Working from home can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, skipping a commute and getting to work in your pajamas is great. On the other hand, your house is filled with distractions and it can be hard to stay focused. I’ve worked from home for 13 years and every time I think I’ve conquered it, something happens to pull my focus. I’ve learned, however, that the trick to telecommuting is setting up your home office properly.
The way you design your home office can help you stay distraction and stress-free so you get your best work done in your home sweet home. Here are a few ways to make sure you’re able to stay on your grind.
Declutter the space
I know that I have a clearer head when my desk is decluttered and organized. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but creating organization spaces to get papers, mail and other stuff off of your desk can help you stay laser focused. While cabinets are your best bet, you can definitely use trays and file boxes to keep things tidy. Or invest in a wall-hanging file basket to get things off of your desk. When you sit down to work, keep only what you’re working on in front of you and stash the rest.
I also find that I work better if the rest of the house is tidy. Even if you have a separate home office, it’s hard to concentrate if you know the rest of the house needs some work. I like to set a timer for 10 minutes and do a quick decluttering in the main spaces before I sit down to work. It’s enough time to load the dishwasher, clear counters or start some laundry. Having those small, brain-cluttering tasks out of the way gives me more bandwidth to focus on work.
You might think that working from bed is the ultimate in comfort, but anyone who works from home can tell you that it gets old. Having a comfortable, ergonomic space to work is the key to staying focused. Make sure your computer, desk and chair are adjusted for comfort. Your feet should be flat on the floor, your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle and the top of your monitor should be at or just below eye level. Comfort helps increase focus since you’re not being distracted by a sore neck or strained eyes.
My optometrist is always scolding me for my long hours on the computer. But while that can’t be avoided, you can use light to help you focus when working from home. Whenever possible, bring in natural light. It reduces eye fatigue and helps you stay energized. If your office is without natural light (basement workers, unite!), you can reduce eye strain by skipping harsh, blue fluorescent lighting. Bring in warm white light with a lamp and use it to shine a spotlight on your workstation. When you’re done, you can switch the light off on your desk — and your mind — to signify that the work day is done.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a separate home office with a door. Still, you need to create some delineation between your home and your home office. Without creating a clear workspace, it’s tempting to work longer hours or let projects seep into your personal life. You need a way to physically stop your work day and close the door between your professional and personal lives. Without it, you risk major work-at-home burnout.
No standalone office? No problem! Use bookcases or screens to give your workspace a defined look. You can also create an “office” using area rugs or even a different paint color on the wall. Even a pair of noise-canceling headphones can help put definition between work and your regular distractions. Do whatever it takes to create a separation between your work and personal life at home.
Keep must-haves on hand
It seems like every time I get up from my desk, I find a new distraction. Whether it’s getting the mail, giving my dog some love or noticing that my kitchen needs to be cleaned, the fewer times I get up, the better. I’ve learned to keep all of my must-haves in my home office so I stay put and stay focused. That’s not just office supplies like pens, notebooks and my trusty planner. It also means my beloved Keurig machine so I have quick access to drinks.
If you notice that you’re getting distracted when you have to get up, see what you can keep on hand. Stock your home office with coffee, quick snacks and whatever tech you need to be comfortable. Hey, if you were working in a regular office, you wouldn’t be leaving every time you got the munchies or needed a quick hit of caffeine. Treat your home office similarly and you can keep distractions to a minimum.
Working from home can be a blessing and a curse. While it’s great to get to set up your ideal situation, it’s all too easy to lose focus. By creating a home office that is comfortable, peaceful and stocked with your faves, you can work remotely without all of the distractions.