When you travel to work there are things that shape the day and help you focus on getting the job done: the daily timetable (arrive, go home, lunch breaks etc), the enclosed work spaces, the meetings and appointments, the deadlines to meet and so on. When we are working from home many of these ways of organising the day disappear and it is easy to get distracted and lose our concentration. We are thrown back on our own resources to create a discipline that will sustain good working practice.
Using psychological theory Will Bedingfield gives some excellent advice on how to sustain concentration when working at home
A major conclusion from psychological research is that we are ‘single channel information processors’. That is, we can only focus on one thing at a time. We may celebrate multitasking but the evidence says we do it by rapid switching of our focus and it is stressful and inefficient. So working well depends on cutting out distractions. At home there can be plenty of them so how can we sustain our work focus?
- Cut yourself off from temptation Try to create a workspace that is free of all other homely features. Not just the rest of the family but all the other temptations of your home – magazines, food, music, evidence of your hobbies or whatever.
- Use the normal structure of your working life. No doubt there will be deadlines, zoom meetings, telephone appointments etc that will shape parts of the day but make sure there are chunks of time to do the things you have to schedule yourself and don’t leave them until you are tired at the end of the day. Try not to get over committed to video meetings because they need extra concentration. There is growing evidence that people suffering from ‘zoom fatigue’. This seems to be most pronounced when people go straight from one meeting to another throughout the day.
- Limit engagement with on-line ‘distractions’. Your PC or tablet is full of possible distractions – Facebook to check and Google to search etc. Many of the distractions may come from work itself: all those emails most of which you can bin. Many people adopt a policy of only checking emails once an hour for example so that they can keep their focus on the task in hand.
- Give yourself breaks. Don’t expect too much of yourself. We work best if we take regular breaks whether that is to get some exercise away from the fixed posture in front of the screen or to give our brain a chance to relax.
All this advice amounts to: give yourself a chance of a decent run at each major task you undertake.