Working from home has become the new normal for so many of us. Change can always be tough to navigate, even more so when everything around us is changing too. I’ve tried a lot of different strategies to stay focused from blocking out time in a more rigid schedule to working in concentrated 20-minute increments, but for whatever reason, I didn’t seem to stick to it.
When I worked for an agency I never wanted to work from home - I found myself too easily distracted by my efforts to multitask (e.g., trying to do laundry while working) plus I always enjoyed the camaraderie of co-workers at the office. When I left that career last year to work on my business full-time that meant I would be working from home. Aware of my own tendencies to be easily distracted, I was worried about how productive I would be in my new home office set up. It took some time to get used to, but I’ve put some practices in place that have proven to be extremely effective in boosting my at-home productivity.
YOUR WORK SPACE DEFINED
When you have a specific place to do your focused work and only your focused work, you will connect the environment and most likely feel more focused when you enter that space. I try to avoid working from my bed or the sofa. Clear away any clutter. Scientists at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute have used fMRI and other approaches to show that our brains like order, and that constant visual reminders of disorganization drain our cognitive resources and reduce our ability to focus.
INFUSE YOUR SPACE, ENGAGE YOUR SENSES
I really like creating rituals that involve the senses to help get into the work mode. This can be as simple as using essential oils like peppermint or something invigorating in a diffuser. Sometimes I’ll dab a drop at my crown (top of my head), under my nose, and right between my heart and belly button. Those are powerful meridian points. Engaging the olfactory senses in this way helps prime me so that when I smell that specific scent, I am making the correlation from my physical senses to my mind, that now is time to focus. According to Amy Galper, when you smell an essential oil that contains a particular set of molecules, it can then trigger behavior, moods, and emotions—like aiding you with focus, concentration, and alertness.
SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS
If you’re not ergonomically positioned it can have a negative impact not only on your body, but also on your energy level. Experiencing neck and back pain can deter you from performing at your best, and often cause you to halt your productivity. The best ergonomic solutions will often improve productivity. By designing a job to allow for good posture, less exertion, fewer motions and better heights and reaches, the workstation becomes more efficient according to Mark Middlesworth, President of ErgoPlus.
Make time for physical movement- even when you think you don’t have time. Exercise, even a little bit will make you more effective. One way that exercise can help boost productivity at work is through alertness. When you exercise, you are also increasing blood flow to the brain, which can help sharpen your awareness and make you more ready to tackle your next big project. A protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) boosts your cognitive abilities; and BDNF is triggered by exercise according to the American Council on Exercise.
According to Harvard Health regular exercise can help curb feelings of anxiety and depression. When you exercise, your brain releases serotonin that helps you feel better and improves your state of mind, making the stresses of work easier to handle. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that sends messages to the body to stimulate mood and emotion.
I hope incorporating some these changes will have a positive impact on your workday and help you keep your focus. Be well!