Today’s Solutions: December 08, 2023

For many workers, the pandemic has forced a complete switch up of the daily routine. Rather than commuting to an office and settling into a dedicated workspace, many of us now work from the same place we wake up in. And while that may sound comfortable, it’s also making us way more susceptible to distractions—especially if you share your home with a partner and children or roommates.

If you’re looking to get more focus and productivity out of your workday, here are three tips that can make your work-from-home environment more effective.

Dedicate space for working from home: The reason offices work for many people is that space is inherently dedicated to working. Now that you’re working from home, it’s a good idea to organize your working space in a way that will prime you for focus and will help you avoid multitasking.

To do this, psychology professor Art Markman of the University of Texas at Austin recommends the following: Take a picture of your workspace. For a day or two, pay attention to what you find easy to do and what is difficult. Grab a sheet of paper. Sketch out what you would do if you could start over. Would you put your computer or chair in a different place? Perhaps put your desk along a different wall to get closer to the window (or maybe further from the distractions of staring outside). Are you in a corner of the room where sound bleeds through from other people in the house? Take a few hours and rearrange that workspace. You’re probably going to be working remotely for a while now, so invest some energy in making the space more productive.

Less is more: Being realistic about how much work you can get done from home can save you a lot of stress. To be realistic in a practical manner, try organizing a to-do list with six categories. First, draw a line down the center of the page top to bottom. On the left, you’re going to put the tasks you have to do that require your best self (or at least as close to that best self as you have available). On the right, list the tasks that require time, but not 110% effort. Then, divide the page into thirds. The top third are tasks you can do in 5-10 minutes. The middle third are tasks you can do in under a half-hour. The bottom third requires a sustained effort of more than 30 minutes.

Now, figure out where you can put at least one long time block of work in during the day. That may require you to sincerely ask your partner to watch the kids during that part of the day, or perhaps you’ll have to wake up a bit earlier. Just make sure you have at least one period each day when you can knock out something from the bottom third of the page. After that, when you find yourself with time to concentrate, check the to-do list for something to address before you reflexively open your email.

Back to basics: To keep yourself on task, consider going back to old school ways of organizing. Rather than using your phone or computer to check your calendar, get some big sticky notes and hang them on the wall with a daily agenda. Use pads of paper to take notes during your meetings. The advantage of using physical objects to organize your work is that you can’t click out of a Post-it note to check Twitter; or begin reading over your notes only to get sidetracked by a new message on Slack. Doing this will also give you a much needed break from looking at screens in general.

We know this article was a longer read than usual from the Optimist Daily and might have kept you from your work, but we hope it will help you carve out a more effective working space from home.

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