Managing focus when working from home
For our November all-hands meeting, we asked everyone in the team to share a five-minute presentation about something they had worked on this past year that they’d been proud of. While a lot of the team shared elements of a specific project or code that they had produced, Dan decided to share about how he’d worked on finding his remote working style; figuring out what rhythms of work worked for him, and how to keep momentum and focus.
The team found his ideas really interesting, so we decided to share them with you here on the website. Over to Dan…
The shift to remote work
Over the last couple of years, the majority of us have had to work from home at some point, and this brought the need to adjust to a new way of working. During the first few months of working from home, I struggled with staying focused on tasks and often found myself drifting off and getting distracted.
Looking back, I can tell this is because I didn’t really understand how I worked best. Working from home made that all the more apparent. In an office, you’re surrounded by others all getting on with what needs to be done, and it reinforces the ‘I’m at work’ mental state. At home, it’s just you, in a room, with maybe your teammates on the other end of a Slack message.
Understanding your working rhythms
I started to notice that I wasn’t aware of my working patterns, which led to me trying to figure that out. I started by finding what works for me. Am I a morning person? Do I work well when hungry, or not? Do I need total peace to focus, or do I need to blast music to get in the zone?
These kinds of questions are really interesting to ask yourself, as there are things that you might not know about yourself! So I tested it. I tried working as soon as I woke up, coffee first of course, and observed how productive I was first thing in the morning, compared with the afternoon. I delayed lunch to see if hunger would get in the way of my focus. It did. I definitely can’t focus whilst hungry! I gave peace and quiet a go, not for me. I need music to work, usually, an album that I am familiar with really helped me get into the groove of working.
Find yourself a brain tickler
Once I’d figured out what works for me and what keeps me focused, I needed something extra. Something for the times where you NEED a distraction. No one stays focused on a task for 8 hours a day, (if you do, tell me your secret).
I wanted something that I could spend 5 minutes doing, to refresh my brain, and regain my focus. Something I started to call a ‘brain tickler’; a healthy distraction.
I tried doodling, playing guitar, reading etc etc. I ended up settling on one small thing. Juggling.
It’s great, it can be as quick as 30 seconds, or as long as 5 mins, (juggling skills depending). I keep my juggling balls on my desk for easy access, and when I notice myself starting to feel a bit of screen fatigue or my mind drifting. I stop, juggle for a few mins, and breathe. This pulls me back into focus and I can easily get back to what I was doing.
So really, the biggest thing I’ve learnt from working from home over the last two years, is that humans get distracted. It’s normal. But managing those distractions, and figuring out your work pattern is super important!
Find yourself a brain tickler, and regain control of your focus.