How can you be productive and stay focused when your office is in your living room?
First, what is staying focused? Well, for us here at Penguin, we think it has a lot to do with removing the triggers that cause anxiety in the first place. Being focused means completing the tasks you have on hand in a reasonable amount of time with minimal stress.
But, if you’re like the rest of us trying to adjust to a new normal of social distancing, that might seem like an unattainable dream. Well, that’s why I’m writing this particular post right now, because I’m sure you have questions too.
It looks like working from home is here to stay. For some, this can cause a lot of anxiety. It’s hard to stay focused at the “office” when there are so many other projects to take care of.
Without clear expectations on how to fill your time while telecommuting, it’s easy to get off track. And, if you’re working from home, that means there’s probably something else that sounds a little more interesting – like that reality TV show you’ve been binging or that load of laundry that needs to be put away.
Let’s first look at what anxiety is, and how it interrupts your ability to stay focused. I’ll then give you a number of tried and true focusing methods that you can use while working from home.
We all feel it from time to time. That heart-racing, blood-pumping sensation that makes it impossible to concentrate on anything. When we feel anxious, we can’t focus and our work suffers.
If you’re an anxious person in a work-from-home situation, you get behind on your work projects and your home projects because you’re in the same place all day, every day. Because of this, your current anxiety levels are probably going through the roof.
COVID-19 isn’t making things easier. The Center for Disease Control reports that fear and anxiety about this pandemic can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions. Social distancing might be making you feel lonelier than usual, which can compound the situation.
Let’s take a look at the most common signs and symptoms of anxiety.
Biologically, the feelings of anxiety we experience in stressful situations have physiological roots. Think elevated heart rate, a sense of being warmer or flushed, or suddenly being extra aware of your surroundings.
All these body signals are part of a fight-or-flight response. They help prepare a person for an unknown eventual conclusion, and were especially useful during earlier periods of human history.
The nervousness experienced in the current era before a big presentation, first date or other important life event is a part of this natural response. This is what doctors call a Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and many of us feel like this from time to time.
Adapting to new situations can be difficult, especially if you’re an extroverted social butterfly. You might be feeling so overwhelmed with the concept of working from home that it’s hard to feel motivated.
Remember that you’re not alone in feeling like this. That may alleviate some feelings of inadequacy and guilt about your inability to focus or lack of productivity. Most importantly, keep in mind that it’s not healthy to compare your performance now with your performance when you were going into the office. We’re sure things are going to get better. But in the meantime, here are some things you can do to address your anxiety head-on.
We all tend to use our performance as a relative marker of how “well” we’re doing at our job. But the reality is that performance is just not a reliable metric right now. If you don’t have enough stress or pressure to complete your tasks on time and with minimal errors, you might not feel motivated to do much. That’s where the inability to focus comes into play, and you’re tempted to do anything except work.
But if you have too much stress, like a boss who demands your Zoom camera be on all day, then you’re going to feel incapable of getting anything done either. The external pressure can lead you to feel overwhelmed, which means you’re stuck once again.
The key is to find balance.
When you find that sweet spot, you’re able to maximize your productivity and life goals.
But how do you find that “just right” amount of anxiety, and then use it to take your productivity to the next level?
Remember that working from home brings many of your personal and professional aspects into one place, which is unusual and unplanned. It can be easy to get distracted, until you’re able to separate business and personal tasks. That means it’s going to take some time and a steep learning curve to learn how to work from home – especially if this is all brand new for you.
Most experts agree that working from home entails finding ways to be balanced. At its core, a successful work-from-home venture is a mindset. Here are a few tips and tricks for staying focused while we learn how to work from home.
First, automate, automate, automate. Technology should be your best friend while you’re figuring out your best approach to this whole work-from-home thing. That can mean everything from setting alerts about tasks to creating digital reminders to reorder products you use often. The less you have on your mind at one time, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to focus on the tasks at hand.
