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Still Struggling With Working From Home? Get on Track With These StrategiesPublished: Feb. 5, 2021
For better or worse, working from home has become the new normal for many of us. And as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we could very well be punching in remotely for some time.
A year ago, working from home sounded great. You could wear pajamas, the kitchen was always open, and you couldn’t beat the 30-second commute.
But we didn’t anticipate the challenges. There are tons of distractions. Whether you’re alone and the house is too quiet or you’re home with the family and the kids are out of control, you may find it’s tough to stay on task, get your work done and feel productive.
The good news is it’s never too late to get on track. Try these strategies to stay motivated and make working from home work for you.
Create a Schedule
Without a structured workday, time can get away from you. You might find that you start shifting your workdays later and later as you sip an extra cup of coffee or two. Then your work hours extend later into the evenings, which causes you to stay up later at night. Establish a firm time to begin and end work, with breaks built in, then stick to it as best you can.
Establish a Dedicated Workspace
You might be tempted to work in bed. After all, it’s likely the most comfortable space in the house. But when you associate your bed with work, it can interfere with your sleep. And poor sleep can affect your performance the following day. The kitchen table or a desk in the corner of the living room might be better alternatives. If you have the space, you may even want to make an entire room your home office.
Work in Small Blocks of Time
Blocking out small amounts of time – and planning what you’ll do during them – can make tasks feel more manageable. You’ll also be holding yourself accountable. You’ll be less likely to get lost on social media when you know you have 15 minutes to complete a task, and you’re less likely to procrastinate when you’ve given yourself a deadline.
Limit Your Distractions and Interruptions
You might find that you struggle to get back on task after being interrupted. Counter that by limiting distractions. This may mean checking your email once an hour or at set times, muting your phone notifications or placing your phone on “Do Not Disturb” until you complete a specific task. If children or others are home as well, establish ground rules about what constitutes a legitimate reason for interrupting you.
Practice the “10-Minute Rule”
It can be hard to persuade yourself to start working on a task that you really don’t want to do. One of the best ways to begin is by using the “10-minute rule.” Tell yourself that you have to work on something for only 10 minutes. At the 10-minute mark, take a break if you want. More times than not, you’ll find that you choose to keep going. Usually the toughest part is getting started. But once you do, it’s easier to keep the momentum going.
You might find that you work best when you know there’s a little reward waiting for you. Tell yourself you can watch your favorite show if you get your work done by 6 p.m., or you can have a snack or cup of your favorite tea if you finish that report by noon. A little incentive can go a long way toward helping you get work done efficiently.
Sometimes a little challenge can help get you moving. Try writing a certain amount of words or completing a certain number of tasks in 30 minutes. Once you see what you can do, try beating it during the next 30 minutes.
Practice Good Self-Care
You’ll never be at your best if you’re exhausted and running solely on caffeine and sugar. You need a healthy diet, plenty of rest and good self-care strategies to perform at your peak. Eating a healthy diet might not be as easy when you’re limiting trips to the grocery store. And video chatting with friends isn’t the same as meeting in person. So take a step back every so often and ask yourself what else you can do to better take care of yourself.
Experiment With Different Strategies
There are plenty of online tips about how to work well from home. But everyone is different, and what works for one person might not work well for another. Maybe you do your best work in the morning, or you type faster sitting at a certain table in the house. Don’t hesitate to change your scenery and try different strategies to discover what works well for you.
Practice Regulating Your Emotions
Research shows that we tend to put off tasks that stir up uncomfortable emotions. For instance, if you don’t want to make a call or tackle an assignment because you know you might encounter issues, watching Netflix or getting lost in your phone might be more appealing. Remember: When you’re working from home, there are always plenty of opportunities to engage in something more fun than the work you’re supposed to be doing. So consider what emotion you’re trying to avoid, and remind yourself how good you’ll feel when complete your work.
Ask for Help
Working from home can be challenging in the best of circumstances. But don’t beat yourself up. This is uncharted territory for many of us as we work to keep up and stay motivated. If you’ve tried these techniques but still need help, consider reaching out. Your employer may be connected with an employee assistance program that can help.