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Working from home: staying motivated

So now you’ve got your place sorted and got all the tech you need, it’s time to get some work done.


It’ll be right around this time that you’ll realise how much more distracting your home is than an office. Not only is there no longer a boss looking over your shoulder, but you’ve got access to literally every fun thing that you own! When you’re at the office you can’t get away with losing 5 hours to a new video game or Netflix binge. At home it’s easy.


Finding the right routine


It’s always a good idea to set yourself some ground rules. Even if you know you’ll break them a bit, it’s good to have some kind of baseline – things like working for a straight hour before you check your phone or not playing your Xbox during any short breaks. You can be as strict or lax as you want, but give yourself some restrictions so that a bit of guilt might jolt you back to work when you get distracted.


Think about the things that will easily pull you away from your work. Then, if you can, put them out of sight and out of reach. Even leaving your phone in a different room will help. Anything that makes distractions easier to ignore will improve your productivity.


You also get to set your own hours and that means finding the ones best suited to your work ethic. That usually means you’re going to have to experiment a bit to find the best fit.


Some people will work better with an early start, a big break during the day (for childcare, perhaps) and then finishing up at night. Others might stick to the usual 9-5. There’s even those who practise biphasic sleep to increase the number of hours available to them. There are so many different options once you realise you can chop and change your working hours and days. Find the schedule that works the best for you and try your hardest to stick to it.


Dealing with your attention span


Our attention span is at once an asset and our enemy. Whether it dissipates 2 hours or 2 minutes into working, we all know that feeling as our mind begins to wander and work becomes increasingly like a chore. So how do we deal with that?


UCL have a few tips on how to deal with failing concentration. One of their tips is to literally say “stop” to yourself. In the comfort of your own home you can even shout it if you want. Their point is, rather than trying not to think of distracting thoughts – which will encourage them – you should simply allow them to arrive and say “stop”. By doing this and re-focusing, you should be able to regain your concentration and carry on with your work.


What you don’t want to end up doing is forcing yourself to work; trying to carry on when your mind is burned out. This isn’t hugely common, but if you’re feeling yourself getting overly frustrated and fed-up, you’re not going to produce good work. The quality will suffer and you could end up getting angry at yourself.


These are the perfect times to take advantage of living at home. Relax, make yourself a fancy dinner, go for a walk, get drunk. Whatever. Being a workaholic might mean getting a lot done, but don’t underestimate the value of putting it off for a bit of pleasure when things are getting too tough.


Be sure to remember that even in the office you go home at some point. Make sure your schedule involves a cut off point.


A few apps to keep you going


A lot of us might listen to music to avoid sitting and working in silence. While there are merits to that, music (especially with lyrics) can be distracting to some and could lead to lost time idly browsing Spotify. So, what’s the solution?


There is an app called Coffitivity. It’s a simple idea: you switch it on and you’re greeted with a recording of a coffee shop (there’s a few choices of real cafes as well). Not too loud as to be distracting, but not too quiet to make it pointless. It can add a bit of a buzz to your home, although it will give you a bigger urge to drink coffee than you’re already likely to have. It’s backed up by science too.


Another massive distraction are websites like Facebook and Twitter. They can be huge time sinks not because we spend hours at a time on them, but because we check them in little bursts so often. They can really interrupt your workflow and so it’s worth finding a way to shut them down.


Site blockers like Stayfocusd for Chrome and Mindful Browsing for Safari allow you to block distracting websites. This means that when you’re in the middle of work if you try to access a site you’ve turned off, like Facebook, you’ll be unable to do so. Of course there’s nothing to stop you from disabling the extension, but that extra barrier should work as a deterrent when the only thing on the other side is your friend’s update about their stupid baby.


In the end, it’s about ignoring a lot of the things that make your home a home. There’s positives and negatives to working where you live, and this is one of the big ones. To some, working from home comes naturally – for others it’s a real struggle. All it takes is a little self-control.


Photo by Maureen Didde

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