Unfocused? How to be more productive working from home

Apr 16, 2020

I have a confession to make!

Yesterday, I was completely stunned when I realised — I hadn’t been outside my property for an entire week. And even then, I’d only left the house once in the past 11 days!

Why is this so shocking?

In Australia, we’re not in full lockdown. We still have the freedom to go outside (while social distancing) for essentials or daily exercise. So, while I’ve been doing home workouts and spending time in my sunny courtyard, I was surprised I’d been confined to my house for so long.

Yes, there are individuals in the world who don’t have the luxury to leave their homes. And I’d self-isolated myself without even noticing!

It started innocently enough. I was working a little bit later into the evenings, then every weekend. Because really — do weekends even exist anymore?!

Before I knew it, I’d quickly fallen back into an old pattern I know so well. Overworking, staying up too late and experiencing insomnia from an overactive mind. Feeling exhausted the next day, reaching for another coffee by lunchtime — then repeating the cycle again.

And I know exactly where this leads — burnout.

Despite working from home for 7 years, even I’m finding the isolation and restrictions a challenge.

Thankfully, I’m now completely aware of the old, conditioned behaviours I can subconsciously return to. With this insight, I went back to basics. To the proven methods that help me remain focused, productive and balanced — even during these strange times!

Stuck in overwhelm, procrastination or struggling to adjust to working from home?

Read on to discover 6 simple strategies to boost your productivity while working remotely. You’ll learn how to stay focused during the current climate — and well into the future!

TIP #1– ESTABLISH A MORNING ROUTINE

The way you start your morning sets the tone for your entire day. Having an effective morning routine is therefore a critical piece to staying focused and productive throughout your working day. This is especially important right now when you’re working from home, surrounded by disruptions and your normal schedule has been thrown out the window!

First, getting the basics in place is crucial — plenty of sleep, a balanced diet and daily exercise.

Including a work-out as part of your morning routine is ideal. However, I know some days this can be a struggle (it certainly has been for me lately!). So, go easy on yourself and be flexible but prioritise fitting some form of movement into your day.

Second, your morning routine should focus on self-care and activities that calm your mind and set you up right for the day. I find journaling first thing — with a coffee in hand! — to be an excellent way to process my thoughts and stay calm at this time. Many people I know combine this with a gratitude practice, writing down the 3-5 things they’re grateful for.

My other go-to recommendation is to start your day with a short meditation (10 – 20 minutes tops). If this practice is new to you, start with 5 minutes each morning and do a guided meditation using an app like Insight Timer or Calm. Alternatively, do yoga or another form of mindfulness to get focused in the present moment.

Mindset is the foundation of focus and productivity, as your thoughts and feelings directly influence your actions and results. Then, the right strategy is needed to ensure you take the correct steps and stay productive.

TIP #2 — CREATE A SHORT-TERM VISION

“Vision is a destination. A fixed point to which we focus all effort. Strategy is a route. An adaptable path to get us to where we want to go.” Simon Sinek

This is one of my favourite quotes because it really captures the starting point of the work that I do with every client.

The secret to greater focus, productivity and fulfillment in your work and life? Knowing what you’re working towards and why.

I’ve shared many times before that this needs to start with a compelling vision. Why?

Because trying to define a specific goal upfront without considering the big picture of what you want in your personal or professional life is like trying to plan a journey without a final destination point!

Once you’re clear on your vision, you can easily figure out the right goals and action steps to take to reach it. I usually suggest starting with an overall, long-term vision — what you want to create in 3-5 years’ time. Then, using this vision to plan each year ahead and set goals on a quarterly basis.

But these are not usual times! For many life has changed dramatically. And right now, it’s difficult to plan too far ahead.

Instead at this time, I recommend creating a short-term vision for the next 3-6 months.

Here’s a simple exercise you can do to get you focused on exactly what you want. Picture yourself in 3-6 months’ time, as if it’s already happened. Ask yourself:

  • How do you want to spend this time?
  • What do you want to accomplish in your business, career and life over this period?
  • Who do you want to be as a person — what qualities do you want to embrace?
  • How do you want to feel?

Knowing your ‘why’ — the purpose behind what you’re doing — is also essential. When you’re considering how to spend your time or what to focus on in your business, having a strong ‘why’ will keep you motivated, even on those tough days. This is especially important right now!

TIP #3 — FOCUS ON 90-DAY GOALS

Next, you’re going to reverse engineer this vision to identify the specific goals and action steps you need to take.

What goals or projects do you need to focus on to reach this vision?

To keep this realistic and achievable, commit to 1-3 priority goals for the next 90 days. Limit it to a maximum of 3 goals for the quarter — anymore will be overwhelming. Alternatively, if this timeframe is unrealistic or it makes more sense, choose one primary goal for the month ahead.

TIP #4 — DEVELOP A WEEKLY PLAN

Next, schedule a regular time each week to plan the following week in advance. This is critical. If you skip this step, you’ll quickly lose momentum and will end up reactive instead of proactive, unfocused and overwhelmed.

For each goal or project, map out the exact steps you’ll need to take to complete it. These are the individual tasks that you’ll be working on each day.

Then to create a weekly plan, allocate specific tasks for the week ahead and include a completion date for each. If you’re unable to finish certain tasks, move them to the following week.

TIP #5 — MORNING + END OF DAY WORK RITUALS

No matter what time you start or how many hours you can work each day, use the following structure to stay focused and productive throughout the day.

First, as soon as you sit down at your computer each morning, do a quick check-in before you start work. Get clear on the top 3 tasks you’ll work on that day. And most importantly, the number one priority task you’ll start with — which you need to complete before moving on to anything else.

Second, before you close up shop, briefly review your progress at the end of the day. What is the one accomplishment or outcome you’re celebrating from today? Taking time to celebrate the small wins and progress towards your big goals is key to staying motivated and productive!

Then, update your task list and select your daily Big 3. These are the most essential action items to focus on the following day. This step gives closure to your day and sets you up for success the next morning.

TIP #6 — SET BOUNDARIES

Putting boundaries in place is vital to stay healthy, manage stress and remain productive. Especially now while you’re working from home.

Start by placing clear limits on your working hours. Set clear start and finish times, avoid doing household tasks (like laundry!) during your workday and put a hard stop on overtime. Pack away your work at the end of the day, close your office door or do whatever you can to switch off from work, relax and enjoy your evening!

Next, be sure to take regular breaks throughout your working day. Get outside in the fresh air for lunch or a walk around the block. Stand up from behind your computer every 1-2 hours and move!

Finally, put boundaries in place around your online usage. Whilst it’s important to stay connected, being constantly bombarded with information can create overwhelm, anxiety and impact your productivity at this time. Consider switching off the news and disconnecting from social media — or at least putting limits in place around your consumption time.

Implementing these strategies has helped my clients and I stay focused and improve our productivity. Especially whilst working remotely from home. I hope these tips support you too!

Want further support to improve productivity and figure out exactly where to focus your time? Click HERE to book a free Strategy Consult and find out how coaching with me can help you!

Stacey Back is an online business coach, career strategist and the Founder of Profile Careers. She helps high-achieving professionals go from feeling trapped in their corporate careers to starting a side business — or transitioning full-time into their own consultancy.

Stacey also supports existing consultants who are stuck in a business model they hate, working longer hours than ever or struggling to stay productive and make money in the current market. She helps them set the right foundations in their business so they can find more time, attract the right clients and create a consulting business doing the work they love — one that supports their ideal lifestyle.

Stacey works virtually with individuals based across Australia and internationally.