So, ya girl is literally weeks away from a full year of remote work. If someone told me this time last year that I’d be working from home for at least a year, I wouldn’t believe it. I’d honestly think it was a dream to be able to do that. Well reality showed us that we actually would end up in this position. However, it has not been all fun and giggles. I’ve had rough moments where my kitchen counter no longer served me, or my relaxed working days from the couch which wasn’t good for my focus.
Well fast forward to today, I have bounced between different feelings about working from home. At this present moment, I love it and have fully become accustomed to it. So much so that it is exhausting, draining even, to drive up to the office for even a few hours because I’m so out of the commuting routine.
My 2021 goal while working from home
One downfall of working from home that I’ve been unable to fully master is FOCUS. It’s funny that this is the very thing I’m struggling with because it’s a major part of my 2021 goal. I want to have laser focus on a short list of goals this year, forsaking all distractions. It just so happens that this goal is the very thing that is holding me back from meeting my daily tasks with full intention and success.
I have had glimpses of success with finding focus and really zoning in on what is helpful for my overall focus. I wanted to talk in greater detail about those today and hopefully help you who may be struggling just as much as I am.
Healthy living for focus
Before I get into what I call the symptoms, I think it’s important to recognize how influenced my daily routines, productivity levels, and energy levels are affected by a healthy (or not so healthy) lifestyle. When I started to see the deterioration of my diet, sleep, and exercise; I realized that I had created the perfect storm for poor focus. After much reflection, and I mean weeks of it, I determined that my lack of focus on my health spilled over into other areas I used to be good with like my full time job. I was proud to have put down bad habits and take on new ones part way through this pandemic. I was off to a great start in April with regular workouts, and juicing weekly by June. I had no idea that those things played such a huge role in my work from home life as well.
When we moved into our home from the one bedroom apartment, there were lots of new challenges. A larger space to care for, a shift in my daily routine, and other adjustments to new homeownership took me out of my rhythm. I fell off my workouts, juicing became sporadic, and sleep patterns changed for the worse.
But the best part is, I’ve identified where I lacked in all of these areas. I’m now actively working towards cleaning up my diet (again), exercising regularly (even if that’s just 3 times a week), and putting myself on a healthy sleep schedule. These slow but steady changes will undoubtedly impact how consistently I can stick to the focus techniques I will talk about in this episode. So now let’s move on to the symptoms I addressed with the new focus techniques.
Have a morning routine to better focus
One of the first things I noticed needed to be put in check was my morning routine. I let it go and you would think this far into the work from home lifestyle I’d have it figured out. Since we’ve been in this current situation for so long, I’ve had enough time to fall in and out of good and bad habits. So before I even tried to change anything, I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish in the morning before work started. Once I gauged how long those tasks would take, I moved my alarm schedule to coincide with this plan.
You may be wondering how this aligns with focus. Well I noticed when I sat down to work, my mind would flood with distractions of tasks that I could’ve completed in a morning session before I even started to think about work. I THEN realized that my morning routine was non-existent. Most days I woke up, I went straight to the shower and then to my home office after getting dressed. There was no intentional period of acknowledging the day, taking care of some small household and personal tasks, and then shifting my focus to work. Adding back in a morning routine took away the early distractions I experienced in my work days.
Using the Pomodoro Method to focus
I also implemented the pomodoro method to train my mind to focus on one task at a time. Even once I finally focused on work alone, I did multiple projects at once. As soon as I remembered something that I had to complete, I would open up a new browser tab, or my email, or a program to get started on it. The most efficient Brittani would simply make note of the thought and then get back to the task at hand. However, in the moment, I wasn’t recognizing how much I was slowing down progress by doing this.
A few weeks ago, I listened to a podcast episode about multitasking and how it actually hinders our productivity. I understand that multitasking may be good for some people, but I know that I’m not one of those people. So this podcast episode showed me how multitasking was actually me procrastinating and taking longer to complete my projects. Let’s say I was working on something that took a lot of analytical thinking and complex problem solving. I wouldn’t stop everything and focus on just that one thing. Once I hit a mental block or needed to think something through, I would shift my focus to an easier task like checking my email in hopes that my subconscious brain would work through the problem until I returned. That wasted a lot of time.
So I picked back up the pomodoro method in hopes of retraining my focus, especially for mentally exhausting projects at work. Now, mind you that these tasks aren’t all that bad, they just require focus that I wasn’t giving them. With the pomodoro method, I work for 25 uninterrupted minutes on one task and then follow up with a 5 minute break. I do this for 4 rounds before taking a longer 15 minute break. This was a game changer! The first time I implemented it, I completed a project that I was procrastinating on and it turned really well.
The pomodoro method only works when I meet all other requirements for focus though. I need to get a good night’s rest and have eaten healthy in order to have energy and mental clarity. Additionally, I have to get up early to complete my morning tasks and clear as many distractions as possible.
Just explaining this makes me think of clearing all my phone browser tabs and notifications. You know that feeling you get when you finally get caught up with everything you had open on your phone? I love it and at the end I always think about how much better my battery will be. Doing all these things for my focus feels just…like…that.
Since starting the pomodoro method, I haven’t been able to be consistent with it. But I’m glad to have identified the perfect plan to optimize my work day focus after having so much time of not being able to accomplish things how I wanted to.
Use a planner even while working from home
My next focus technique is kind of simple to me because I’m a big planner/task list person. I normally rely heavily on my notebook to create to-do lists for myself, take meeting notes, organize my thoughts on projects, and more. Recently I’ve tried to streamline things to my digital planning. I just started using OneNote and it has literally changed my life. Our company leverages the Microsoft ecosystem using Outlook and Teams, so adding this to it all was very easy for me. Surprisingly, using OneNote makes it easier to quickly note a task that pops up in my head and then return to what I was working on–without getting off track. I also like that I can organize my notes into separate tabs–even after a note has been added. That’s super handy and something I can’t really do with a paper notebook.
The biggest lesson I gained from THIS focus technique was streamlining all of my tasks. Having mostly digital work while taking analog notes was not good for my workflow. It was also a small yet negative trigger to reach for my phone every time I looked away from my laptop towards my notebook. We all know what happens when you randomly reach for your phone. Nothing but wasted time on whatever social media app whose notification catches my eye first. Keeping to one device surprisingly saves me from that.
Optimized my time after work for better focus
I also had to start making the best use of my time after work. This actually helped with work hours as well! With having my digital business and real estate business on top of my full-time job, I’m always distracted by tasks and notifications for them. However, if I simply optimize my evening hours and weekends, with focus, I can make heavy progress, feel accomplished, and distract myself less while I’m on someone else’s dime. So in these areas I’m working to implement the same focus techniques, but without feeling so rigid with my time.
Drinking water helps with focus!
The last thing I want to talk about is water intake. This is a small, big thing. Nick is always telling me to drink more water, especially when I complain about a headache or not feeling well. He even found a Tik Tok on the matter and I felt very attacked. But anyway, keeping up with the water really does make a difference! I instantly have better mental clarity, energy, and focus when I’m on my water. So that small thing helps me as well in my overall pursuit of work day focus.
So that’s all I have folks. In a nutshell, I learned that my overall health and intentional actions towards a healthy lifestyle truly does trickle down to my career. I can’t sacrifice it for my career because it literally fuels my success in it. Once I get that down pact, I can implement my focus strategies or techniques. Those include having a morning routine, using the pomodoro method, planning on the same device I work, optimizing my time after work, and drinking more water! If you’re also struggling with focus, try one or more of these techniques and really think about the root of your procrastination and lack of focus.