Since many people will be working from home in the upcoming weeks, my sister and I decided to consolidate our tips for concentration to help those who find it hard to concentrate when you are away from the regular workspace.
We understand how difficult it can be to be productive at home, especially when you are surrounded by distractions. We know the distractions all too well…unload the dishwasher, do laundry, scroll through social media, eat a little snack, take a little nap, and do everything but work. It’s human nature, we get it. Our main goal is to share ideas to help create an environment for concentration in order to stay productive and complete tasks on the agenda. Here they go…
- Put the phone away. In fact, if that’s too difficult, turn the phone off.
- Sonia: Once I get the ball rolling, I actually forget about my phone. It’s a beautiful feeling. If certain events are trending (ahem, Coronavirus), I find it better to place my phone in a different room to avoid checking it every five minutes.
- Mayra: If you find yourself to be “needing” your phone, put it on silent, turn it over with the screen faced down, and check it briefly between scheduled breaks. I find this works well for me most of the time.
- Turn off computer notifications.
- Sonia: Email notifications are the worst. I’ll find myself cleaning out my inbox or replying to emails.
- Mayra: Avoid opening additional windows on your browser. Let’s face it, I’m sure many of you have shopped online on Amazon, Target, etc., or got on social media when sitting through a boring lecture – this access is going to get a lot easier in the comfort of your own home. Ultimately, you know how important that lecture or meeting is for you and what is worth listening to. Usually taking notes throughout the lecture or meeting helps keep me on track and focused, even if it is just a few bullet points! You will be surprised how much your brain has retained from the lecture/meeting at the end of it.
- Discover a calming and/or inspirational trigger.
- Sonia: There’s a specific trigger when I light up a candle. My mind calms down…it’s close to sitting next to the ocean. Maybe a candle won’t work for you but perhaps burning incense? Or a glass of wine?
- Mayra: Sit in a naturally lit area. Being able to sit outside and see nature always makes me feel calmer and happier.
- Set boundaries on where to work.
- Sonia: Please avoid working from the comfort of your bed. Trust me…that will only lead to a nap, or worse, you’ll fall asleep and wake up (freaking out) thinking it’s the next day – very guilty of this, lol. I am the type of person who has several little hubs throughout the home to get work done. Sometimes you’ll find me on the living room floor (tv off), or standing up by the buffet table, or at the dining table, or in the office.
- Mayra: Designate a workspace in your home where you are able to sit and/or stand. Avoid the bedroom as that is the room to sleep or relax. This rule applies to the couch in the living room, as this room should be used for watching TV. Find out what works best for you.
- Commit to working for a specified amount of time.
- Sonia: I tell myself to work for one hour straight without ANY distractions. Once the hour is up, I’ll get up to take a break. Once the break is up, I’ll jump into another long stretch of work and repeat the process. I don’t rely on my phone for the timer. Alexa could be a great tool for this though. Also, if you happen to live with another person, let them know when you are working and ask them to also respect this timeframe as well (K, so I’ve had to do this a few times with Jose).
- Mayra: Setting scheduled breaks within your schedule can boost focus. Have a timer and commit to working on a specified time limit that you feel would work best for your attention span. For some people, it may be setting a timer every 15-20 minutes and having a three to five minute break. For others, it may be setting a timer for every 30-45 minutes, or more. During your break, take time to get out of your chair, walk around, or get a quick snack. You can use a virtual timer or a visual timer.
- Play tunes in the background.
- Sonia: I will either tell Alexa to play Cafe Jazz music or use Spotify. My go-to playlists on Spotify are: Cafe con Leche (Songs are in Spanish), Coffee Table Jazz, Your Favorite Coffeehouse, and Lo-Fi Cafe.
- Mayra: Any classical studying music playlist on Apple Music is my go-to.
- Brighten up the room with a happy trigger.
- Sonia: White roses are my favorite and usually keep a bunch on my dining table. Unfortunately, they are not available at my local grocery store at this time so I may have to settle for a different flower. My mood is instantly elevated when I see flowers, this allows me to become even more creative.
- Get dressed.
- Sonia: Even when I used to work from home last year, I would get dressed 90% of the time and found myself being much more productive. I would put my makeup on, do my hair, etc. You can bet I will be following my own advice over the next few weeks since I’ll be working from home.
- Clear your working space from clutter.
- Sonia: A clean space = a clear mind.
- Mayra: If you have a table with a lot of open space, I say take it. I personally enjoy having room to spread out all of my paperwork. It helps me keep myself organized and it is easier to navigate and look through resources I may need as I finish my work.
- Pick a fidgeting tool that is not too loud, easy to carry, and easy to manipulate without looking at it.
- Sonia: I love this advice. Personally, I don’t have a fidgeting tool but I do tap my finger on the table, shake my leg, or tap my forehead, to think or process ideas. Not sure if this counts? Hahaha
- Mayra: Fidgeting has been scientifically shown to help with attention, as doing two things at once focuses the brain on the primary task (Source: ADDitude Mag). I would go with a fidget that does not require a lot of your attention and is autonomic. Here’s a list of suggestions: putty, string fidgets, tangle sets, kinetic sand, stress balls, bubble gum, paperclips, or even doodling while listening to a lesson.
- Create a checklist.
- Sonia: I’m actually working on perfecting this. As of right now, I am following Andy Frisella’s advice and implementing The Power List. I create my top five critical tasks for the day and it’s my job to get them done no matter what. My day is either considered a win or a loss, depending if I get through the tasks. (I’ll link more about this method here.) However, I don’t always get everything done because unexpected things happen most the time, and sometimes, complete tasks NOT on my list. Because of this, I am considering The Ivy Lee Method, it’s a similar approach with a different set of rules that align better with what I am currently doing. Thanks to Lauryn Evarts from The Skinny Confidential for introducing me to The Ivy Lee Method.
- Mayra: When it comes to having many deadlines, and a change in structure, you may feel like me – overwhelmed, anxious, and have no idea where to start. When I feel this way, I create a master checklist of all the things I need to complete for the week and break up assignments day by day. When breaking up these assignments, plan less than what you may be able to accomplish that way you will have extra time just in case something unexpected comes up, or if one assignment or “job” takes more time than what you would have liked. When planning day by day, leave enough time for meals and brain breaks. When prioritizing your assignments, be sure each day includes a mix of “high-brain” and “low-brain” tasks that way your brain is not exhausted from things that take up a lot of mental effort. Find a resource that works best for you, whether that is a handwritten list on a sticky note, a planner, a calendar, or an app. The notes app on the iPhone and Google Calendar are always my go-to’s.
- Create structure and establish boundaries.
- Sonia: I cannot reiterate this enough – stick to a schedule and develop good habits. My mornings consist of going to the gym, eating a healthy breakfast, listening to a personal development podcast while getting ready, and beginning the work day. I will create a different structure in order to accommodate temporary lifestyle changes. As I develop this new structure, I will share it via IG stories.
- Mayra: Working at different times of the day can be difficult to build a smooth flow of productivity. When working from home, our work days can seem longer since you cannot necessarily “leave” work since it is your home. You can structure the day by establishing work hours that would typically be established from your everyday routine. This means knowing when to stop working and adhering to it.
We hope you remain healthy and safe during this time. We know times are uncertain and no one knows when all of this is going to end. However, we are still in control of ourselves. The best thing we can do is keep a positive attitude for the sake of our own mental health.