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A working from home guide for the easily distracted

I’d like to state from the outset that I don’t consider myself a good candidate for ‘working from home’. I’ve been working in a professional capacity for long enough to be aware of my weaknesses and having a structured day and a distraction free environment are key to me being successful in my role as both a recruiter and business owner.

Despite this I do work from home quite frequently – albeit not in a conventional sense. I try my best to leave work at a reasonable hour as I have two young kids and spending time with my family is my priority. At the same time I often have calls, emails and admin to complete at the end of the day and so my routine regularly involves late calls or logging in to put some shape on my desk after a busy day from home.

As this is work that I both need and want to do, I find the usual challenges with working from home don’t factor into the equation. It’s the more intermittent occasions where through illness, injury or some other force majeure that I find myself working from home for a day or days that difficulties arise.

Working productively from home has been an evolving process for me, but one where there has been a significant uptick over the last 5 – 10 years and with the pending uncertainty surrounding Covid-19, I felt this was a good opportunity to walk through my system for staying productive outside of the office.

Here are my top 5 tips to not being a complete layabout when working from home:

Plan each day

Probably the simplest and best bit of advice I can give is to start by planning out your day. I always have a daily planner to keep my mind focused in the office and this becomes more essential when working from home. Agree with yourself what you want to get done and then commit to completing it even if it’s a lighter workload than normal. It can be a real challenge to maintain motivation outside of the workplace, but maintaining a level of self-accountability to a pre-defined work load is an effective way around this.

Be realistic

Being outside the office can reduce our access to tools, systems and support that can impact our productivity. When I find myself working from home I try to be realistic about what I am going to get done and keep my goals conservative. This doesn’t prevent me from ploughing on with things when my work is complete, but it does mean that each day I’ll accomplish a series of goals and this consistency is important especially if you plan to be working from home for an extended period of time.

Start early

Congratulations – your commute to work is now a walk into a separate room. It’s a very easy and very bad habit to start working later than normal when working from home. For me it’s critical that I go the other way. I make the first few hours of the day my most productive and at worst it may mean that my normal work day finishes a bit earlier. Changing your routine in the morning to benefit from the additional spare time can work for some people, but for many it sets us up for a day of distraction and procrastination. Get into the right mindset early and stay there until your self-agreed goals are completed.

Start easy

I’ve gotten to the point now where my home routine mirrors my office routine and prioritisation of activity is based around using my time efficiency. This was not always the case however and a tool I used to help me get into work mode was to start with something I enjoy. That could mean anything from writing a blog or putting together a creative advert to arranging calls with clients I’ve good relationships with. Often the biggest challenge to working productively at home is getting started in the first place – once you are into it the only thing you need to fear are … distractions.

Remove distractions

When I work from home I tend to use my home PC as opposed to my work laptop. The main issue with this is that my home PC is a custom built gaming beast with a fairly bloated game library. Giving in to any temptation to have a quick round of playerunknown during a coffee break is a recipe for disaster. I treat my workspace when working from home the same as if I’m in the office which means no games and DEFINITELY no Netflix.

Conclusion

I was surprised at how difficult I found it to work effectively from home when the possibility first became available. In a former life I was a competitive middle distance runner and maintaining a commitment to standards whilst operating in greater isolation is not a foreign concept to me. Despite this working from home was something I struggled with and for a long time I was unable to replicate my office work ethic when at home. It wasn’t until I adopted the same level of discipline and standard setting in work as in training that my home output began to mirror my office output. Plan well and be realistic about what you will likely get done, start straight away and avoid distractions and you are giving yourself the best chance of keeping your desk warm and active through any enforced remote working period.

 

Do you struggle to work from home or have you developed techniques that have helped you maintain focus? Comment and share in the discussion below.

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