’t exert self-control in this area, block those tempting sites and apps. There are many programmes and blocking apps available for free!
4. Allow the Distractions
If blocking isn’t something you fancy, try giving yourself distraction breaks. I often use some of my ten-minute breaks to scroll through social media, play a computer game or read the news. Good or bad, it is sometimes the thing I need to make me happy and allowing it occasionally helps me get through to the evening.
5. Smaller Goals
Sometimes, thinking about the cumulative enormity of the sum of all the tasks you need to get through is overwhelming. Break it all down and concentrate on one, a smaller milestone at a time. Try not to focus on the whole, instead give your attention to its components.
6. Sleep Well
We all know this, but there’s nothing wrong with a reminder, a good night’s sleep really does reap benefits the next day. Your body heals and recharges at night. Not getting the hours that you need is a bit like recharging your phone to, 68%. You might be alright until mid-afternoon, but your brain might shut down a bit after that!
7. Start Your Morning Helpfully
That snooze button is tempting in the morning. However, if you snooze repeatedly and don’t give yourself enough time to wake up and acclimatise to the day before you start work, you will start on the back foot. Starting the day ‘not ready’ is just a recipe for a day that never quite manages to tick over very well. Give yourself time to wake up properly, have some time to yourself, and begin the day feeling refreshed and focused.
8. Get Comfortable, Get Simple
Most of us spend around eight hours working per day, right? If you are doing that in a place that is not comfortable to be in, the quality of your work is likely to suffer. Make sure your set-up is conducive to productivity, and that it is not a place that’s distracting because it is uncomfortable or overwhelming. My setup, comfort-wise, is a supportive chair, next to a window that I can contemplate out of and open if it gets too hot, and a pair of noise-cancelling headphones through which I pump rainfall soundscapes (this makes me feel like I’m in my own, isolated world).
And also, keep the space simple. If you can shut yourself in a separate room that contains only what you need for work, then all the better!
By Chris Thomson
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