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Losing steam? Here are 7 ways to stay focused as you continue working from home

A man sits at a desk, going through his computer.
A man sits at a desk, going through his computer.

When you first learned you would be working from home, were you thrilled? The freedom of possibly setting your own hours, having no boss looking over your shoulder, not having to deal with unpredictable colleagues -- it all sounded pretty amazing.

Then, the novelty started wearing off. You’ve probably realized by now that working from home has its challenges -- especially if you’re an extrovert. Maybe you told yourself you’ll be back in the office before you knew it. But then weeks turned to months with no such luck.

If you’ve found yourself struggling to cope with the challenges, below are a few pointers to help you stay motivated and productive as you continue to work from home. Coping mechanisms are different, depending on whether you live alone, with a partner or children. However, there are general techniques you can use, whatever your living arrangements may be.

1. Create a home office.

Set aside a designated working space. Depending on the size of your home, you could set aside a different room or just a corner of your living room. If you are highly disciplined, it could even be a corner of your bedroom.

Let your housemates know that the minute you sit at your “office,” you are working and they should respect this.

2. Set a routine as you had in the office.

Human beings are creatures of habit. Create a routine that, as much as possible, reflects your old work schedule. Wake up at a regular time, go through your morning tasks, including dressing for work, then sit at your desk by a set time.

When are you most productive? Determine this, then set a schedule accordingly. If, for instance, you are a morning person, wake up before the rest of the household and put in an hour or two of work. Even if you live alone, make the best use of your most productive time.

3. Look after yourself.

Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, drink enough water, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. If possible, really try to make time for things you enjoy. You may not be able to go out, but you now have more opportunities to work on your hobbies.

4. Take breaks.

Just like you take coffee and lunch breaks when working at the office, take breaks from your home office. Get away from your desk every hour or so. Fetch a drink of water from the kitchen, or simply take a minute and look out the window.

If possible, walk outside to get some fresh air, clear your head, and unlock your creativity. A 2011 study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign indicates that taking breaks helps to increase productivity and focus.

5. Let your mind wander.

Allow yourself to daydream. When you are looking for a solution to a particularly tricky situation, switch to a simple task and let the mind switch gears. Recent research by the University of British Columbia found that when we daydream, the problem-solving areas of our brain go into active gear to solve the problem. So, daydream on.

6. Stay connected to the team.

Make a point of staying in touch with your team. Depending on the nature of the task, consult the team or a relevant team member, perhaps once a day or every two days.

Do not lose connection with your team. If you do, you risk losing peer motivation and the excitement of collective success.

7. Have a clock-off time.

When you work in an office, you would normally leave at a given time. Maintain that, even when working from home. Knowing that you will clock out at 5 p.m. keeps you focused. You are unlikely to be sidetracked into, for instance, doing your laundry or walking the dog. You have to complete the day’s tasks by a given time.

End the working day by writing a to-do list for the following day. This helps your brain to accept that the working day is over and helps you to get started the next day.

Avoid these time-wasters:

• Unstructured and unplanned internet surfing

Friends may overwhelm you with messages. Learn to assess content swiftly. Read what is useful; delete the rest or keep it for later.

• Unplanned phone calls

Sometimes, when family and friends know you are working from home, they can phone “just for a chat.” Learn to deal with such calls firmly but politely, saying something like, “I’ll call you back.” Call them after working hours and explain your working situation, and that you need as few distractions as possible.

Finally

Working from home is here to stay. Accept this and adjust accordingly. Make any alterations you need to stay on top of the game.