Hello again, fellow focusers. Last week we talked about all the ups-and-downs of the freelance and remote work lifestyle. Over here at F@W, we’re all for flexible work-arrangements, but we’re also familiar with the notion that working where you play can occasion distractions. Cats. Calls. Hulu. Etsy. Those other pesky humans in the universe.
Here are some of our most dependable tactics for striking a focus-based balance at your home/remote workplace.
- How about you dedicate a sacred workspace. Rope that shit off with yellow tape and electric fencing. Seriously: Utilize some totem to remind yourself and others that this place means work. Headphones? Open laptop? If the keyboard’s rockin‘, Darlings (spouse, kids, neighbors, pups, etc.), don’t come knockin‘.
- Rope off time in the same way: “I work from 9-11 straight through. I take a 20 minute hang-out-with-the-kitties / poop / snack / water-the-gladiolas / check-my-FB-feed break; then back to work from 11:20-3, etc.” Otherwise, I AM AT WORK.
- Change it up. If you find yourself either maddeningly distracted by the shiny things around you home workspace — if those renegade Coco Puffs under the couch are calling for your broom — get up, and get out. That’s what Starbucks is for. Or maybe consider a WeWork-style space, and see Number 1, above.
- Play with lighting, color, and temp. So you’ve set up a designated space, set time aside, gone on a three-mile walk, and you still can’t get anything done? Maybe the way your home actually looks might affect your productivity. Working in a windowless basement that feels like a waterboarding chamber? Lifehack’s got a great take on it: “Consider how you can arrange your office to get the most natural light on your workspace without getting it directly on your screen.” Fresh air and good lighting makes all the difference. I (Blake) swear by an artificial sunlight / light therapy lamp. Mine’s a million years old, and still delivers rays of peace and energy every morning. You get one on Amazon; well worth the money.
- Reach out. Remote work means you’re rarely around your teams. Far less face-time. That equals fewer distractions for sure. But it can also cause feelings of anxiety and isolation. Antsy for more human contact? If you’re social, you might just want some conversation. Strike up a chat with a coworker or a team-member over one of your messaging services (we use Slack, among others). Or call a family member or friend. It’s not only good for your work, but it’s also good for you. According to Mayo Clinic, “Adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI).” So, in other words, get social to git ‘er done. Just make sure you do so during a legitimate break—and not to escape work.
Of course we’d be remiss if we didn’t bring up music. It’s near-unanimous among high-focus workers. Every article online about improving workplace productivity seems to start and end with music. But any old music won’t do. You need music specifically tailored to making sure you stay on task, productive, and working at your peak performance.
Maybe if, after months, having The Office on in the background, the Chihuahua in your lap, and your cell phone chiming like Vegas has gravely hampered your work output. Maybe it’s time to employ a tried-and-true approach to achieving a state of freelance flow. Ready? Set. Go!