Second, avoid procrastination. It’s easy to put off work tasks when hundreds of other things are clamoring for your attention. Working from home means you have to be firm with your “office hours.” Otherwise, you’ll find yourself pushing up against increasingly tighter deadlines, which will ultimately heighten your anxiety and derail your focus.
Third, don’t stay in your pajamas all day. We’re well aware that loungewear should be the new office wear, but for right now – especially as you transition to a work-from-home mindset – it’s essential to keep your business mindset in place. That means leaning on whatever dress code you had in place before the pandemic.
While there’s no need for a three-piece suit or full-on makeup, it is a good idea to remember that we’re creatures of habit. Abruptly changing your routine is going send the wrong signals to your brain. If you want to stay focused, it’s best to dress for success. Not to mention – how professional and boss-like can you be sitting around in your pajamas all day?
This is one of the hardest tips to embrace, in part because it’s so contrary to our fast-based workplace culture. But when you’re working from home, you must allow yourself time to enjoy your breaks. And that might mean something different for everyone. Around here, we like a quick yoga or meditation session around midday to help us stay connected and focused, followed by a dropperful of our CBD oil.
Not only will a break help you come back stronger, but you’ll also be able to tap into your focus zones more quickly. That means as soon as you settle in, you’re ready to go right back to work.
Have a dedicated workspace. This can be a little fluid, based on the space needs of your new “office,” but the idea here is that you have a place where you “go” to work every day. Just as your bed should be reserved for sleeping, your dedicated workspace should be a spot in your home that’s only for work.
Keep regular hours. Whatever these are, you need to create them and stick to them. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself answering emails at all times of day and night, and you’ll feel unfocused and unproductive.
Just like setting office hours, make sure you have reasonable limitations in place. It’s a common misconception that if you’re working from home, you’re not actually working. Make sure that people are aware of your schedule, your commitments and your boundaries.
Practice mindfulness, whatever that means for you. It might involve a deep soak after a busy day with a CBD-infused bath, a nice cup of tea, 10 minutes with your favorite game or a massage with some CBD cream.
Whatever you routinely used to do to center and focus should still be part of your daily routine in a work-from-home world.
Set a schedule and stick to it. Even if new Slack alerts or emails are waiting in your inbox, stay off the clock if you’re off the clock. Otherwise, you’re going to feel like you’re always on call, and that’s the quickest way to get burned out.
Stay off social media. I know, it’s so hard, especially since our entire work is now digital. It feels like the only way we get to see anyone is via social media feeds. But here’s the thing about social media: It’s a total time suck.
You might think you’re just checking up on a few friends, but it’s so easy to get lost in the chatter. The best thing to do is to set aside specific times of day to check your feeds and then leave them alone.
Don’t let your wellness routine of CBD and other self-care get lost in the shuffle.
Wellness is a huge part of staying focused and committed to your profession. If you’re not focused, you’re not performing. Ticking off the items on your to-do list might help you feel productive, but it can also cause you to lose focus quickly. You have to think about the big picture too.
Wellness is going to continue to look different as we all adjust to a new normal. That means looking for new ways to find joy in the same routine. If you’re working from home and feeling isolated or lonely, you might encourage your work team to “meet up” for a virtual mixer or create a fitness challenge to help your team stay motivated.
Virtual mixers are a great way to help you remember that you’re not alone in this struggle, and if you live alone, they’re a good way to maintain safe human contact. Mixers or weekly chats with your team can also allow you to explore issues or challenges that you and others might be having with your current work-from-home setup and look for ways to make sure that it’s getting better.
Around here, we do a lot to ensure that everyone on the team moves every day. From yoga to at-home workouts to a walk around the block, exercise helps lower stress levels and can contribute to feeling more focused over time.
Even more exciting is that a regular exercise routine coupled with a diet that’s rich in whole foods and a dedicated CBD regimen might be precisely what you need to help you feel your best while we all relearn what it means to live in a post-COVID world.
Once you have your workplace set and your boundaries in place, make sure you head on over to our catalog to explore our current offerings.