If you work from home, or bring tasks home from work, you probably understand how tough it can be to get things done with amid distractions such as family, chores and TV.
“A home office is more than desk and home for binder clips and important papers,” said Maeve Richmond, founder of Maeve’s Method. “Ideally it’s a spot where you can accomplish the business of life: paying bills, corresponding with friends, planning life for yourself or for others.”
To get work done at home, Richmond recommends three things:
Location, Location, Location
Find a location for your desk that can be free of distraction for blocks of time.
“A spare room is ideal,” said Richmond, “but not everyone has that space, so a home office can also be a basket that lives in a corner of the living room, with your couch serving as chair and your coffee table serving as desk. More important than physical space is creating an environment that enables mental focus. A situation where you can concentrate for stretches of time, long enough to get things done.”
Keep it Calm
The ability to concentrate is more than self-discipline, said Richmond. It’s about being relaxed. It’s easier to get things done when we’re naturally relaxed.
“When we are stressed, overtired or rushing, accomplishing basic tasks can become overwhelming,” she said.
For that reason, she recommends choosing an area of your home that first and foremost makes you happy.
“If quiet calms your mind, then choose an area of the home where the noise of life does not penetrate. Perhaps a back room, a basement or attic, or an unused corner of a low-traffic room. If you can’t get things done without sunlight or nature, center your home office around a treasured window, or a cluster of houseplants. Focus first on what surroundings you need to be productive, then from there, seek out an area of your home that supports this plan.”
In order to avoid getting distracted working at home, Richmond said you need to learn to be realistic about your “concentration window.”
“For many, focused work lasts only 20-30 minutes before a break is necessary. And with our beeping, buzzing, smart-phone and texting world, many of us have even shorter attention span,” she said. “This is ok! Sometimes all it takes to refocus is a pause to breathe, stretch or get a sip of water.”
Find your “concentration window,” she suggests, and then reinforce it by setting a gentle alarm.
To reduce the stress associated with getting things done as well as increasing your success, Richmond offers the following recommendations:
- Learn to stop, press pause, breath at regular increments to reduce burnout.
- Learn to break projects down into baby bites, small bite-sized chunks.
- Manage your expectations up front about how much you can get done in an hour, or in a day.
- Do not try and get through all your piles in one weekend or one day.
- Don’t beat yourself up for losing focus! The mind is designed to wander. Often our best brainstorms come when we mentally drift away. If mind-wandering gets the best of you, accept that your brain has other things to do and step away.
Finally, she said, if “locating quiet space is out of the question, embrace getting things done under headphones, a stream of quiet or meditative music can drown out unavoidable noise.”