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Four Ways To Improve Your Focus When You Work From Home

Working from home can be a lot more productive than working in an office if you set some parameters.

Four Ways To Improve Your Focus When You Work From Home
[Photo: kimberrywood/iStock]

If you want to get more done at work, consider staying at home. People who work remotely three to four days a week are more engaged with their work, according to Gallup’s latest “State of the American Workplace” report. Gone are distractions like office politics, water-cooler gossip and loud coworkers, but there are special temptations when you are saving hours a day not commuting. The television, household chores, and housemates can slow things down, making productivity a challenge when personal and business time intermingle.

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“Working from home can be successful only if organizations and individuals embrace work-life integration instead of work-life balance,” says Holger Reisinger, author of Get S#!t Done! and senior vice president of headset manufacturer Jabra. “Rather than trying to balance work and personal lives, employees should organize their work so it seamlessly blends with family and recreational time. This enables employees to achieve tasks when they’re most productive, and when it’s most convenient.”

Instead of fleeing to the local coffee shop, maintain your business focus at home by using these four tricks:

1. Follow Your Ultradian Rhythm

The natural circular pattern between the two hemispheres of the brain is called the ultradian rhythm, and going with its flow can help you optimize your focus, says Reisinger. “For 90-120 minutes, we’re dominated by the left side of our brain and see a boost in productivity,” he says. “Then for 20 minutes, we’re dominated by the right side of our brain as we feel a sudden urge to yawn, eat, and stretch.”

Find your rhythm by keeping track of the time of day you feel most focused and the time you feel fatigued. During those left-brain cycles, tackle important tasks, and during right-brain cycles, take advantage of working from home and by using the time for your favorite activities like reading a book, practicing yoga, or grabbing your favorite snack from the kitchen.

Office distractions or schedules can force you to change your frame of mind, but at home it’s up to you to take a breather, adds Colin Doherty, CEO of the communication software platform Fuze.

“Take time to detach from your work for a mental reset,” he says. “Being engaged is very important, but taking time to decompress can help you make your time online more valuable.”

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2. Ask For Privacy

If you work from home and there are others around, don’t just assume they’ll know you’re busy or need to concentrate—tell them, says Reisinger.

“You’re rarely interrupted if your spouse or kids truly understand that you’re under pressure to perform,” he says. You can also use a subtle reminder, such as closing the door to your home office or putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your desk.

3. Set Your Own Business Hours

When you’re working in an office, you can clearly see when colleagues are signing on and off for the day, but when you work from home you will likely create your own schedule. If your employer allows for a flexible workday and you aren’t needed to be online or available at a particular time, then form your own workplace traditions , says Doherty, whose company recently implemented a “work-from-anywhere” policy, encouraging employees to work wherever they feel most productive.

For example, night owls might prefer working evenings, and parents might choose to work around the family schedule. Set office hours and then stick to them, scheduling nonwork-related tasks to your time off.

“The beauty of being a remote worker is having the flexibility to tailor your workday to your personal needs,” he says. “Embrace it.”

4. Get In The Right Mind-Set

Focusing at work can be easier, because being in the space reminds you that you’re there to work. When you work from home, however, you don’t have that separation, so you might need to rely on tools to get in the right mind-set, says Patric Palm, CEO and cofounder of the planning and collaboration app Favro.

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“Use noise-conflation earphones,” he says. “Even if you’re in a quiet area, there’s something about noise-conflation earphones that get you in the zone to focus. Additionally, listening to instrumental music with a good rhythm can minimize distractions while working from home.”

It also helps to get out of your sweats or pajamas. Dressing in professional attire when you work from home can boost productivity by making you feel more present, committed, and engaged.