How to stay focused when working from home

A man working at a desk with the words "How to stay focused when working from home" superimposed.

There’s nothing quite like completing your tax return to remind you of your duties as a self-employed person! I did mine last week and, before doing so, have to admit that I’d got a little comfortable working both for myself and from home.

I usually wait until January to do mine as it’s a useful wake-up call after getting into a slack mindset over Christmas. January is a tough time of year to feel fully motivated. Particularly when all your home comforts are within stupidly easy reach.

While there’s no way I’d go back to my old job, I have to concede that it was much easier to focus in an office environment.

With that in mind, here are my tips on how to stay focused when working from home.

Set a schedule

Even with flexitime, there is a set number of hours to complete in most jobs. So there should be no exception for the self-employed. Of course, being your own boss allows much more flexibility as to exactly when you work, but with this comes the temptation to cut corners here and there.

Ordinarily, I work from 9am to 6pm including a couple of half-hour breaks. I also do the morning school run which doubles as a walk to work. This is especially handy as it forms a barrier between simply being at home and working from home.

Look the part

Even though I work full-time from home, I always wear shoes and never slippers. This is very important as it helps me keep a productive mindset. They don’t come off until the computer goes off.

Similarly, it’s important never to work in your pyjamas. If you’re ever running late for any reason, still get showered and dressed first. Sitting at your desk in loungewear as the morning ebbs away isn’t a good look or approach!

Keep things tidy

Okay, I fell foul of this one recently, but have since remedied it and admitted it so my conscience is clear! Having a tidy workspace is an absolute must for staying focused when working from home. They say a messy desk is a sign of genius, but it hasn’t worked for me yet and is the nemesis of productivity.

Only have the things you actually need on your desk and don’t dump clutter on it as you would with any other flat surface in the house. In fact, try not to treat it as part of the house at all.

Establish boundaries

My previous tips all relate to setting boundaries for yourself, but this is just as important. Other people in your home need to have boundaries as well. I’ll readily admit that this is far from easy – particularly with kids – but we got there soon enough.

Family members need to recognise that you are working and give you space. It’s also important to remember that they can’t ask you favours just because you’re there. Household chores and helping with homework simply have to wait until you’ve finished working for the day.

Don’t push yourself too much

Although it’s important to avoid becoming lazy, it can be easy to go too far in the opposite direction. Particularly with the addition of time that would otherwise be lost to a commute. I often made this mistake early on.

As a result, I was sometimes still busily working when the kids came upstairs for their bedtime routine. This wasn’t fair on them, of course, and the boundaries I mentioned earlier work both ways. It wasn’t fair of me to disrupt their routine with mine.

What are your tips for staying focused when working from home?


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